Egyptian hieroglyphs Egyptian writing Hieroglyph Hieroglyphic

Egyptian hieroglyphs Egyptian writing Hieroglyph Hieroglyphic


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Hieroglyph

writing character
Written By:

  • The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
See Article History

Hieroglyph, a character used in a system of pictorial writing, particularly that form used on ancient Egyptian monuments. Hieroglyphic symbols may represent the objects that they depict but usually stand for particular sounds or groups of sounds. Hieroglyph, meaning “sacred carving,” is a Greek translation of the Egyptian phrase “the god’s words,” which was used at the time of the early Greek contacts with Egypt to distinguish the older hieroglyphs from the handwriting of the day (demotic) . Modern usage has extended the term to other writing systems, such as Hieroglyphic Hittite, Mayan hieroglyphs, and early Cretan. There is no connection between Egyptian hieroglyphs and these other scripts, the only certain derivative from the Egyptian writing being that used for Meroitic.

Read More on This Topic

Some of the pictorial signs used at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Calif.

writing: Alphabetic systems

…with that sound, from Egyptian hieroglyphic, a form of writing not different in principle from Akkadian cuneiform. The hieroglyphic sign , depicting waves of water, represented the sound /n/, the first sound of the spoken word for water. By means of this principle a 22-graph system was constructed with a…

A brief treatment of hieroglyphs follows. For full treatment, see hieroglyphic writing .

Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was composed entirely of pictures, though the object depicted cannot be identified in every instance. The earliest examples that can be read show the hieroglyphs used as actual writing, that is, with phonetic values, and not as picture writing such as that of the Eskimos or American Indians. The origins of the script are not known. It apparently arose in the late predynastic period (just before 2925 bc). There were contacts between Egypt and Mesopotamia at this time, and it has been thought that the concept of writing was borrowed from the Sumerians. This is certainly possible, but, even if this was the case, the two systems were so different in their use of signs that it is clear that they developed independently.

Except for names and a few titles, the oldest inscriptions cannot be read. In many cases individual hieroglyphs were used that are familiar from later periods, but the meaning of the inscription as a whole is obscure. It is apparent that this writing did not represent the sounds as completely as was the case later.

In the period of the 3rd dynasty (c. 2650–c. 2575 bc), many of the principles of hieroglyphic writing were regularized. From that time on, until the script was supplanted by an early version of Coptic (about the 3rd and 4th centuries ad), the system remained virtually unchanged. Even the number of signs used remained constant at about 700 for more than 2,000 years. With the rise of Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries ad came the decline and ultimate demise not only of the ancient Egyptian religion but of its hieroglyphics as well. The use, by the Egyptian Christians, of an adapted form of the Greek alphabet , caused a correspondingly widespread disuse of the native Egyptian script. The last known use of hieroglyphics is on an inscription dated ad 394.

Hieroglyphic writing followed four basic principles. First, a hieroglyph could be used in an almost purely pictorial way. The sign of a man with his hand to his mouth might stand for the word “eat.” Similarly, the word “sun” would be represented by a large circle with a smaller circle in its centre. Second, a hieroglyph might represent or imply another word suggested by the picture. The sign for “sun” could as easily serve as the sign for “day” or as the name of the sun god Re. The sign for “eat” could also represent the more conceptual word “silent” by suggesting the covering of the mouth. Third, the signs also served as representatives of words that shared consonants in the same order. Thus the Egyptian words for “man” and “be bright,” both spelled with the same consonants, hg, could be rendered by the same hieroglyph. Fourth, the hieroglyphs stood for individual or combinations of consonants.

It is arguable whether the ancient Greeks or Romans understood hieroglyphics. The Greeks almost certainly did not, since, from their viewpoint, hieroglyphics were not phonetic signs but symbols of a more abstruse and allegorical nature. The humanist revival of the European Middle Ages, although it produced a set of Italian-designed hieroglyphics, gave no further insight into the original Egyptian ones.

The first attempt to decipher hieroglyphics, based on the assumption that they were indeed phonetic symbols, was made by the German scholar Athanasius Kircher in the mid-1600s. Despite his initial correct hypothesis , he correctly identified only one symbol.

The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 was to provide the key to the final unlocking of the mystery. The stone was inscribed with three different scripts: hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek. Based on the stone’s own declaration, in the Greek portion, that the text was identical in all three cases, several significant advances were made in translation. A.I. Silvestre de Sacy, a French scholar, and J.D. Akerblad , a Swedish diplomat, succeeded in identifying a number of proper names in the demotic text. Akerblad also correctly assigned phonetic values to a few of the signs. An Englishman, Thomas Young , correctly identified five of the hieroglyphics. The full deciphering of the stone was accomplished by another Frenchman, Jean-Françoise Champollion . He brought to the stone a natural facility for languages (having, by age 16, become proficient in six ancient Oriental languages as well as Greek and Latin). By comparison of one sign with another, he was able to determine the phonetic values of the hieroglyphics. Later studies simply confirmed and refined Champollion’s work.

Learn More in these related Britannica articles:

  • Some of the pictorial signs used at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Calif.

    writing: Alphabetic systems
    …with that sound, from Egyptian hieroglyphic, a form of writing not different in principle from Akkadian cuneiform. The hieroglyphic sign , depicting waves of water, represented the sound /n/, the first sound of the spoken word for water. By means of this principle a 22-graph system was constructed with a…
  • Principal sites associated with Aegean civilizations.

    Aegean civilizations: Period of the Late Palaces in Crete (c. 1700–1450)
    …is known as pictographic or hieroglyphic because its signs are pictures of animals or things; the system appears to be of Cretan origin, even if it was inspired by Egypt or Syria. During the period of the Early Palaces and while the Cretan hieroglyphic script was still in use, a…
  • Pearce, Charles Sprague: Religion

    religious symbolism and iconography: Diagrammatic and emblematic
    In the picture writing of hieroglyphic systems and in the ideographic (idea-sign) writing of earlier times there is a direct relation between the word-sign and the object to which it refers. In alphabetic writing, numbers and letters are interchangeable if the letter has a number value, as, for example, in…
  • Some ancient symbols for 1 and 10.

    numerals and numeral systems: Simple grouping systems
    …is the scheme encountered in hieroglyphs, which the Egyptians used for writing on stone. (Two later Egyptian systems, the hieratic and demotic, which were used for writing on clay or papyrus, will be considered below; they are not simple grouping systems.) The number 258,458 written in hieroglyphics appears in the…
  • human vocal organs and points of articulation

    phonetics
    Phonetics, the study of speech sounds and their physiological production and acoustic qualities. It deals with the configurations of the vocal tract used to produce speech sounds (articulatory phonetics), the acoustic properties of speech sounds (acoustic phonetics), and the manner of combining sounds so as to make syllables, words, and…

ADDITIONAL MEDIA

  • Hieroglyphs on decorative lintels identify King Sesostris III wearing the crown of Lower Egypt (left) and the crown of Upper Egypt (right), 19th century bce; in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.
  • Some ancient symbols for 1 and 10.
  • Hieroglyphic sign depicting waves of water

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6 references found in Britannica articles

Assorted References

    • major reference
      • In hieroglyphic writing
    • numeral systems
      • In numerals and numeral systems: Simple grouping systems
    • symbolism
      • In religious symbolism and iconography: Diagrammatic and emblematic

    development

    • In writing: Alphabetic systems
    • Anatolia
      • In Anatolian languages: Languages using cuneiform writing and hieroglyphs
    • Crete
      • In Aegean civilizations: Period of the Late Palaces in Crete (c. 1700–1450)

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    Hieroglyph
    Writing character

    Temple of Kom Ombo: hieroglyphs


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    Egyptian hieroglyphs

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    “Hieroglyphics” redirects here. For other uses, see Hieroglyph (disambiguation) .

    Egyptian hieroglyphs

    Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I.jpg

    Hieroglyphs from KV17 , the tomb of Seti I , 13th century BC
    Type
    Logography usable as an abjad
    Languages Egyptian language
    Time period
    c. 3200 BC [1] [2] – AD 400
    Parent systems
    ( Proto-writing )

    • Egyptian hieroglyphs
    Child systems
    Hieratic , Demotic , Coptic , Meroitic , Proto-Sinaitic
    DirectionLeft-to-right
    ISO 15924 Egyp, 050
    Unicode alias
    Egyptian Hieroglyphs
    Unicode range
    U+13000–U+1342F
    This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support , you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA .

    Egyptian hieroglyphs ( /ˈhrəˌɡlɪf, r-/ [3] [4] ) were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt . It combined logographic , syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters. [5] [6]
    Cursive hieroglyphs were used for religious literature on papyrus and wood. The later hieratic and demotic Egyptian scripts were derived from hieroglyphic writing.

    The use of hieroglyphic writing arose from proto-literate symbol systems in the Early Bronze Age , around the 32nd century BC ( Naqada III ), [2] with the first decipherable sentence written in the Egyptian language dating to the Second Dynasty (28th century BC). Egyptian hieroglyphs developed into a mature writing system used for monumental inscription in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom period; during this period, the system made use of about 900 distinct signs. The use of this writing system continued through the New Kingdom and Late Period, and on into the Persian and Ptolemaic periods. Late survivals of hieroglyphic use are found well into the Roman period , extending into the 4th century AD.

    With the final closing of pagan temples in the 5th century, knowledge of hieroglyphic writing was lost. Although attempts were made, the script remained undeciphered throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period . The decipherment of hieroglyphic writing would only be accomplished in the 1820s by Jean-François Champollion , with the help of the Rosetta Stone .

    Contents

    • 1 Etymology
    • 2 History and evolution
      • 2.1 Origin
      • 2.2 Mature writing system
      • 2.3 Late Period
      • 2.4 Late survival
    • 3 Decipherment
    • 4 Writing system
      • 4.1 Phonetic reading
        • 4.1.1 Uniliteral signs
        • 4.1.2 Phonetic complements
      • 4.2 Semantic reading
        • 4.2.1 Logograms
        • 4.2.2 Determinatives
      • 4.3 Additional signs
        • 4.3.1 Cartouche
        • 4.3.2 Filling stroke
      • 4.4 Signs joined together
        • 4.4.1 Doubling
      • 4.5 Grammatical signs
    • 5 Spelling
    • 6 Simple examples
    • 7 Encoding and font support
    • 8 See also
    • 9 Notes and references
    • 10 Further reading
    • 11 External links

    Etymology

    The word hieroglyph comes from the Greek adjective ἱερογλυφικός (hieroglyphikos), [7] a compound of ἱερός (hierós ‘sacred’) [8] and γλύφω (glýphō ‘Ι carve, engrave’; see glyph ). [9]

    The glyphs themselves since the Ptolemaic period were called τὰ ἱερογλυφικὰ [γράμματα] (tà hieroglyphikà [grámmata]) “the sacred engraved letters”, the Greek counterpart to the Egyptian expression of mdw.w-nṯr “god’s words”. [10] Greek ἱερογλυφός meant “a carver of hieroglyphs”.

    In English, hieroglyph as a noun is recorded from 1590, originally short for nominalised hieroglyphic (1580s, with a plural hieroglyphics), from adjectival use (hieroglyphic character). [11]

    History and evolution

    Origin

    Seal impression of Seth-Peribsen ( Second Dynasty , c. 28th century BC)

    Hieroglyphs emerged from the preliterate artistic traditions of Egypt. For example, symbols on Gerzean pottery from c. 4000 BC have been argued to resemble hieroglyphic writing.[ citation needed ] Proto-hieroglyphic symbol systems develop in the second half of the 4th millennium BC, such as the clay labels of a Predynastic ruler called ” Scorpion I ” ( Naqada IIIA period, c. 33rd century BC) recovered at Abydos (modern Umm el-Qa’ab ) in 1998 or the Narmer Palette (c. 31st century BC). [2]
    The first full sentence written in hieroglyphs so far discovered was found on a seal impression found in the tomb of Seth-Peribsen at Umm el-Qa’ab, which dates from the Second Dynasty (28th or 27th century BC). There are around 800 hieroglyphs dating back to the Old Kingdom , Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Eras. By the Greco-Roman period, there are more than 5,000. [5]

    Geoffrey Sampson stated that Egyptian hieroglyphs “came into existence a little after Sumerian script , and, probably [were], invented under the influence of the latter”, [12] and that it is “probable that the general idea of expressing words of a language in writing was brought to Egypt from Sumerian Mesopotamia “. [13] [14] However, given the lack of direct evidence, “no definitive determination has been made as to the origin of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt”. [15] Instead, it is pointed out and held that “the evidence for such direct influence remains flimsy” and that “a very credible argument can also be made for the independent development of writing in Egypt…” [16]
    Since the 1990s, and discoveries such as the Abydos glyphs, it has been held as doubtful whether the Mesopotamian symbol system can be said to predate the Egyptian one. [17]

    Mature writing system

    Further information: Middle Egyptian language

    Hieroglyphs consist of three kinds of glyphs: phonetic glyphs, including single-consonant characters that function like an alphabet ; logographs , representing morphemes ; and determinatives , which narrow down the meaning of logographic or phonetic words.

    Hieroglyphs on a funerary stela in Manchester Museum

    Late Period

    Further information: Late Egyptian language

    As writing developed and became more widespread among the Egyptian people, simplified glyph forms developed, resulting in the hieratic (priestly) and demotic (popular) scripts. These variants were also more suited than hieroglyphs for use on papyrus . Hieroglyphic writing was not, however, eclipsed, but existed alongside the other forms, especially in monumental and other formal writing. The Rosetta Stone contains three parallel scripts – hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek.

    Late survival

    Hieroglyphs continued to be used under Persian rule (intermittent in the 6th and 5th centuries BC), and after Alexander the Great ‘s conquest of Egypt, during the ensuing Ptolemaic and Roman periods. It appears that the misleading quality of comments from Greek and Roman writers about hieroglyphs came about, at least in part, as a response to the changed political situation. Some believed that hieroglyphs may have functioned as a way to distinguish ‘true Egyptians ‘ from some of the foreign conquerors. Another reason may be the refusal to tackle a foreign culture on its own terms, which characterized Greco-Roman approaches to Egyptian culture generally.[ citation needed ] Having learned that hieroglyphs were sacred writing, Greco-Roman authors imagined the complex but rational system as an allegorical, even magical, system transmitting secret, mystical knowledge.[ citation needed ]

    By the 4th century, few Egyptians were capable of reading hieroglyphs, and the “myth of allegorical hieroglyphs” was ascendant.[ citation needed ] Monumental use of hieroglyphs ceased after the closing of all non-Christian temples in 391 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I ; the last known inscription is from Philae , known as the Graffito of Esmet-Akhom , from 394. [18]

    The Hieroglyphica of Horapollo (c. 5th century) appears to retain some genuine knowledge about the writing system. It offers an explanation of close to 200 signs.
    Some are identified correctly, such as the “goose” hieroglyph (zꜣ) representing the word for “son”.

    Decipherment

    Main article: Decipherment of hieroglyphic writing

    Ibn Wahshiyya’s translation of the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph alphabet

    Knowledge of the hieroglyphs had been lost completely by the medieval period.
    Early attempts at decipherment are due to Dhul-Nun al-Misri and Ibn Wahshiyya (9th and 10th century, respectively). [19]

    The early modern tradition of decipherment attempts begins with the work of Piero Valeriano Bolzani (1556). The most famous of the early “decipherers” was Athanasius Kircher .
    In his Lingua Aegyptiaca Restituta (1643), Kircher called hieroglyphics “this language hitherto unknown in Europe, in which there are as many pictures as letters, as many riddles as sounds, in short as many mazes to be escaped from as mountains to be climbed”. While some of his notions are long discredited, portions of his work have been valuable to later scholars, and Kircher helped pioneer Egyptology as a field of serious study.
    All medieval and early modern attempts were hampered by the fundamental assumption that hieroglyphs
    recorded ideas and not the sounds of the language.
    As no bilingual texts were available, any such symbolic ‘translation’ could be proposed without the possibility of verification. [20]

    The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum

    The breakthrough in decipherment came only with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by Napoleon ‘s troops in 1799 (during Napoleon’s Egyptian invasion ).
    As the stone presented a hieroglyphic and a demotic version of the same text in parallel with a Greek translation, plenty of material for falsifiable studies in translation was suddenly available. In the early 19th century, scholars such as Silvestre de Sacy , Johan David Åkerblad , and Thomas Young studied the inscriptions on the stone, and were able to make some headway. Finally, Jean-François Champollion made the complete decipherment by the 1820s. In his Lettre à M. Dacier (1822), he wrote:

    It is a complex system, writing figurative, symbolic, and phonetic all at once, in the same text, the same phrase, I would almost say in the same word. [21]

    Illustration from Tabula Aegyptiaca hieroglyphicis exornata published in Acta Eruditorum , 1714

    Hieroglyphs survive today in two forms: directly, through half a dozen Demotic glyphs added to the Greek alphabet when writing Coptic ; and indirectly, as the inspiration for the original alphabet that was ancestral to nearly every other alphabet ever used, including the Latin alphabet .

    Writing system

    [] This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support , you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA .

    Visually, hieroglyphs are all more or less figurative: they represent real or illusional elements, sometimes stylized and simplified, but all generally perfectly recognizable in form. However, the same sign can, according to context, be interpreted in diverse ways: as a phonogram ( phonetic reading), as a logogram , or as an ideogram ( semagram ; ” determinative “) ( semantic reading). The determinative was not read as a phonetic constituent, but facilitated understanding by differentiating the word from its homophones.

    Phonetic reading

    Hieroglyphs typical of the Graeco-Roman period

    Most non- determinative hieroglyphic signs are phonetic in nature, meaning that the sign is read independently of its visual characteristics (according to the rebus principle where, for example, the picture of an eye could stand for the English words eye and I [the first person pronoun]). This picture of an eye is called a phonogram of the word, ‘I’.

    Phonograms formed with one consonant are called uniliteral signs; with two consonants, biliteral signs; with three, triliteral signs.

    Twenty-four uniliteral signs make up the so-called hieroglyphic alphabet. Egyptian hieroglyphic writing does not normally indicate vowels, unlike cuneiform , and for that reason has been labelled by some an abjad alphabet, i.e., an alphabet without vowels.

    Thus, hieroglyphic writing representing a pintail duck is read in Egyptian as sꜣ, derived from the main consonants of the Egyptian word for this duck: ‘s’, ‘ꜣ’ and ‘t’. (Note that ꜣ ( Egyptian 3 symbol.png , two half-rings opening to the left), sometimes replaced by the digit ‘3’, is the Egyptian alef ).

    It is also possible to use the hieroglyph of the pintail duck without a link to its meaning in order to represent the two phonemes s and , independently of any vowels that could accompany these consonants, and in this way write the word: sꜣ, “son”, or when complemented by the context other signs detailed further in the text, sꜣ, “keep, watch”; and sꜣṯ.w, “hard ground”. For example:

    G38

     – the characters sꜣ;

    G38Z1s

     – the same character used only in order to signify, according to the context, “pintail duck” or, with the appropriate determinative, “son”, two words having the same or similar consonants; the meaning of the little vertical stroke will be explained further on:

    z
    G38
    AA47D54

     – the character sꜣ as used in the word sꜣw, “keep, watch”[ clarification needed ]

    As in the Arabic script, not all vowels were written in Egyptian hieroglyphs; it is debatable whether vowels were written at all. Possibly, as with Arabic, the semivowels /w/ and /j/ (as in English W and Y) could double as the vowels /u/ and /i/. In modern transcriptions, an e is added between consonants to aid in their pronunciation. For example, nfr “good” is typically written nefer. This does not reflect Egyptian vowels, which are obscure, but is merely a modern convention. Likewise, the and ʾ are commonly transliterated as a, as in Ra .

    Hieroglyphs are written from right to left, from left to right, or from top to bottom, the usual direction being from right to left [22] (although, for convenience, modern texts are often normalized into left-to-right order). The reader must consider the direction in which the asymmetrical hieroglyphs are turned in order to determine the proper reading order. For example, when human and animal hieroglyphs face to the left (i.e., they look left), they must be read from left to right, and vice versa, the idea being that the hieroglyphs face the beginning of the line.

    As in many ancient writing systems, words are not separated by blanks or by punctuation marks. However, certain hieroglyphs appear particularly common only at the end of words, making it possible to readily distinguish words.

    Uniliteral signs

    Hieroglyphs at Amada, at temple founded by Tuthmosis III .

    Main article: Transliteration of Ancient Egyptian § Uniliteral signs

    The Egyptian hieroglyphic script contained 24 uniliterals (symbols that stood for single consonants, much like letters in English). It would have been possible to write all Egyptian words in the manner of these signs, but the Egyptians never did so and never simplified their complex writing into a true alphabet. [23]

    Each uniliteral glyph once had a unique reading, but several of these fell together as Old Egyptian developed into Middle Egyptian . For example, the folded-cloth glyph seems to have been originally an /s/ and the door-bolt glyph a /θ/ sound, but these both came to be pronounced /s/, as the /θ/ sound was lost. A few uniliterals first appear in Middle Egyptian texts.

    Besides the uniliteral glyphs, there are also the biliteral and triliteral signs, to represent a specific sequence of two or three consonants, consonants and vowels, and a few as vowel combinations only, in the language.

    Phonetic complements

    Egyptian writing is often redundant: in fact, it happens very frequently that a word might follow several characters writing the same sounds, in order to guide the reader. For example, the word nfr, “beautiful, good, perfect”, was written with a unique triliteral that was read as nfr:

    nfr

    However, it is considerably more common to add to that triliteral, the uniliterals for f and r. The word can thus be written as nfr+f+r, but one still reads it merely as nfr. The two alphabetic characters are adding clarity to the spelling of the preceding triliteral hieroglyph.

    Redundant characters accompanying biliteral or triliteral signs are called phonetic complements (or complementaries). They can be placed in front of the sign (rarely), after the sign (as a general rule), or even framing it (appearing both before and after). Ancient Egyptian scribes consistently avoided leaving large areas of blank space in their writing, and might add additional phonetic complements or sometimes even invert the order of signs if this would result in a more aesthetically pleasing appearance (good scribes attended to the artistic, and even religious, aspects of the hieroglyphs, and would not simply view them as a communication tool). Various examples of the use of phonetic complements can be seen below:

    S43dw

    md +d +w (the complementary d is placed after the sign) → it reads mdw, meaning “tongue”.

    x
    p
    xpr
    r
    iA40

    ḫ +p +ḫpr +r +j (the four complementaries frame the triliteral sign of the scarab beetle) → it reads ḫpr.j, meaning the name ” Khepri “, with the final glyph being the determinative for ‘ruler or god’.

    Notably, phonetic complements were also used to allow the reader to differentiate between signs that are homophones , or which do not always have a unique reading. For example, the symbol of “the seat” (or chair):

    Q1

    – This can be read st, ws and ḥtm, according to the word in which it is found. The presence of phonetic complements—and of the suitable determinative—allows the reader to know which of the three readings to choose:

    • 1st Reading: st
      Q1t
      pr

      st, written st+t ; the last character is the determinative of “the house” or that which is found there, meaning “seat, throne, place”;

    Q1t
    H8

    st (written st+t ; the “egg” determinative is used for female personal names in some periods), meaning ” Isis “;

    • 2nd Reading: ws
      Q1
      ir
      A40

      wsjr (written ws+jr, with, as a phonetic complement, “the eye”, which is read jr, following the determinative of “god”), meaning ” Osiris “;

    • 3rd Reading: ḥtm
      HQ1m&tE17

      ḥtm.t (written ḥ+ḥtm+m+t, with the determinative of “Anubis” or “the jackal”), meaning a kind of wild animal;

    HQ1tG41

    ḥtm (written ḥ +ḥtm +t, with the determinative of the flying bird), meaning “to disappear”.

    Finally, it sometimes happens that the pronunciation of words might be changed because of their connection to Ancient Egyptian: in this case, it is not rare for writing to adopt a compromise in notation, the two readings being indicated jointly. For example, the adjective bnj, “sweet”, became bnr. In Middle Egyptian, one can write:

    bn
    r
    iM30

    bnrj (written b+n+r+i, with determinative)

    which is fully read as bnr, the j not being pronounced but retained in order to keep a written connection with the ancient word (in the same fashion as the English language words through, knife, or victuals, which are no longer pronounced the way they are written.)

    Semantic reading

    Besides a phonetic interpretation, characters can also be read for their meaning: in this instance, logograms are being spoken (or ideograms ) and semagrams (the latter are also called determinatives). [24]

    Logograms

    A hieroglyph used as a logogram defines the object of which it is an image. Logograms are therefore the most frequently used common nouns; they are always accompanied by a mute vertical stroke indicating their status as a logogram (the usage of a vertical stroke is further explained below); in theory, all hieroglyphs would have the ability to be used as logograms. Logograms can be accompanied by phonetic complements. Here are some examples:

    • ra
      Z1

      rꜥ, meaning “sun”;

    • pr
      Z1

      pr, meaning “house”;

    • swt
      Z1

      swt (sw+t), meaning “reed”;

    • Dw
      Z1

      ḏw, meaning “mountain”.

    In some cases, the semantic connection is indirect ( metonymic or metaphoric ):

    • nTrZ1

      nṯr, meaning “god”; the character in fact represents a temple flag (standard);

    • G53Z1

      bꜣ, meaning ” Bâ ” (soul); the character is the traditional representation of a “bâ” (a bird with a human head);

    • G27Z1

      dšr, meaning “flamingo”; the corresponding phonogram means “red” and the bird is associated by metonymy with this color.

    Determinatives

    Determinatives or semagrams (semantic symbols specifying meaning) are placed at the end of a word. These mute characters serve to clarify what the word is about, as homophonic glyphs are common. If a similar procedure existed in English, words with the same spelling would be followed by an indicator that would not be read, but which would fine-tune the meaning: “retort [chemistry]” and “retort [rhetoric]” would thus be distinguished.

    A number of determinatives exist: divinities, humans, parts of the human body, animals, plants, etc. Certain determinatives possess a literal and a figurative meaning . For example, a roll of papyrus,

    Y1

      is used to define “books” but also abstract ideas. The determinative of the plural is a shortcut to signal three occurrences of the word, that is to say, its plural (since the Egyptian language had a dual, sometimes indicated by two strokes). This special character is explained below.

    Here, are several examples of the use of determinatives borrowed from the book, Je lis les hiéroglyphes (“I am reading hieroglyphs”) by Jean Capart, which illustrate their importance:

    • nfrwA17Z3

      nfrw (w and the three strokes are the marks of the plural: [literally] “the beautiful young people”, that is to say, the young military recruits. The word has a young-person determinative symbol:

      A17

      – which is the determinative indicating babies and children;

    • nfrf&r&tB1

      nfr.t (.t is here the suffix that forms the feminine): meaning “the nubile young woman”, with

      B1

      as the determinative indicating a woman;

    • nfrnfrnfrpr

      nfrw (the tripling of the character serving to express the plural, flexional ending w) : meaning “foundations (of a house)”, with the house as a determinative,

      pr

      ;

    • nfrf
      r
      S28

      nfr : meaning “clothing” with

      S28

        as the determinative for lengths of cloth;

    • nfrW22
      Z2ss

      nfr : meaning “wine” or “beer”; with a jug

      W22

        as the determinative.

    All these words have a meliorative connotation: “good, beautiful, perfect”. The Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian by Raymond A. Faulkner, gives some twenty words that are read nfr or which are formed from this word.

    Additional signs

    Cartouche

    Rarely, the names of gods are placed within a cartouche ; the two last names of the sitting king are always placed within a cartouche:

    <
    N5
    Z1
    iY5
    n
    A40
    >

    jmn-rꜥ, “Amon-Ra”;

    <
    q
    E23
    iV4p
    d
    r
    At
    H8
    >

    qljwꜣpdrꜣ.t, “Cleopatra”;

    Filling stroke

    A filling stroke is a character indicating the end of a quadrat that would otherwise be incomplete.

    Signs joined together

    Some signs are the contraction of several others. These signs have, however, a function and existence of their own: for example, a forearm where the hand holds a scepter is used as a determinative for words meaning “to direct, to drive” and their derivatives.

    Doubling

    The doubling of a sign indicates its dual; the tripling of a sign indicates its plural.

    Grammatical signs

    • The vertical stroke, indicating the sign is a logogram;
    • The two strokes of the “dual” and the three strokes of the “plural”;
    • The direct notation of flexional endings, for example:
      W

    Spelling

    Standard orthography —”correct” spelling—in Egyptian is much looser than in modern languages. In fact, one or several variants exist for almost every word. One finds:

    • Redundancies;
    • Omission of graphemes , which are ignored whether or not they are intentional;
    • Substitutions of one grapheme for another, such that it is impossible to distinguish a “mistake” from an “alternate spelling”;
    • Errors of omission in the drawing of signs, which are much more problematic when the writing is cursive (hieratic) writing, but especially demotic, where the schematization of the signs is extreme.

    However, many of these apparent spelling errors constitute an issue of chronology. Spelling and standards varied over time, so the writing of a word during the Old Kingdom might be considerably different during the New Kingdom . Furthermore, the Egyptians were perfectly content to include older orthography (“historical spelling”) alongside newer practices, as though it were acceptable in English to use archaic spellings in modern texts. Most often, ancient “spelling errors” are simply misinterpretations of context. Today, hieroglyphicists use numerous cataloguing systems (notably the Manuel de Codage and Gardiner’s Sign List ) to clarify the presence of determinatives, ideograms, and other ambiguous signs in transliteration.

    Simple examples

    Hiero Ca1.svg
    p
    t
    wAl
    M
    iis
    Hiero Ca2.svg
    nomen or birth name
    Ptolemy
    in hieroglyphs

    The glyphs in this cartouche are transliterated as:

    p
    t
    “ua”l
    m
    y (ii) s

    Ptolmys

    though ii is considered a single letter and transliterated y.

    Another way in which hieroglyphs work is illustrated by the two Egyptian words pronounced pr (usually vocalised as per). One word is ‘house’, and its hieroglyphic representation is straightforward:

    pr
    Z1

    Name of Alexander the Great in hieroglyphs, c. 332 BC, Egypt. Louvre Museum

    Here, the ‘house’ hieroglyph works as a logogram: it represents the word with a single sign. The vertical stroke below the hieroglyph is a common way of indicating that a glyph is working as a logogram.

    Another word pr is the verb ‘to go out, leave’. When this word is written, the ‘house’ hieroglyph is used as a phonetic symbol:

    pr
    r
    D54

    Here, the ‘house’ glyph stands for the consonants pr. The ‘mouth’ glyph below it is a phonetic complement: it is read as r, reinforcing the phonetic reading of pr. The third hieroglyph is a determinative: it is an ideogram for verbs of motion that gives the reader an idea of the meaning of the word.

    Encoding and font support

    Egyptian hieroglyphs were added to the Unicode Standard in October 2009 with the release of version 5.2 which introduced the Egyptian Hieroglyphs block (U+13000–U+1342F) with 1,071 defined characters.

    As of July 2013 [update] , four fonts, Aegyptus , NewGardiner , Noto Sans Egyptian Hieroglyphs and JSeshFont support this range. Another font, Segoe UI Historic , comes bundled with Windows 10 and also contains glyphs for the entire Egyptian Hieroglyphs block.

    See also

    • Ancient Egypt portal
    • List of Egyptian hieroglyphs
      • Gardiner’s sign list
      • Egyptian numerals
    • Egyptian language
    • Middle Bronze Age alphabets
    • Manuel de Codage
    • Transliteration of Ancient Egyptian

    Notes and references

    1. ^ “…The Mesopotamians invented writing around 3200 bc without any precedent to guide them, as did the Egyptians, independently as far as we know, at approxi- mately the same time” The Oxford History of Historical Writing. Vol. 1. To AD 600, page 5
    2. ^ a b c Richard Mattessich (2002). “The oldest writings, and inventory tags of Egypt” . Accounting Historians Journal. 29 (1): 195–208. JSTOR   40698264 .

    3. ^ Jones, Daniel (2003) [1917], Peter Roach, James Hartmann and Jane Setter, eds., English Pronouncing Dictionary, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN   978-3-12-539683-8 CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter ( link )
    4. ^ “Hieroglyph” . Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
    5. ^ a b There were about 1,000 graphemes in the Old Kingdom period, reduced to around 750 to 850 in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom, but inflated to the order of some 5,000 signs in the Ptolemaic period. Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995), p. 12.
    6. ^ The standard inventory of characters used in Egyptology is Gardiner’s sign list (1928–1953).
      A.H. Gardiner (1928), Catalogue of the Egyptian hieroglyphic printing type, from matrices owned and controlled by Dr. Alan Gardiner, “Additions to the new hieroglyphic fount (1928)”, in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 15 (1929), p. 95; , “Additions to the new hieroglyphic fount (1931)”, in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 17 (1931), pp. 245-247; A.H. Gardiner , “Supplement to the catalogue of the Egyptian hieroglyphic printing type, showing acquisitions to December 1953” (1953).
      Unicode Egyptian Hieroglyphs as of version 5.2 (2009) assigned 1,070 Unicode characters.
    7. ^ ἱερογλυφικός ,
      Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
    8. ^ ἱερός , Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
    9. ^ γλύφω , Henry George Liddell , Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
    10. ^ Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995), p. 11.
    11. ^ “Hieroglyphic | Definition of Hieroglyphic by Merriam-Webster” . Retrieved 2016-08-27.
    12. ^ Geoffrey Sampson (1 January 1990). Writing Systems: A Linguistic Introduction . Stanford University Press. pp. 78–. ISBN   978-0-8047-1756-4 . Retrieved 31 October 2011.
    13. ^ Geoffrey W. Bromiley (June 1995). The international standard Bible encyclopedia . Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 1150–. ISBN   978-0-8028-3784-4 . Retrieved 31 October 2011.
    14. ^ Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards, et al., The Cambridge Ancient History (3d ed. 1970) pp. 43–44.
    15. ^ Robert E. Krebs; Carolyn A. Krebs (December 2003). Groundbreaking scientific experiments, inventions, and discoveries of the ancient world . Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 91–. ISBN   978-0-313-31342-4 . Retrieved 31 October 2011.
    16. ^ Simson Najovits, Egypt, Trunk of the Tree: A Modern Survey of an Ancient Land, Algora Publishing, 2004, pp. 55–56.
    17. ^ “challenge the commonly held belief that early logographs, pictographic symbols representing a specific place, object, or quantity, first evolved into more complex phonetic symbols in Mesopotamia.” Mitchell, Larkin. “Earliest Egyptian Glyphs” . Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
    18. ^ The latest presently known hieroglyphic inscription date: Birthday of Osiris Archived 2007-08-15 at the Wayback Machine ., year 110 [of Diocletian], dated to August 24, 394[ citation needed ]
    19. ^ Ahmed ibn ‘Ali ibn al Mukhtar ibn ‘Abd al Karim (called Ibn Wahshiyah) (1806). Ancient alphabets & hieroglyphic characters explained: with an account of the Egyptian priests, their classes, initiation time, & sacrifices by the aztecs and their birds, in the Arabic language . W. Bulmer & co. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
    20. ^ Tabula Aegyptiaca hieroglyphicis exornata . Acta Eruditorum. Leipzig. 1714. p. 127.
    21. ^ Jean-François Champollion , Letter to M. Dacier , September 27, 1822
    22. ^ Sir Alan H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, Third Edition Revised, Griffith Institute (2005), p.25
    23. ^ Gardiner, Sir Alan H. (1973). Egyptian Grammar. Griffith Institute . ISBN   978-0-900416-35-4 .
    24. ^ Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian, A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge University Press (1995), p. 13

    Further reading

    • Adkins, Lesley; Adkins, Roy (2000). The Keys of Egypt: The Obsession to Decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphs. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN   978-0-06-019439-0 .
    • Allen, James P. (1999). Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-77483-3 .
    • Collier, Mark & Bill Manley (1998). How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: a step-by-step guide to teach yourself . British Museum Press. ISBN   978-0-7141-1910-6 .
    • Selden, Daniel L. (2013). Hieroglyphic Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Literature of the Middle Kingdom. University of California Press . ISBN   978-0-520-27546-1 .
    • Faulkner, Raymond O. (1962). Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian. Griffith Institute. ISBN   978-0-900416-32-3 .
    • Gardiner, Sir Alan H. (1957). Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs, 3rd ed . The Griffith Institute.
    • Hill, Marsha (2007). Gifts for the gods: images from Egyptian temples . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN   9781588392312 .
    • Kamrin, Janice (2004). Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A Practical Guide . Harry N. Abrams, Inc . ISBN   978-0-8109-4961-4 .
    • McDonald, Angela. Write Your Own Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Berkeley: University of California Press , 2007 (paperback, ISBN   0-520-25235-7 ).

    External links

    Look up hieroglyph in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
    Wikimedia Commons has media related to Egyptian hieroglyphs .
    • Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics – Aldokkan
    • Glyphs and Grammars – Resources for those interested in learning hieroglyphs, compiled by Aayko Eyma
    • Hieroglyphics! – Annotated directory of popular and scholarly resources
    • Egyptian Language and Writing
    • Full-text of The stela of Menthu-weser
    • Wikimedia’s hieroglyph writing codes
    • Unicode Fonts for Ancient Scripts – Ancient scripts free software fonts
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        Egyptian hieroglyphs

        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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        “Hieroglyphics” redirects here. For other uses, see Hieroglyph (disambiguation) .

        Egyptian hieroglyphs

        Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I.jpg

        Hieroglyphs from KV17 , the tomb of Seti I , 13th century BC
        Type
        Logography usable as an abjad
        Languages Egyptian language
        Time period
        c. 3200 BC [1] [2] – AD 400
        Parent systems
        ( Proto-writing )

        • Egyptian hieroglyphs
        Child systems
        Hieratic , Demotic , Coptic , Meroitic , Proto-Sinaitic
        DirectionLeft-to-right
        ISO 15924 Egyp, 050
        Unicode alias
        Egyptian Hieroglyphs
        Unicode range
        U+13000–U+1342F
        This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support , you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA .

        Egyptian hieroglyphs ( /ˈhrəˌɡlɪf, r-/ [3] [4] ) were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt . It combined logographic , syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters. [5] [6]
        Cursive hieroglyphs were used for religious literature on papyrus and wood. The later hieratic and demotic Egyptian scripts were derived from hieroglyphic writing.

        The use of hieroglyphic writing arose from proto-literate symbol systems in the Early Bronze Age , around the 32nd century BC ( Naqada III ), [2] with the first decipherable sentence written in the Egyptian language dating to the Second Dynasty (28th century BC). Egyptian hieroglyphs developed into a mature writing system used for monumental inscription in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom period; during this period, the system made use of about 900 distinct signs. The use of this writing system continued through the New Kingdom and Late Period, and on into the Persian and Ptolemaic periods. Late survivals of hieroglyphic use are found well into the Roman period , extending into the 4th century AD.

        With the final closing of pagan temples in the 5th century, knowledge of hieroglyphic writing was lost. Although attempts were made, the script remained undeciphered throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period . The decipherment of hieroglyphic writing would only be accomplished in the 1820s by Jean-François Champollion , with the help of the Rosetta Stone .

        Contents

        • 1 Etymology
        • 2 History and evolution
          • 2.1 Origin
          • 2.2 Mature writing system
          • 2.3 Late Period
          • 2.4 Late survival
        • 3 Decipherment
        • 4 Writing system
          • 4.1 Phonetic reading
            • 4.1.1 Uniliteral signs
            • 4.1.2 Phonetic complements
          • 4.2 Semantic reading
            • 4.2.1 Logograms
            • 4.2.2 Determinatives
          • 4.3 Additional signs
            • 4.3.1 Cartouche
            • 4.3.2 Filling stroke
          • 4.4 Signs joined together
            • 4.4.1 Doubling
          • 4.5 Grammatical signs
        • 5 Spelling
        • 6 Simple examples
        • 7 Encoding and font support
        • 8 See also
        • 9 Notes and references
        • 10 Further reading
        • 11 External links

        Etymology

        The word hieroglyph comes from the Greek adjective ἱερογλυφικός (hieroglyphikos), [7] a compound of ἱερός (hierós ‘sacred’) [8] and γλύφω (glýphō ‘Ι carve, engrave’; see glyph ). [9]

        The glyphs themselves since the Ptolemaic period were called τὰ ἱερογλυφικὰ [γράμματα] (tà hieroglyphikà [grámmata]) “the sacred engraved letters”, the Greek counterpart to the Egyptian expression of mdw.w-nṯr “god’s words”. [10] Greek ἱερογλυφός meant “a carver of hieroglyphs”.

        In English, hieroglyph as a noun is recorded from 1590, originally short for nominalised hieroglyphic (1580s, with a plural hieroglyphics), from adjectival use (hieroglyphic character). [11]

        History and evolution

        Origin

        Seal impression of Seth-Peribsen ( Second Dynasty , c. 28th century BC)

        Hieroglyphs emerged from the preliterate artistic traditions of Egypt. For example, symbols on Gerzean pottery from c. 4000 BC have been argued to resemble hieroglyphic writing.[ citation needed ] Proto-hieroglyphic symbol systems develop in the second half of the 4th millennium BC, such as the clay labels of a Predynastic ruler called ” Scorpion I ” ( Naqada IIIA period, c. 33rd century BC) recovered at Abydos (modern Umm el-Qa’ab ) in 1998 or the Narmer Palette (c. 31st century BC). [2]
        The first full sentence written in hieroglyphs so far discovered was found on a seal impression found in the tomb of Seth-Peribsen at Umm el-Qa’ab, which dates from the Second Dynasty (28th or 27th century BC). There are around 800 hieroglyphs dating back to the Old Kingdom , Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Eras. By the Greco-Roman period, there are more than 5,000. [5]

        Geoffrey Sampson stated that Egyptian hieroglyphs “came into existence a little after Sumerian script , and, probably [were], invented under the influence of the latter”, [12] and that it is “probable that the general idea of expressing words of a language in writing was brought to Egypt from Sumerian Mesopotamia “. [13] [14] However, given the lack of direct evidence, “no definitive determination has been made as to the origin of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt”. [15] Instead, it is pointed out and held that “the evidence for such direct influence remains flimsy” and that “a very credible argument can also be made for the independent development of writing in Egypt…” [16]
        Since the 1990s, and discoveries such as the Abydos glyphs, it has been held as doubtful whether the Mesopotamian symbol system can be said to predate the Egyptian one. [17]

        Mature writing system

        Further information: Middle Egyptian language

        Hieroglyphs consist of three kinds of glyphs: phonetic glyphs, including single-consonant characters that function like an alphabet ; logographs , representing morphemes ; and determinatives , which narrow down the meaning of logographic or phonetic words.

        Hieroglyphs on a funerary stela in Manchester Museum

        Late Period

        Further information: Late Egyptian language

        As writing developed and became more widespread among the Egyptian people, simplified glyph forms developed, resulting in the hieratic (priestly) and demotic (popular) scripts. These variants were also more suited than hieroglyphs for use on papyrus . Hieroglyphic writing was not, however, eclipsed, but existed alongside the other forms, especially in monumental and other formal writing. The Rosetta Stone contains three parallel scripts – hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek.

        Late survival

        Hieroglyphs continued to be used under Persian rule (intermittent in the 6th and 5th centuries BC), and after Alexander the Great ‘s conquest of Egypt, during the ensuing Ptolemaic and Roman periods. It appears that the misleading quality of comments from Greek and Roman writers about hieroglyphs came about, at least in part, as a response to the changed political situation. Some believed that hieroglyphs may have functioned as a way to distinguish ‘true Egyptians ‘ from some of the foreign conquerors. Another reason may be the refusal to tackle a foreign culture on its own terms, which characterized Greco-Roman approaches to Egyptian culture generally.[ citation needed ] Having learned that hieroglyphs were sacred writing, Greco-Roman authors imagined the complex but rational system as an allegorical, even magical, system transmitting secret, mystical knowledge.[ citation needed ]

        By the 4th century, few Egyptians were capable of reading hieroglyphs, and the “myth of allegorical hieroglyphs” was ascendant.[ citation needed ] Monumental use of hieroglyphs ceased after the closing of all non-Christian temples in 391 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I ; the last known inscription is from Philae , known as the Graffito of Esmet-Akhom , from 394. [18]

        The Hieroglyphica of Horapollo (c. 5th century) appears to retain some genuine knowledge about the writing system. It offers an explanation of close to 200 signs.
        Some are identified correctly, such as the “goose” hieroglyph (zꜣ) representing the word for “son”.

        Decipherment

        Main article: Decipherment of hieroglyphic writing

        Ibn Wahshiyya’s translation of the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph alphabet

        Knowledge of the hieroglyphs had been lost completely by the medieval period.
        Early attempts at decipherment are due to Dhul-Nun al-Misri and Ibn Wahshiyya (9th and 10th century, respectively). [19]

        The early modern tradition of decipherment attempts begins with the work of Piero Valeriano Bolzani (1556). The most famous of the early “decipherers” was Athanasius Kircher .
        In his Lingua Aegyptiaca Restituta (1643), Kircher called hieroglyphics “this language hitherto unknown in Europe, in which there are as many pictures as letters, as many riddles as sounds, in short as many mazes to be escaped from as mountains to be climbed”. While some of his notions are long discredited, portions of his work have been valuable to later scholars, and Kircher helped pioneer Egyptology as a field of serious study.
        All medieval and early modern attempts were hampered by the fundamental assumption that hieroglyphs
        recorded ideas and not the sounds of the language.
        As no bilingual texts were available, any such symbolic ‘translation’ could be proposed without the possibility of verification. [20]

        The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum

        The breakthrough in decipherment came only with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by Napoleon ‘s troops in 1799 (during Napoleon’s Egyptian invasion ).
        As the stone presented a hieroglyphic and a demotic version of the same text in parallel with a Greek translation, plenty of material for falsifiable studies in translation was suddenly available. In the early 19th century, scholars such as Silvestre de Sacy , Johan David Åkerblad , and Thomas Young studied the inscriptions on the stone, and were able to make some headway. Finally, Jean-François Champollion made the complete decipherment by the 1820s. In his Lettre à M. Dacier (1822), he wrote:

        It is a complex system, writing figurative, symbolic, and phonetic all at once, in the same text, the same phrase, I would almost say in the same word. [21]

        Illustration from Tabula Aegyptiaca hieroglyphicis exornata published in Acta Eruditorum , 1714

        Hieroglyphs survive today in two forms: directly, through half a dozen Demotic glyphs added to the Greek alphabet when writing Coptic ; and indirectly, as the inspiration for the original alphabet that was ancestral to nearly every other alphabet ever used, including the Latin alphabet .

        Writing system

        [] This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support , you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA .

        Visually, hieroglyphs are all more or less figurative: they represent real or illusional elements, sometimes stylized and simplified, but all generally perfectly recognizable in form. However, the same sign can, according to context, be interpreted in diverse ways: as a phonogram ( phonetic reading), as a logogram , or as an ideogram ( semagram ; ” determinative “) ( semantic reading). The determinative was not read as a phonetic constituent, but facilitated understanding by differentiating the word from its homophones.

        Phonetic reading

        Hieroglyphs typical of the Graeco-Roman period

        Most non- determinative hieroglyphic signs are phonetic in nature, meaning that the sign is read independently of its visual characteristics (according to the rebus principle where, for example, the picture of an eye could stand for the English words eye and I [the first person pronoun]). This picture of an eye is called a phonogram of the word, ‘I’.

        Phonograms formed with one consonant are called uniliteral signs; with two consonants, biliteral signs; with three, triliteral signs.

        Twenty-four uniliteral signs make up the so-called hieroglyphic alphabet. Egyptian hieroglyphic writing does not normally indicate vowels, unlike cuneiform , and for that reason has been labelled by some an abjad alphabet, i.e., an alphabet without vowels.

        Thus, hieroglyphic writing representing a pintail duck is read in Egyptian as sꜣ, derived from the main consonants of the Egyptian word for this duck: ‘s’, ‘ꜣ’ and ‘t’. (Note that ꜣ ( Egyptian 3 symbol.png , two half-rings opening to the left), sometimes replaced by the digit ‘3’, is the Egyptian alef ).

        It is also possible to use the hieroglyph of the pintail duck without a link to its meaning in order to represent the two phonemes s and , independently of any vowels that could accompany these consonants, and in this way write the word: sꜣ, “son”, or when complemented by the context other signs detailed further in the text, sꜣ, “keep, watch”; and sꜣṯ.w, “hard ground”. For example:

        G38

         – the characters sꜣ;

        G38Z1s

         – the same character used only in order to signify, according to the context, “pintail duck” or, with the appropriate determinative, “son”, two words having the same or similar consonants; the meaning of the little vertical stroke will be explained further on:

        z
        G38
        AA47D54

         – the character sꜣ as used in the word sꜣw, “keep, watch”[ clarification needed ]

        As in the Arabic script, not all vowels were written in Egyptian hieroglyphs; it is debatable whether vowels were written at all. Possibly, as with Arabic, the semivowels /w/ and /j/ (as in English W and Y) could double as the vowels /u/ and /i/. In modern transcriptions, an e is added between consonants to aid in their pronunciation. For example, nfr “good” is typically written nefer. This does not reflect Egyptian vowels, which are obscure, but is merely a modern convention. Likewise, the and ʾ are commonly transliterated as a, as in Ra .

        Hieroglyphs are written from right to left, from left to right, or from top to bottom, the usual direction being from right to left [22] (although, for convenience, modern texts are often normalized into left-to-right order). The reader must consider the direction in which the asymmetrical hieroglyphs are turned in order to determine the proper reading order. For example, when human and animal hieroglyphs face to the left (i.e., they look left), they must be read from left to right, and vice versa, the idea being that the hieroglyphs face the beginning of the line.

        As in many ancient writing systems, words are not separated by blanks or by punctuation marks. However, certain hieroglyphs appear particularly common only at the end of words, making it possible to readily distinguish words.

        Uniliteral signs

        Hieroglyphs at Amada, at temple founded by Tuthmosis III .

        Main article: Transliteration of Ancient Egyptian § Uniliteral signs

        The Egyptian hieroglyphic script contained 24 uniliterals (symbols that stood for single consonants, much like letters in English). It would have been possible to write all Egyptian words in the manner of these signs, but the Egyptians never did so and never simplified their complex writing into a true alphabet. [23]

        Each uniliteral glyph once had a unique reading, but several of these fell together as Old Egyptian developed into Middle Egyptian . For example, the folded-cloth glyph seems to have been originally an /s/ and the door-bolt glyph a /θ/ sound, but these both came to be pronounced /s/, as the /θ/ sound was lost. A few uniliterals first appear in Middle Egyptian texts.

        Besides the uniliteral glyphs, there are also the biliteral and triliteral signs, to represent a specific sequence of two or three consonants, consonants and vowels, and a few as vowel combinations only, in the language.

        Phonetic complements

        Egyptian writing is often redundant: in fact, it happens very frequently that a word might follow several characters writing the same sounds, in order to guide the reader. For example, the word nfr, “beautiful, good, perfect”, was written with a unique triliteral that was read as nfr:

        nfr

        However, it is considerably more common to add to that triliteral, the uniliterals for f and r. The word can thus be written as nfr+f+r, but one still reads it merely as nfr. The two alphabetic characters are adding clarity to the spelling of the preceding triliteral hieroglyph.

        Redundant characters accompanying biliteral or triliteral signs are called phonetic complements (or complementaries). They can be placed in front of the sign (rarely), after the sign (as a general rule), or even framing it (appearing both before and after). Ancient Egyptian scribes consistently avoided leaving large areas of blank space in their writing, and might add additional phonetic complements or sometimes even invert the order of signs if this would result in a more aesthetically pleasing appearance (good scribes attended to the artistic, and even religious, aspects of the hieroglyphs, and would not simply view them as a communication tool). Various examples of the use of phonetic complements can be seen below:

        S43dw

        md +d +w (the complementary d is placed after the sign) → it reads mdw, meaning “tongue”.

        x
        p
        xpr
        r
        iA40

        ḫ +p +ḫpr +r +j (the four complementaries frame the triliteral sign of the scarab beetle) → it reads ḫpr.j, meaning the name ” Khepri “, with the final glyph being the determinative for ‘ruler or god’.

        Notably, phonetic complements were also used to allow the reader to differentiate between signs that are homophones , or which do not always have a unique reading. For example, the symbol of “the seat” (or chair):

        Q1

        – This can be read st, ws and ḥtm, according to the word in which it is found. The presence of phonetic complements—and of the suitable determinative—allows the reader to know which of the three readings to choose:

        • 1st Reading: st
          Q1t
          pr

          st, written st+t ; the last character is the determinative of “the house” or that which is found there, meaning “seat, throne, place”;

        Q1t
        H8

        st (written st+t ; the “egg” determinative is used for female personal names in some periods), meaning ” Isis “;

        • 2nd Reading: ws
          Q1
          ir
          A40

          wsjr (written ws+jr, with, as a phonetic complement, “the eye”, which is read jr, following the determinative of “god”), meaning ” Osiris “;

        • 3rd Reading: ḥtm
          HQ1m&tE17

          ḥtm.t (written ḥ+ḥtm+m+t, with the determinative of “Anubis” or “the jackal”), meaning a kind of wild animal;

        HQ1tG41

        ḥtm (written ḥ +ḥtm +t, with the determinative of the flying bird), meaning “to disappear”.

        Finally, it sometimes happens that the pronunciation of words might be changed because of their connection to Ancient Egyptian: in this case, it is not rare for writing to adopt a compromise in notation, the two readings being indicated jointly. For example, the adjective bnj, “sweet”, became bnr. In Middle Egyptian, one can write:

        bn
        r
        iM30

        bnrj (written b+n+r+i, with determinative)

        which is fully read as bnr, the j not being pronounced but retained in order to keep a written connection with the ancient word (in the same fashion as the English language words through, knife, or victuals, which are no longer pronounced the way they are written.)

        Semantic reading

        Besides a phonetic interpretation, characters can also be read for their meaning: in this instance, logograms are being spoken (or ideograms ) and semagrams (the latter are also called determinatives). [24]

        Logograms

        A hieroglyph used as a logogram defines the object of which it is an image. Logograms are therefore the most frequently used common nouns; they are always accompanied by a mute vertical stroke indicating their status as a logogram (the usage of a vertical stroke is further explained below); in theory, all hieroglyphs would have the ability to be used as logograms. Logograms can be accompanied by phonetic complements. Here are some examples:

        • ra
          Z1

          rꜥ, meaning “sun”;

        • pr
          Z1

          pr, meaning “house”;

        • swt
          Z1

          swt (sw+t), meaning “reed”;

        • Dw
          Z1

          ḏw, meaning “mountain”.

        In some cases, the semantic connection is indirect ( metonymic or metaphoric ):

        • nTrZ1

          nṯr, meaning “god”; the character in fact represents a temple flag (standard);

        • G53Z1

          bꜣ, meaning ” Bâ ” (soul); the character is the traditional representation of a “bâ” (a bird with a human head);

        • G27Z1

          dšr, meaning “flamingo”; the corresponding phonogram means “red” and the bird is associated by metonymy with this color.

        Determinatives

        Determinatives or semagrams (semantic symbols specifying meaning) are placed at the end of a word. These mute characters serve to clarify what the word is about, as homophonic glyphs are common. If a similar procedure existed in English, words with the same spelling would be followed by an indicator that would not be read, but which would fine-tune the meaning: “retort [chemistry]” and “retort [rhetoric]” would thus be distinguished.

        A number of determinatives exist: divinities, humans, parts of the human body, animals, plants, etc. Certain determinatives possess a literal and a figurative meaning . For example, a roll of papyrus,

        Y1

          is used to define “books” but also abstract ideas. The determinative of the plural is a shortcut to signal three occurrences of the word, that is to say, its plural (since the Egyptian language had a dual, sometimes indicated by two strokes). This special character is explained below.

        Here, are several examples of the use of determinatives borrowed from the book, Je lis les hiéroglyphes (“I am reading hieroglyphs”) by Jean Capart, which illustrate their importance:

        • nfrwA17Z3

          nfrw (w and the three strokes are the marks of the plural: [literally] “the beautiful young people”, that is to say, the young military recruits. The word has a young-person determinative symbol:

          A17

          – which is the determinative indicating babies and children;

        • nfrf&r&tB1

          nfr.t (.t is here the suffix that forms the feminine): meaning “the nubile young woman”, with

          B1

          as the determinative indicating a woman;

        • nfrnfrnfrpr

          nfrw (the tripling of the character serving to express the plural, flexional ending w) : meaning “foundations (of a house)”, with the house as a determinative,

          pr

          ;

        • nfrf
          r
          S28

          nfr : meaning “clothing” with

          S28

            as the determinative for lengths of cloth;

        • nfrW22
          Z2ss

          nfr : meaning “wine” or “beer”; with a jug

          W22

            as the determinative.

        All these words have a meliorative connotation: “good, beautiful, perfect”. The Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian by Raymond A. Faulkner, gives some twenty words that are read nfr or which are formed from this word.

        Additional signs

        Cartouche

        Rarely, the names of gods are placed within a cartouche ; the two last names of the sitting king are always placed within a cartouche:

        <
        N5
        Z1
        iY5
        n
        A40
        >

        jmn-rꜥ, “Amon-Ra”;

        <
        q
        E23
        iV4p
        d
        r
        At
        H8
        >

        qljwꜣpdrꜣ.t, “Cleopatra”;

        Filling stroke

        A filling stroke is a character indicating the end of a quadrat that would otherwise be incomplete.

        Signs joined together

        Some signs are the contraction of several others. These signs have, however, a function and existence of their own: for example, a forearm where the hand holds a scepter is used as a determinative for words meaning “to direct, to drive” and their derivatives.

        Doubling

        The doubling of a sign indicates its dual; the tripling of a sign indicates its plural.

        Grammatical signs

        • The vertical stroke, indicating the sign is a logogram;
        • The two strokes of the “dual” and the three strokes of the “plural”;
        • The direct notation of flexional endings, for example:
          W

        Spelling

        Standard orthography —”correct” spelling—in Egyptian is much looser than in modern languages. In fact, one or several variants exist for almost every word. One finds:

        • Redundancies;
        • Omission of graphemes , which are ignored whether or not they are intentional;
        • Substitutions of one grapheme for another, such that it is impossible to distinguish a “mistake” from an “alternate spelling”;
        • Errors of omission in the drawing of signs, which are much more problematic when the writing is cursive (hieratic) writing, but especially demotic, where the schematization of the signs is extreme.

        However, many of these apparent spelling errors constitute an issue of chronology. Spelling and standards varied over time, so the writing of a word during the Old Kingdom might be considerably different during the New Kingdom . Furthermore, the Egyptians were perfectly content to include older orthography (“historical spelling”) alongside newer practices, as though it were acceptable in English to use archaic spellings in modern texts. Most often, ancient “spelling errors” are simply misinterpretations of context. Today, hieroglyphicists use numerous cataloguing systems (notably the Manuel de Codage and Gardiner’s Sign List ) to clarify the presence of determinatives, ideograms, and other ambiguous signs in transliteration.

        Simple examples

        Hiero Ca1.svg
        p
        t
        wAl
        M
        iis
        Hiero Ca2.svg
        nomen or birth name
        Ptolemy
        in hieroglyphs

        The glyphs in this cartouche are transliterated as:

        p
        t
        “ua”l
        m
        y (ii) s

        Ptolmys

        though ii is considered a single letter and transliterated y.

        Another way in which hieroglyphs work is illustrated by the two Egyptian words pronounced pr (usually vocalised as per). One word is ‘house’, and its hieroglyphic representation is straightforward:

        pr
        Z1

        Name of Alexander the Great in hieroglyphs, c. 332 BC, Egypt. Louvre Museum

        Here, the ‘house’ hieroglyph works as a logogram: it represents the word with a single sign. The vertical stroke below the hieroglyph is a common way of indicating that a glyph is working as a logogram.

        Another word pr is the verb ‘to go out, leave’. When this word is written, the ‘house’ hieroglyph is used as a phonetic symbol:

        pr
        r
        D54

        Here, the ‘house’ glyph stands for the consonants pr. The ‘mouth’ glyph below it is a phonetic complement: it is read as r, reinforcing the phonetic reading of pr. The third hieroglyph is a determinative: it is an ideogram for verbs of motion that gives the reader an idea of the meaning of the word.

        Encoding and font support

        Egyptian hieroglyphs were added to the Unicode Standard in October 2009 with the release of version 5.2 which introduced the Egyptian Hieroglyphs block (U+13000–U+1342F) with 1,071 defined characters.

        As of July 2013 [update] , four fonts, Aegyptus , NewGardiner , Noto Sans Egyptian Hieroglyphs and JSeshFont support this range. Another font, Segoe UI Historic , comes bundled with Windows 10 and also contains glyphs for the entire Egyptian Hieroglyphs block.

        See also

        • Ancient Egypt portal
        • List of Egyptian hieroglyphs
          • Gardiner’s sign list
          • Egyptian numerals
        • Egyptian language
        • Middle Bronze Age alphabets
        • Manuel de Codage
        • Transliteration of Ancient Egyptian

        Notes and references

        1. ^ “…The Mesopotamians invented writing around 3200 bc without any precedent to guide them, as did the Egyptians, independently as far as we know, at approxi- mately the same time” The Oxford History of Historical Writing. Vol. 1. To AD 600, page 5
        2. ^ a b c Richard Mattessich (2002). “The oldest writings, and inventory tags of Egypt” . Accounting Historians Journal. 29 (1): 195–208. JSTOR   40698264 .

        3. ^ Jones, Daniel (2003) [1917], Peter Roach, James Hartmann and Jane Setter, eds., English Pronouncing Dictionary, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN   978-3-12-539683-8 CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter ( link )
        4. ^ “Hieroglyph” . Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
        5. ^ a b There were about 1,000 graphemes in the Old Kingdom period, reduced to around 750 to 850 in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom, but inflated to the order of some 5,000 signs in the Ptolemaic period. Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995), p. 12.
        6. ^ The standard inventory of characters used in Egyptology is Gardiner’s sign list (1928–1953).
          A.H. Gardiner (1928), Catalogue of the Egyptian hieroglyphic printing type, from matrices owned and controlled by Dr. Alan Gardiner, “Additions to the new hieroglyphic fount (1928)”, in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 15 (1929), p. 95; , “Additions to the new hieroglyphic fount (1931)”, in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 17 (1931), pp. 245-247; A.H. Gardiner , “Supplement to the catalogue of the Egyptian hieroglyphic printing type, showing acquisitions to December 1953” (1953).
          Unicode Egyptian Hieroglyphs as of version 5.2 (2009) assigned 1,070 Unicode characters.
        7. ^ ἱερογλυφικός ,
          Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
        8. ^ ἱερός , Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
        9. ^ γλύφω , Henry George Liddell , Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
        10. ^ Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995), p. 11.
        11. ^ “Hieroglyphic | Definition of Hieroglyphic by Merriam-Webster” . Retrieved 2016-08-27.
        12. ^ Geoffrey Sampson (1 January 1990). Writing Systems: A Linguistic Introduction . Stanford University Press. pp. 78–. ISBN   978-0-8047-1756-4 . Retrieved 31 October 2011.
        13. ^ Geoffrey W. Bromiley (June 1995). The international standard Bible encyclopedia . Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 1150–. ISBN   978-0-8028-3784-4 . Retrieved 31 October 2011.
        14. ^ Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards, et al., The Cambridge Ancient History (3d ed. 1970) pp. 43–44.
        15. ^ Robert E. Krebs; Carolyn A. Krebs (December 2003). Groundbreaking scientific experiments, inventions, and discoveries of the ancient world . Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 91–. ISBN   978-0-313-31342-4 . Retrieved 31 October 2011.
        16. ^ Simson Najovits, Egypt, Trunk of the Tree: A Modern Survey of an Ancient Land, Algora Publishing, 2004, pp. 55–56.
        17. ^ “challenge the commonly held belief that early logographs, pictographic symbols representing a specific place, object, or quantity, first evolved into more complex phonetic symbols in Mesopotamia.” Mitchell, Larkin. “Earliest Egyptian Glyphs” . Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
        18. ^ The latest presently known hieroglyphic inscription date: Birthday of Osiris Archived 2007-08-15 at the Wayback Machine ., year 110 [of Diocletian], dated to August 24, 394[ citation needed ]
        19. ^ Ahmed ibn ‘Ali ibn al Mukhtar ibn ‘Abd al Karim (called Ibn Wahshiyah) (1806). Ancient alphabets & hieroglyphic characters explained: with an account of the Egyptian priests, their classes, initiation time, & sacrifices by the aztecs and their birds, in the Arabic language . W. Bulmer & co. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
        20. ^ Tabula Aegyptiaca hieroglyphicis exornata . Acta Eruditorum. Leipzig. 1714. p. 127.
        21. ^ Jean-François Champollion , Letter to M. Dacier , September 27, 1822
        22. ^ Sir Alan H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, Third Edition Revised, Griffith Institute (2005), p.25
        23. ^ Gardiner, Sir Alan H. (1973). Egyptian Grammar. Griffith Institute . ISBN   978-0-900416-35-4 .
        24. ^ Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian, A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge University Press (1995), p. 13

        Further reading

        • Adkins, Lesley; Adkins, Roy (2000). The Keys of Egypt: The Obsession to Decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphs. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN   978-0-06-019439-0 .
        • Allen, James P. (1999). Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-77483-3 .
        • Collier, Mark & Bill Manley (1998). How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: a step-by-step guide to teach yourself . British Museum Press. ISBN   978-0-7141-1910-6 .
        • Selden, Daniel L. (2013). Hieroglyphic Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Literature of the Middle Kingdom. University of California Press . ISBN   978-0-520-27546-1 .
        • Faulkner, Raymond O. (1962). Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian. Griffith Institute. ISBN   978-0-900416-32-3 .
        • Gardiner, Sir Alan H. (1957). Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs, 3rd ed . The Griffith Institute.
        • Hill, Marsha (2007). Gifts for the gods: images from Egyptian temples . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN   9781588392312 .
        • Kamrin, Janice (2004). Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A Practical Guide . Harry N. Abrams, Inc . ISBN   978-0-8109-4961-4 .
        • McDonald, Angela. Write Your Own Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Berkeley: University of California Press , 2007 (paperback, ISBN   0-520-25235-7 ).

        External links

        Look up hieroglyph in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
        Wikimedia Commons has media related to Egyptian hieroglyphs .
        • Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics – Aldokkan
        • Glyphs and Grammars – Resources for those interested in learning hieroglyphs, compiled by Aayko Eyma
        • Hieroglyphics! – Annotated directory of popular and scholarly resources
        • Egyptian Language and Writing
        • Full-text of The stela of Menthu-weser
        • Wikimedia’s hieroglyph writing codes
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