Chapter 1

The Script

5. The hieroglyphic is a picture script. At first only visible objects could be expressed in writing. Thus, was written for "man." Or for "hand." But the picture of a man with his hand to his mouth, , was in time written to represent "to speak" or "to eat," and the sign for "eye," , was in time used also to represent "to see." The first great step in the evolution of the hieroglyphic script was made when the early Egyptians used their picture signs to express those abstract words, which happened to be pronounced in the same way as the words represented by the picture signs. Thus, the sign for "star," , was pronounced dwA . But the word "to adore" was also pronounced dwA. Therefore, in order to express the abstract idea "to adore," the concrete sign was used.

6. As very little account was taken of the expression of vowels, there being no separate vowel signs in Egyptian, some of the signs came to represent only one consonant. Such consonants were used as an alphabet. They were also used with another hieroglyph to make up a syllable or a word. Thus, the second great step was taken, namely, in the development of an alphabetic and of a phonetic script. Consequently, in the hierglyphic script, we have ideograms, or pictures for whole words; alphabetic signs, or pictures for individual letters; and phonograms, or pictures for syllables.

7. Alphabetic signs:

Hiero-
glyphic
Approximate
Sound
Semitic
Equivalent
Approximate
Name
Hieratic Demotic
A, a, e eagle
y, i leaf
a, gh, o arm
w, u chick
b leg
p box
f snail
m owl
n water
r mouth
h court yard
H coil
x disk
X club
s bolt
c tape
S pond
q, o triangle
k basket
g stand
t loaf
T tongs
d hand
D snake

8. Groups of consonantes, e.g. cDm, Htp, ntr are made pronounceable by the insertion of a short e between the letters. Thus, we read these words ceDem, Hetep, neter. But the e, it must be remembered, is quite conventional. It is not at all represented in the hieroglyphs.

9. There are no written vowels in Egyptian. The letters , , , are really weak consonants. is often omitted: D f a "food" for ; it is sometimes interchangeable with : "suffering" for . The letter is often omitted; it sometimes corresponds to ; and it sometimes changes to . The letter never changes. But is often omitted, and sometimes becomes .

10. There is no separate sign for l. In order to represent a foreign l, Egyptians used or . Final was sometimes slurred to , and sometimes disappeared, but it often appeared as .

11. The aspirates were sharply distinguished, as in "him," more energetic, as in the Scotch "loch," but was scarcely distinguishable from and partly interchangeable with it.

12. The sibilants and were interchangeable.

13. The dental often became , and became .

14. At a later time in the history of the language, certain consonants in some words were transposed: qmA "to create" became at a later date qAm.

15. With the passage of time, certain substitute letters were used. They were: for , for , for , for . And at a very early date was written for , and or was written for .

16. The Egyptians wrote words as much as possible in square groups for the sake of symmetry. Thus they wrote instead of ASrt. Occasionally the spelling was sacrificed to symmetry. Thus, instead of rmT, and xtf instead of xft. For the same reason many signs were written either vertically or horizontally, e.g. or ; and some were placed one inside the other, e.g. instead of .

17. The student should accustom himself to writing the hieroglyphs in a simpler form. Thus the alphabet might be written somewhat as follows:

18. Read and write: