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Sunday 20 August 2017

Egyptian language

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Egyptian is the indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 7th century AD in the form of Coptic. The national language of modern-day Egypt is Egyptian Arabic, which gradually replaced Coptic as the language of daily life in the centuries after the Muslim conquest of Egypt. Coptic is still used as the liturgical language of the Coptic Church. It has a handful of fluent speakers today.

Most "surviving" texts in the Egyptian language are primarily written on stone in the hieroglyphic script. However, in antiquity, the majority of texts were written on perishable papyrus in hieratic and (later) demotic, which are now lost. There was also a form of cursive hieroglyphic script used for religious documents on papyrus, such as the Book of the Dead in the Ramesside Period; this script was simpler to write than the hieroglyphs in stone inscriptions, but was not as cursive as hieratic, lacking the wide use of ligatures. Additionally, there was a variety of stone-cut hieratic known as lapidary hieratic. In the language's final stage of development, the Coptic alphabet replaced the older writing system. The native name for Egyptian hieroglyphic writing is  "writing of the words of god." Hieroglyphs are employed in two ways in Egyptian texts: as ideograms that represent the idea depicted by the pictures; and more commonly as phonograms denoting their phonetic value.
While the consonantal phonology of the Egyptian language may be reconstructed, its exact phonetics are unknown, and there are varying opinions on how to classify the individual phonemes. Early research had assumed opposition in stops was one of voicing, but is now thought to either be one of tenuis and emphatic stops, as in many of the Semitic languages, or one of aspirated and ejective stops, as in many of the Cushitic languages.
Since vowels were not written, reconstructions of the Egyptian vowel system are much more uncertain, relying mainly on the evidence from Coptic and foreign transcriptions of Egyptian personal and place names.
Because Egyptian is also recorded over a full two millennia, the Archaic and Late stages being separated by the amount of time that separates Old Latin from modern Italian, it must be assumed that significant phonetic changes would have occurred over that time.
The vocalization of Egyptian is partially known, largely on the basis of reconstruction from Coptic, in which the vowels are written. Recordings of Egyptian words in other languages provide an additional source of evidence. Scribal errors provide evidence of changes in pronunciation over time. The actual pronunciations reconstructed by such means are used only by a few specialists in the language. For all other purposes the Egyptological pronunciation is used, which is, of course, artificial and often bears little resemblance to what is known of how Egyptian was spoken.

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