Pre-Late Egyptian Reconstruction/Intro to Verb Classifications

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Egyptian appears to have a unique way of distinguishing between various types of words. In fact, technically speaking, the Egyptian verb is not systematically treated the same way it is in European languages or even in other Afroasiatic languages. In other words there appears to be no difference in how an Egyptian verb would be dissected in comparison to a noun, adjective, preposition or conjunction as these words are all treated the same way and utilize the same suffixes, prefixes and/or auxiliaries attached in order to add dimension to the meaning. This is especially apparent in hieroglyphics and is one of the reasons why there is great difficulty in deciphering sentences properly. For example:

nfr - (masc) good, handsome
nfrt - (fem) good, beautiful

Note: -t ending is also used in several verb forms.

nfrw - (mas pl) good, beautiful/handsome

Note: -w ending is also used in several verb forms.

And the same suffix pronouns are used no matter the type of word:
pr.j - my house
dd.j - I say

It can be assumed that for the ancient Egyptians it did not appear important to always syntactically differentiate nuances between action and non-action (for example verb vs noun), and that there may have been other means used to classify and group words when conversing with one another- this area within the study of Egyptian grammar is rather enigmatic but there are several hypotheses on categorizations by some scholars[1]. So for the purposes of this study, it is logical to group word categorizations by internal vowel changes/templates rather than solely dividing words by defining them as verbs (verb forms), nouns, prepositions, ect. An example of why this should be done is below:

The vowel combination CaCaC[2] generally appears to have a nominal meaning:

  • nafar - good, beautiful/handsome- taking into consideration that this spelling is used for the verb form of the 'infinitive' thus giving a verb a nominal character inasmuch the CaCaC spelling is equally used for plain nouns:
  • natar - god

The vowel combination CaCiC generally appears to have some type of adjectival meaning:

  • nafir - good, beautiful/handsome- this spelling is also used as an alternate clone/word for a plain CaCaC-noun thus giving any stem two separate nominal meanings.

The accented syllable of a word also plays an integral part of word formations and there is difference of opinion as to where the accent may have fallen in some forms. The same can be said of long vowels vs short vowels. These additions will be discussed once we study the various forms. It is also to be noted that it is not generally believed that a change in stress was necessary for a verb form but rather a change in stress may be distinct to specific verb forms by additions of affixes and thus a word may have been shortened in pronunciation due to that distinct stress pattern (for example when some intransitive verb forms are stressed on the final syllable).

Tense appears to be nonexistent in Old and Middle Egyptian but it can be implied or assumed by context whereas in the later phases of the language (Late Egyptian and Coptic) auxiliary verbs were used to specify points in time.

I will primarily be using the systems of Jürgen Osing[3] and Wolfgang Schenkel[4] as well as referencing grammatical features used by James P. Allen, Sir Alan H. Gardiner, and other scholars as well as the Egyptologists' 'Standard Theory'.

  1. Several paradigms of different classifications will be used to assist the reader in learning which will be described in more detail in other pages.
  2. The 'C' in CaCaC stands for any consonant.
  3. Osing, Jürgen 1976. Die Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen.
  4. Schenkel, Wolfgang 1983. Zur Rekonstruktion der deverbalen Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen.