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Topics: Topics: Language
Humanities > Language

The invention of writing in Egypt was a turning point in the development of world civilization, marking the beginning of recorded history. Egyptians took inspiration from their environment to create a language comprised of some 700 pictorial symbols called hieroglyphics. Many of the detailed symbols clearly show what they mean to represent, for example "man" is represented by a drawing of a man, and "walking" is represented by a drawing of feet. With the passage of time, two writing styles, hieratic and demotic, developed from the formal hieroglyphic script used on monuments. Hieratic is the "priestly" script used extensively on manuscripts and paintings, and really is just a rather cursive form of monumental hieroglyphics. Demotic is a highly cursive script that is used for the everyday use, replacing the more formal hieratic script.

The second phase of ancient language, which replaced the demotic as the commonly used script in Egypt, is the Coptic language. The word Coptic is derived from a Greek word of similar pronunciation, which means Egyptian, referring to the citizen of Egypt and to the writings of the Egyptian language. The Coptic language is the product of the Hellenistic civilization in Egypt, which is a mixture of the Egyptian and Greek civilizations. The Coptic script is adopted from the Greek alphabet, even though many of the Greek letters represent sounds that didn't exist in Egyptian. The Coptics added seven letters, taken from the demotic script, that represent sounds that don't exist in Greek. The dialects of the Coptic language varied, ranging from Upper Egypt, Faiyum, and Akhmeem dialects, to the Behairi dialect, with respect to the availability of vowels in the Coptic language.

Although the Coptic language is still used in religious prayers in some churches, with the rise of Islam as a dominant religion after AD 641, Arabic became the most widespread of the languages. It is considered sacred since it is the language through which the Holy Qur'an was revealed. The Arabic language basically belongs to the Afro-Asian languages. It is currently the official language of about 250 million Muslims in Africa and Asia. However, the Arabic colloquial language differs in its dialects and details from one Islamic region to another. The Egyptian colloquial language is the most common in all the Arab regions.

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Box with Compartment and Lid with Hieratic Inscription
Box with Compartment and Lid with Hieratic Inscription

Box / Chest / Casket

Block Bearing the Name of King Sahure
Block Bearing the Name of King Sahure

Relief

Jar with Handles and Greek Inscriptions
Jar with Handles and Greek Inscriptions

Jar

Label of King Djer
Label of King Djer

Jar Label

Fragment of Statue with Magical Inscriptions
Fragment of Statue with Magical Inscriptions

Statue

Funerary Papyrus of Te-net-wesret-en-per-nesu
Funerary Papyrus of Te-net-wesret-en-per-nesu

Papyrus

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