Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Pharaonic Egyptian Hieroglyphs 1 - The Vowels - Matres Lectionis - LexiLine Journal 288

The current view of the Egyptian hieroglyphs is that they contained no "vowels". Although this is true in terms of "modern" vowels as used to separate consonants, the Egyptian hieroglyphs do in fact have symbols for vowel-type sounds which did not function as "vowels" per se but which represented separate language elements as specific sounds.

New File Added to our Egypt Files

To our LexiLine files at Yahoo Groups at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LexiLine/files/Egypt/
I have added the file pharaonicvowels.png:


showing my decipherment of the ancient Old Kingdom Pharaonic Egyptian vowel-sound system.

Decipherment of the Vowel-Sound System of Ancient Egypt

This decipherment is the beginning of my correction of the mainstream transcriptions, transliterations and interpretations of the hieroglyphs. Mainstream work contains many, many errors.

In the early days of the Pharaonic Egyptian hieroglyphs, the ancients did not yet have our words or specific concepts for "vowel" or "consonant".

Indeed, even in modern times, a thing like "vowels" is a complicated subject. See e.g. Louis Goldstein of Yale University [currently at USC] and his writings on "vowel theory" at
http://artphon.usc.edu/LG/CV.php

Yet, in order to devise a written language, the ancients had to have some primitive "linguistic" understanding of sound and its connection to symbols in order to devise a workable writing system.

I have discovered how that Pharaonic "vowel" system worked.

Mater Lectionis (singular) - Early vowels in the Hebrew Alphabet

The Pharaonic "vowels" show that the Egyptian hieroglyphs were the DIRECT predecessor system to what is know as the matres lectionis (plural) of the Hebrew alphabet in which Aleph is mostly an A, He mostly an A, Waw mostly an O or a U and Jod mostly I, E or AE.

The Linguistics of Sound and Vowel Theory

Mater lectionis derives out of the limited number of ways in which vowels can be formed by human speech. See the Wikipedia Online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matres_lectionis

Early Vowel Theory

As Goldstein notes at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matres_lectionis -

Indian grammarians as early as the 7th century already divided vowels into three distinct types:
(1) palatal (so-called "mouth vowels")
(2) labio-velar (so-called "lip vowels")
(3) pharyngeal (so-called "throat vowels")

Modern Vowel Theory

Modern linguistics has expanded this list to four types of vowels:
(1) palatal ("mouth vowels")
(2) velar ("lip vowels")
(3) uvular ("tongue vowels")
(4) pharyngeal ("in the throat")

The Egyptian Vowel-Type Hieroglyphs mark Vowel Sounds

What we have discovered in the most ancient Pharaonic Egyptian hieroglyphs is that their makers recognized four qualities of vowel-type sounds - and consciously selected homophonic (same-sounding) symbols to mark these sounds - sounds which are similar in function to modern linguistic vowel theory, but of course not as advanced in their nature 5000 years ago.

These four vowel-type sounds in ancient Egypt were:

1. The Breath Sound - the "LEAF, reed LEAF" Hieroglyph
2. The Throat Sound - the "EAGLE" (vulture) Hieroglyph
3. The Nasal Sound - the "CHICKEN" Hieroglyph
4. The Palatal Sound - the "BENT ARM" Hieroglyph

In order to represent these "vowel-types" with symbols, the makers of the hieroglyphs - on the basis of the evidence of the Indo-European language, e.g. on the basis of Latvian lexical comparisons, selected symbols which were pronounced similarly - i.e. were homophonic - to the vowel sound description.

The Four Pairs of Homophonic Hieroglyphs and Vowel Sound Functions

The following four pairs of words are homophonic in Latvian - and fit the Egyptian hieroglyphs perfectly. I find that these same homophonic pairs are found clearly in the Egyptian hieroglyphs:

1. ALPA (whence ALPHA) viz. ELPA "breath" and LAPA viz. VARPA "leaf, ear" whence also VARPATA "couch-grass, dog grass". (Note that the later alphabet used the steer symbol for Alpha, a steer in Latvian being LUOP, also a word homophonic to ALPA. In ancient Old Kingdom Egypt, the "leaf" or "reed leaf" symbol thus represented the "breath sound" in the ancient hieroglyphs.

2. IERIKLIS ("in the throat") and ERGLIS "eagle" (vulture in Egypt). The "eagle" viz. "vulture" symbol thus represented the "throat sound" in the ancient hieroglyphs.

3. UOSTA ("smell, smeller, of the nose") and VISTA "chicken". The "chicken" symbol thus represented a "nasal sound" in the ancient hieroglyphs.

4. ROKA ("bent, arm") and LOKA "bent, pliable, flexible", supple"). The "bent arm" thus represented a "palatal (bent) sound" in the ancient hieroglyphs. Even today LOCISHANA in Latvian is applied as a word in linguistics, applying to declension and conjugation.

Consequence of the Hieroglyphic "Vowel-Sound" Discovery

This above discovery now permits us to recognize that the hieroglyphs were not just chance symbols selected at random or because of religious or other considerations, but were selected primarily for their pronounced SOUND as being similarly sounding - homophonic - to an intended linguistic sound FUNCTION.

Accordingly, we will expect a similar intelligence and rational reasoning to be at work in the formulation of the the remainder of the hieroglyphs, also for the "consonants" (which - as wel will see - were seen combined with vowel sounds). Even though the ancients did not have the precise equivalent concept of "consonant" in ancient days, they recognized similar sounds.

An explanation of the hieroglyphs of the ancient Egyptian "alphabet" will soon be forthcoming.

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