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Egyptian Hieroglyphics

This is intended for those of you who are just starting to learn to read hieroglyphs, or maybe just thinking about the possibility of learning them. There is also a bibliography at the end that may be of interest to students at various levels.

Beginning at the beginning: Monoliterals

One of the first things that you learn when you start to study Egyptian Hieroglyphs is the set of what are called monoliteral signs. These are the signs that represent a single sound, usually a consonant. Below is a chart that shows the monoliteral signs together with their meaning. You will also find these same signs fairly early on in most good books on Hieroglyphs.

In the chart below, the column headed "Manuel de Codage" contains the transliterations commonly used when discussing hieroglyphic texts in email messages.

If you've ever wondered what all the discussions on AEL and elsewhere concerning /3/, /i/, and /'/ are all about, you'll see that these are shown near the top of the list. They correspond to the {eagle}, {read stalk}, and the {arm} respectively. The phonetic value of these signs is by no means certain. Some insight into the problem can be obtained by observing how the Egyptians wrote foreign names, and how Egyptian names were written down by the scribes of other countries. The problem is confounded by the fact that these sounds in particular underwent a great deal of change during the c3000 years that the hieroglyphic system was used. Fortunately, it is not necessary to know precisely how these signs were pronounced in order to understand Ancient Egyptian!

There are other sites on the web that have an introduction to Egyptian Hieroglyphs. The sites linked below have general background information about reading hieroglyphs, together with more information about reading signs. They are well worth a visit!

Introduction to Egyptian writing

The Language of Ancient Egypt

Thotweb: Apprendre les hiéroglyphes

 

Transliterations

The system of transliterations used on AEL is based on the Manuel de Codage format which uses characters that are available on a standard computer keyboard. There is an overview by Geoffrey Graham of the transliterations he uses in the list archives for Week 1. For general information about the Manuel de Codage format, see this Manuel de Codage page.


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