Saturday, February 17, 2024

Egyptian and other language related

What was the written language of Ancient Egypt before their civilization collapsed? How does it compare to modern languages like English and Chinese?

Hans-Georg Lundahl
amateur linguist
Sat 17.II.2024
When can one say the civilisation collapsed?

C. 400 AD, people ceased to write hieroglyphs, completely. Up to recently after the discovery of the Rosetta stone, that is.

By that time, Egypt had several languages, Latin, Greek, and two or three Egyptian ones.

Coptic is an Egyptian language that lived on to the 16th C. and in liturgy to this day. It was the current language of Egypt. Then there were two scripts and one or two other languages, Late Egyptian written in hieroglyphs and sth written in Demotic script, probably not just another way of spelling Late Egyptian, but actually the language stage intermediate between Late Egyptian and Coptic.

I don’t know what kind of comparisons you look for. Structurally all languages are within language types that exist as modern languages. In vocabulary, even Late Egyptian definitely had words for god / deity (neter) and for soul (two words for it, ba, and ka, I think), and even Coptic, Latin and Greek didn’t have words for “tramway, cinema, car, House of Representatives, chairman” … (Latin did have a word for Senate, but the more democratic institution was not a similar body, but more lower class, more directly elected, it was the Coetum, which was more like a local referendum in Rome itself, than as a “house” …).

Old Egyptian, like Modern Hebrew or Modern Arabic was a more synthetic and less analytic language than either modern English or any (including very old) Chinese. Having a synthetic language as a native language isn’t like having a speech impediment.

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