Saturday, January 30, 2010

talk like an egyptian. king tut exhibit.

Tut pic:

18th dynasty 1333 - 1323 B.C.E., married to Queen Ankhesenamun (originally Ankesenpaaten), who may have also been his sister. There is debate as to whether he is the son of Pharaoh Amenhotep III (but not by the royal Queen Tiye) or son of Pharaoh Akhenaton and Queen Smenkhkare

Tutankhamun (or Tutankhamen or Nebkheperura, originally Tutankhaton), was the twelfth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, ruled for nine years. His name means the “Living Image of Amun” (Tutankhaten meant “the Living Image of Aten”).

D: the Amun vs Aten thang was an early aborted attempt at monotheism.
Well, and an attempt to disempower the priest caste. And get the temples' revenue.

To understand the change, which will be tied into a language lesson, we need to look at Tut's predecessor.

Akhenaten remains an interesting figure, as does his Queen, Nefertiti. Their modern interest comes partly from his connection with Tutankhamun, partly from the unique style and high quality of the pictorial arts he patronized, and partly from ongoing interest in—and, all too often, less than verifiable claims about—the religion he attempted to establish.

Akhenaten tried to bring about a departure from traditional religion, but in the end it would not be accepted. After his death, traditional religious practice was gradually restored, and when some dozen years later rulers without clear rights of succession from the Eighteenth Dynasty founded a new dynasty, they discredited Akhenaten and his immediate successors.

The mythology of the Aten, the radiant disk of the sun, is not only unique in Egyptian history, but is also one of the most complex and controversial aspects of Ancient Egypt.

The word Aten was written using the hieroglyphic sign for "god" because the Egyptians tended to personify certain expressions. Eventually, the Aten was conceived as a direct manifestation of the sun god.

It was Amenhotep IV who first initiated the appearance of the true god, Aten, by formulating a didactic name for him. Hence, in the early years of Amenhotep IV's reign, the sun god Re-Horakhty, traditionally depicted with a hawk's head, became identical to Aten, who was now worshipped as a god, rather than as an object associated with the sun god. Hence, prior to Akhenaten, we speak of The Aten, while afterwards it is the god Aten.

D: Ancient Egyptian was a pretty convoluted system. The increasingly abstract needs of their culture led to changes in their writing system. Pictograms that indicated physical objects gave way to ideograms for more abstract concepts. The need to write with more efficiency led to more stylized, generally easier symbols for scribes to copy in their medium of choice. Clay, papyrus, stone, et al.

Consonantal Signs

The Egyptian language had 24 consonantal sounds, and there was a hieroglyphic symbol for each of these. Many had two symbols, either of which could be used, making about 30 symbols representing single consonants. For example the N sound could be shown as a wavy line depicting water, or as a fancy crown headdress with a curly feather. These symbols are often called the 'hieroglyphic alphabet' and in theory anything could be written using only these symbols, but the Egyptians didn't do this.

Note that there were no symbols for vowel sounds.

There were about 80 commonly used signs which each represented two consonants.

See also: determinatives.

D: this resembles other Semitic traditions.
The only time a culture managed to finesse a vowel system from a consonantal syllabary was:
1) encounter a consonantal syllabary-using culture,
2) have a spoken language with considerably fewer sounds
3) use the 'spare' consonants thus freed up to express vowels.
In this respect at least, the linguistic 'early bird' does NOT get the worm (explicit vowels).

There must have been a fair number of ways to spell the same word. But then, look at English. Our spelling is a mess too.
Or should I say to. Or two? <:

So glad I didn't change my name every time I liked a new ideology.
In first year U I would have been D-really-likes-Sartre's-existentialism. Second year, D-Durkeim-is-dreamy. And so on. <:

Anyway the ideogram for 'God' is a determinative. It tells you in which way a symbol is being used.

King tut's name would show the 'king' determinative. If he was not king, it would still have shown 'man'.

As you can see, you would need in excess of 100 signs known just to get started on a pretty much phonetic reading of Ancient Egyptian. I'm learning it for fun. For the Toronto King Tut exhibit.

Attempts to decipher ancient languages used symbol frequency to guess the basic nature of the script.
1) less than 40 common? Alphabet.
2) 100-ish? Syllabary. CV formats were common, though Akkadian also included CVC and also VC. !!!
3) More? Ideograms.
Of course, these categories are by no means discrete.

Tomorrow, I will look at the evolution of punctuation and spacing.
It is strange that the most primitive early efforts needed it but did not use it yet.
The very latest efforts have it, but do not need it.


Dino Snider said...

I once tried to hash out a syllabary system for English. But syllabaries are NOT well suited to languages with consonant clusters and very complex syllables.

For example. Scrabble sites suggest there a 100 2-letter words in English.

"Chunking" consonant clusters and diphthongs could work somewhat. E.g. STR, AE...

Dino Snider said...

Hmm. Decimese cannot be used to play Scrabble. Any (voiced/voiceless caveat0 CVCVCV... (nasal consonant) format word will be right. <:

"I used all my letters -again. That's 5000 points so far!" [=