§ 1. The Egyptian language is related to the Semitic languages, as well as to certain African languages, such as Berber and the East African Hamitic languages.
The language of ancient Egypt experienced various changes throughout its long history. Accordingly, the language of the Old Kingdom is called Ancient Egyptian; that of the Middle Kingdom is called Classical Egyptian; the daily language of the New Kingdom is called New Egyptian; and the language of Christian Egypt is called Coptic.
§ 2. Various scripts were used by the ancient Egyptians. The Hieroglyphic is the oldest. It was used in the famous "Pyramid Texts," it was carved in wood and sometimes painted in colours. It remained in constant use in all periods of Egyptian history, but was used chiefly for monumental purposes. The hieroglyphic is a picture script, and was written from right to left, or from left to right, and sometimes in perpendicular columns. The Hieratic began to be used extensively during the Middle Kingdom, and was written on papyrus. This script is really an abbreviated and cursive form of the hieroglyphic. It was usually written from right to left. The Demotic began to be used about 650 B.C., and was much used in official documents as late as the Roman period. The script is an abbreviated form of the hieratic. It was usually written from right to left. The Coptic is written in Greek letters, with some extra characters to express sounds not found in the Greek language.
§ 3. This little Egyptian grammar introduces the student to Classical Egyptian. Other forms of the Egyptian language are best taken up only after Classical Egyptian has been thoroughly mastered.
§ 4. Samples of ancient Egyptian scripts.