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A question about Hieroglyphics.

 
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Rudra
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2015 12:13 am    Post subject: A question about Hieroglyphics. Reply with quote

I am learning to read Hieroglyphics through Mark Collier and Bill Manley's book "How To Read Hieroglyphs: A Step By Step Guide To Teach Yourself". I have a a couple of questions:

#1. The bi-literal and the tri-literal consonants, like "pr" shown by the house schematic (pr) and mouth sign "r". Similarly, the tri-literal sign of "nfr" which is shown via the "honeypot" symbol. I have seen sometimes that only "honeypot" symbol is mentioned and at times it is the "honeypot" symbol plus symbols of sounds of "f" (horned viper) and "r" (mouth) are also shown. My question is is it ok to write a single symbol of "honeypot" and read it as "nfr" or do I have to write symbol for "honeypot" as well as the "horned viper" and the "mouth" too? Which one would be correct? I think, depending upon the space one could just use the "honeypot" symbol OR use the "honeypot" + "horned viper" + "mouth" symbol to write "nfr", correct?

#2. If we want to write "Amun" we use the "Papyrus" (a) + "Gaming Board" (mn) + "Ripples" (n), this also follows the same procedure as above of having to write the 2/3 consonant symbol followed by the symbols of trailing consonants. But when I wrote the name of writing "Menkaura", I wrote it as "Gaming Board" (mn) + "Ripples" (n) + 3 x "Double Hands" (|_|) and Ra disk in front of the "Gaming Board (mn). When I checked my result with the real cartouche of Menkaura, I found that there was no symbol of "Riplles" (n) in the cartouche. Is the rule that if the bi-literal or tri-literal consonant happens to the first symbol, we do not have the write the following symbols in the consonants?

Thank you
R
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Medjay Archer
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 1:45 am    Post subject: Re: A question about Hieroglyphics. Reply with quote

Rudra wrote:
I am learning to read Hieroglyphics through Mark Collier and Bill Manley's book "How To Read Hieroglyphs: A Step By Step Guide To Teach Yourself". I have a a couple of questions:

#1. The bi-literal and the tri-literal consonants, like "pr" shown by the house schematic (pr) and mouth sign "r". Similarly, the tri-literal sign of "nfr" which is shown via the "honeypot" symbol. I have seen sometimes that only "honeypot" symbol is mentioned and at times it is the "honeypot" symbol plus symbols of sounds of "f" (horned viper) and "r" (mouth) are also shown. My question is is it ok to write a single symbol of "honeypot" and read it as "nfr" or do I have to write symbol for "honeypot" as well as the "horned viper" and the "mouth" too? Which one would be correct? I think, depending upon the space one could just use the "honeypot" symbol OR use the "honeypot" + "horned viper" + "mouth" symbol to write "nfr", correct?

#2. If we want to write "Amun" we use the "Papyrus" (a) + "Gaming Board" (mn) + "Ripples" (n), this also follows the same procedure as above of having to write the 2/3 consonant symbol followed by the symbols of trailing consonants. But when I wrote the name of writing "Menkaura", I wrote it as "Gaming Board" (mn) + "Ripples" (n) + 3 x "Double Hands" (|_|) and Ra disk in front of the "Gaming Board (mn). When I checked my result with the real cartouche of Menkaura, I found that there was no symbol of "Riplles" (n) in the cartouche. Is the rule that if the bi-literal or tri-literal consonant happens to the first symbol, we do not have the write the following symbols in the consonants?

Thank you
R


Hi,

I haven't played around many texts yet (about 6-7), but here's my take from my limited experience.
I think there is no actual stringent orthographic rule regarding how it should be written. It is important to remember it all boils down
to the scribe who wrote the text according to his education and affinities. There is also the space limitations
on the used medium. When space was lacking, I bet they used "abbreviated" forms in order to fit all. Writing media were expensive
back then that is held even more true with hard supports like stelae. That is why there are so many variants for a same word and
current ancient egyptian dictionaries fail in recording all forms: there are too many variants. Plus, the Egyptian writing went through over 3000 years; it expected to undergo many changes.

Transliteration is the bedrock point to partially reconstruct what scribes used to write. People of the past mainly relied on verbal communication and retained ideas (words) by sounds.
Hence, the scribes put in writing what they remember and used the available phonograms to make it so. I don't think there were any
dictionaries back then...or at least extensive one.

1) The theory of the rebus language is what makes ancient egyptian. Ideograms such as "pr" and "nfr" initially represented an idea or object. Phonograms were derived from them and used - according to the rebus principle - to make new words within which the ideogram sound can be heard. It is like the modern english rebus EYE-SEA-YEW: the sentence "I see you" has few to do with eye, sea and yew (ok perhaps eye, but you get the point). For instance, when it comes to Amun ('Imn), it has nothing to do with the gaming board, the reed leaf or water ripples.

Now, ideograms such as "nfr" can be used alone to represent the original concept, but the "vertical stroke" hieroglyph must be accompanied to indicate the "nfr" hieroglyph is not a mere phonogram, but must be seen as an ideogram.

Then, how come phonograms tend to "overemphasize" a sound already found in another phonogram. For instance, Amun has the "gaming board" supplying the "mn" sound and the water ripple seems to be redundant. The reason lies on clarification on phonetics. It seems so according to theory since there is no actual complete scribal grammar book (unless told differently).



From James Allen, "Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs", p.26-27.

If you want to see all common (and sometimes uncommon orthographies), see Erman&Grapow's Wörterbuch der Ägyptischen Sprache. This is where one realizes transliteration is everything. Because, it is mostly the constant parameter in scribal writing.

2) Be careful with royal names in cartouches. They are well known to be free form. Sometimes, the reason lies on divine ideogram to be emphased for reverence, sometimes scribal affinities. All sort of reasons lost to history. This thread relates about this fancy writing in cartouches and how naming rules don't apply there.

Also, when there is a missing phonogram, that is likely victim to the phenomenon of abbreviated spellings. See James Allen, "Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs", p.19. Space was precious in a time writing support was not as abundant as today.



My final point is that ancient Egyptian scribes knew their language very well. You and I, in our native languages, can hear strings of words and be capable to break down into words. We are accustomed as scribes were back then. Because of that, that left certain degrees of liberties in how to write down texts. Plus, that is one reason why vowels were dismissed in writing while existing in verbal speeches. Knowing their language, consonants were sufficient (and rather less affected by accents) to convey written ideas.
Of course, for a modern reader, such "shortcuts" are terrible, but people in the past did not have in mind us today. Otherwise, tons of kings and queens would have buried some of their prestigious monuments to preserve their name forever and ever from looting.
_________________
Kmt is not a racial term nor a reference to the black silt deposited on the Nile valley, but an expression of "standing on place wherein food is plenty, allowing to stop moving like the neighbouring nomads". -Asar Imhotep
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Rudra
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 17, 2015 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Medjay Archer:

Thank you very much for such a detailed and enlightening response to my queries. Yes, there are a few things that Collier and Manley's book leaves out. I got James P. Allen's book yesterday and I hope that now I can make use of the full potential of both the books.

We all know that in every culture and civilization, oral tradition always preceded the written tradition and Egyptian language serves as a classic example of how an ancient language originated and evolved over a period of three thousand years. The rules and principles of the language might look weird and illogical to us but it was a system of written expression that fully served the purpose of the scribes writing deeds, confessions, official declarations etc more than 4500 years ago. I guess, the real purpose of learning the hieroglyphics lies in the fact, that we are supposed to read them only and not to use it for our own writing.

Thank you again for your extremely well written response.
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