Egypt and Art > Mythology Gallery Directory > Hieroglyphic Directory

Hieroglyphic Directory

The ancient Egyptian picture language

Hieroglyphs.
.A brief description.

The Alphabet.
.These are the signs that make the sound of one letter. These glyphs are used to translate into our modern languages.

Biliteral glyphs.
. signs that make the sound of two letters.

Triliteral glyphs.
. signs that make the sound of three letters.

Determinative glyphs.
. These are symbols that help to define a word.

Number glyphs.

Gardiner’s Sign List . .Sir Alan Gardiner, arranged the signs into a number of sections in order to aid categorisation. His sign list  is fairly complete, and accepted by most Egyptologists.

Gardiner’s Sign List on Wikipedia, very good.

AEL (Ancient Egyptian Language)
. This is a very nice site that focusses on learning the language (Middle Egyptian) through the use of real hieroglyphic texts.

Egyptian Name Translator 
. From the pages of Mark Millmore’s Ancient Egypt. This is a great tool! (You will need Netscape 4 or IE4 to see this version of JavaScript)

Hieroglyphic Translation Service

 

Egyptian Hieroglyphic Grammar Translate English Into Egyptian Hieroglyphics in real-time, learn the history and get flashcards. Another great tool.

cSuggested Reading These are the books that I have in my library.

 

HIEROGLYPHS

 HIEROGLYPHS are pictures that were used to write the ancient Egyptian language. In the beginning hieroglyphic signs were used to keep records of the king’s possessions. Scribes could easily make these records by drawing a picture of a cow or a boat followed by a number. But as the language became more complex more pictures were needed. Eventually the language consisted of more then 750 individual signs.

 AS in other languages, words in Egyptian were made up of sounds, partly of consonants and partly of vowels. But, the writing of hieroglyphs constantly ignored and omitted vowels. Thus the two signs  which represent “mt”, could be read as met, mat, amta, emt or any other combinations of vowels and “mt”. Since the ancient language has never been heard, we are not sure how this word would be pronounced. In order to avoid this, we need a method of writing and pronouncing these glyphs consistently . The course usually adopted is to use the English vowel “e” and in a some cases “a” between the two glyphs. So we can pronounce  as “met”.

 THE pronunciation of a word is the crucial element in using hieroglyphics, how a word sounds is more important then how it is spelled. For instance, the word that is spelled “cat” is actually pronounced “kat”. The name that is spelled “Cleopatra” is pronounced “Kliopadra”. So, these word would be written in hieroglyphs the way they sound. Because the words “where” and “wear” sound alike they could be written using the same hieroglyphic signs. The same could be said of the words “there” and “their”.

 HIEROGLYPHS are more then just a way of writing, they are also pictures, and as such they are meant to be estheticly pleasing. The picture signs can be written from right to left; from left to right; or vertically, reading downwards. To determine which way to read a line of hieroglyphs, look for pictures of men or animals. See which way the pictures are facing, the text is read towards the faces. If they are facing to the left, the inscription is read from the left to the right. If they are facing right, the inscription is read from right to left.

 THERE are three forms of writing that were used to write the ancient Egyptian language.

Hieroglyphs:

 From the greek meaning “sacred writing.” this is the picture language that was used most often to decorate temples and monuments. It could be written with pen and ink on papyrus, painted or carved into stone. It was carefully drawn, to make the signs as accurate as possible.

Hieratic:

 This was the cursive form of writing, as script is to printed letters. It was much quicker to write since the picture quality of the language was reduced to a pattern of lines and squiggles.

Demotic:

 This was a shorthand version of the Hieratic script which was used during the Late Period. Demotic means “the people’s writing.” It got this name because many people could read it.

 A very important language that was used during the Ptolemaic Period was called Coptic. This language was written using Greek letters, but it followed the basic structure of the Egyptian language. This has proved to be an invaluable tool for Egyptologists, enabling them to understand how a sentence was formed in the ancient Egyptian language. This was also the key to deciphering the Rosetta stone.

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