Author Topic: Egyptolinguistic Phonology Question  (Read 4443 times)

Offline jkausch

  • New Linguist
  • *
  • Posts: 1
Egyptolinguistic Phonology Question
« on: April 17, 2018, 08:52:24 PM »

I am working on a project to try to reconstruct, or at least re-examine classical Egyptological transliteration, of Ancient Egyptian vowels. Vowels are very important to the Egyptian priesthood due to the spiritual purity they represent, so I imagine that, like with Panini's rules of Sandhi for Sanskrit, the priests of the House of Life would go to great lengths to ensure and maintain vowel harmony.

The only problem is that Egyptian, being an Afroasiatic language, is written as an Abjad when the hieroglyphs are used in their rebic form. This leads me to the following questions:

- Does anyone have good literature on understanding triconsonantal roots not just in Semitic languages, but for all Afroasiatic languages in general? In particular, it would be good to have reference to the phonological system which underlies the roots diachronically.

- Are there graphotactical rules for how abjads betray their underlying phonology? Daniels' original definition seems to hint so

- Does anyone know about phonological work on Egyptian that has taken contemporary Greek language sources, such as Manetho, into account?

- Are there any other good, general reconstructions of Ancient Egyptian from the daughter language of Coptic which might be useful?

If any of you could help answer any or all of these questions, that would be most appreciated.

Offline giselberga

  • Jr. Linguist
  • **
  • Posts: 22
Re: Egyptolinguistic Phonology Question
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2018, 11:35:16 AM »
Egyptian hieroglyphs is like Chinese characters
But Egyptian hieroglyph can know how to pronounce word
According to Earlier Egyptian vowel system in wikipedia, vowel had /a/, /u/, /i/, i like arabic and vowels are always short in unstressed syllables (⟨tpj⟩ = */taˈpij/ 'first') and long in open stressed syllables.
subsequently, vowel added /e/, /o/

Offline Daniel

  • Administrator
  • Experienced Linguist
  • *****
  • Posts: 2040
  • Country: us
    • English
Re: Egyptolinguistic Phonology Question
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2018, 02:40:00 PM »
This is an interesting question, and I don't have anything especially technical to add that would be helpful.

However, I did recently attend a conference talk by Christopher Ehret of UCLA ( who has been working on the sub-groupings within the Afro-Asiatic family. The resulting grouping is roughly as follows:

Omotic vs [Cushitic vs [[[Chadic vs. Berber] vs. Egyptian] vs. Semitic]]

In other words, tracing the history of the triliteral root system (a question I asked him after the talk) would mean explaining how it settled in for the ancestor of Semitic/etc., and then faded out from Egyptian to Berber to Chadic. (There still are some remnants of it in Chadic, but it's not nearly as central a feature there as in the others.) And that overall seems to make some sense. So Egyptian is then somewhere between early Semitic and early Berber use of the triliteral root system. (The writing of course, and due to contact, sort of predates the others, in a different sense.) Maybe that would be somewhat helpful to you.

Your question is an interesting one and I wish I had more help to offer.

Another source to consider, of course, would be place names (toponyms), if you could accurately figure out how they were originally pronounced, and also which roots they relate to. But the problem with anything like that, and this question in general, is that there are just three major vowel contrasts, and they can shift a lot, even within the same root based on the root-and-pattern morphology.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2018, 02:45:30 PM by Daniel »
Welcome to Linguist Forum! If you have any questions, please ask.