Pre-Late Egyptian Reconstruction/Structure of Egyptian Verb

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The skeletal formation of the Egyptian verb follows a stem pattern similar to sister languages like Arabic, Hebrew and Berber. Take note that the following descriptions can be used for all Egyptian words not only verbs. First and foremost, the Egyptian stem consists of different parts:

Most of this information is taken from Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs by James P Allen [pgs. 154-160]

Stem[edit | edit source]

The Stem is the basic form of the verb. There are two kinds of stems in Egyptian:

The base stem is the simplest form of the verb: sdm - hear, listen. Most regular verbs are automatically in their 'base stem' form. The 'base stem' is used as a way to refer to the verb in its elementary form when adding suffixes/clitics and conjugating.

The geminated stem is a stem in which there is a reduplication of the final radical: wnn - be, exist.

The 'base stem' of a geminated stem is the form without the reduplicated radical: wn - be, exist

[Egyptian Grammarians have adopted the term geminated which is used when a consonant in a word is lengthened in pronunciation. Generally a merge from a single consonant to a lengthened consonant changes the meaning of the word (especially in Afroasiatic languages). This process is a debated subject in Egyptian phonology because there is not enough evidence in favor of geminated consonants. According to hieroglyphics and Coptic morphological comparison, it appears the final reduplicated radical of a verb stem had a vowel inserted between the two radicals in some of the verb forms. For this reason the proper term for an Egyptian verb stem with a doubled final consonant would be better analyzed as a partial reduplicated stem... In respect to 'geminated consonants', it is believed they may have been prominent during the earlier phases of the Proto-Egyptian language but fell out of use as a way of distinguishing meaning between verb forms some time before the Old Kingdom (or into the Old Kingdom) but geminated consonants may have shown remnants of their existence in some words thereafter - this is a bit of a thorny issue among scholars. There is also some information from online[1] where a geminated consonant may have been an allophone of a single consonant under specific morphological conditions: Root syllables that ended in a resonant such as m, n, r, or l, lengthened the resonant in lieu of lengthening the vowel, so that "CaraCara -> "CarCar but instead the a being lengthened due to the stress-accent, the r is lengthened (which is unindicated), yielding "C_r:C_r ~ as in Sahidic Coptic strtr, "tremble" (the Japanese phenomenon of final long consonants).]

Root[edit | edit source]

The Root - is the part of the verb which is found in Egyptian dictionaries- for ex: mrj - like, want, desire. In the case of geminated/reduplicated verbs, the root is the 'geminated/reduplicated stem': wnn - be, exist. A root is further divided into classes or categories based on the form of their root. The root classes are:

  • Regular Roots
  • Weak Roots
  • Geminated/Reduplicated Roots
  • Causative Roots

Regular Roots[edit | edit source]

Most verbs fall under this category.

  • 1-lit. (uniliteral) z - man
  • 2-lit. (biliteral) dd - say
  • 3-lit. (triliteral) snb - be healthy
  • 4-lit. (quadriliteral) msnḥ - spin around
  • 5-lit. (quinquiliteral) nhmhm - yell
  • 6-lit. (sexiliteral) nddnddOEg - endure

Note 1: radical replaces -literal in some reference sources, ie; 2-rad., 3-rad., 4-rad., 5-rad., etc.

Note 2: z is a noun and only has one strong consonant but it is often spelled zj, indicating the last sound was a vowel or less likely that it ended in a glide.

Note 3: Biliterals often shows traces of an original III inf; in early times very rare[2]

Weak Roots[edit | edit source]

Weak Roots - are stems containing one or more of the radicals y, j or w.

  • 2ae-inf. (second-weak; Latin secundae infirmae) zj - go
  • 3ae-inf. (third-weak; Latin tertiae infirmae) wpj - part, split, open
  • 4ae-inf. (fourth-weak; Latin quartae infirmae) msdj - hate

Primae + (radical) can be used to refer to the first radical especially in reference to weak radicals.

Mediae + (radical, especially for j, y, w, ect.) is a term sometimes used for a weak medial radical- this consonant may have fallen out in pronunciation in some verb forms. In Semitic languages this morphological phenomenon is called a hollow verb. A similar vocalization pattern may be hypothesized in Egyptian.

Ultimae + (the final radical) can be used to refer to the last radical.

Primae, mediae and ultimae can be used to refer to any particular radical but it tends to be used to reference weak consonants the most. They can also be used to specifically refer to a type of root class of the weak roots, for ex: primae infirmae, mediae infirmae, ultimate infirmae or even ultimae infirmae 3 (for 3ae-inf.), ultimae infirmae 4, ect... Roman numerals are also used; IIIae-inf.

Note that a syllable ending in t, r, ɜ [or other random consonants] oftentimes is considered a syllable with a weak radical because the consonant most likely fell away in pronunciation. A root consisting of these kinds of syllables generally do not follow the morphological rules of 'weak stems' in Egyptian- although as the language progressed some weak roots eventually lost these consonants and gave birth to a renovated condensed root (this is especially noticeable in Coptic).

III inf -w and III inf- j were unified early and IV infs are partly derived from adjectival formations in y, from nouns and infinitives, for example; sjp ~ sjpt ~ sjpty (IV-lit verb).

Geminated/Reduplicated Roots[edit | edit source]

  • 2ae-gem. (second geminate; Latin secundae geminatae) tmm - close, shut
  • 3ae-gem. (third-geminate; Latin tertiae geminatae) špss - fine, special, noble

A majority of the 4-lit., 5-lit. and 6-lit. roots are organically full or partial reduplicated stems. For example:

  • snsn - fraternize, comes from sn - kiss, smell.
  • ddjdj - endure, comes from ddj - endure.

Usually these reduplicated stems are an emphasized version of the original verb stem.

  • ḥwtf - plunder, is just one example of a 4-lit stem which is not a reduplicated stem.

II gem are properly triliterals but with the 2nd and 3rd radicals alike, these coalesced in many forms where no vowel intervened and gave the word the appearance of a biliteral.

III gems are rare.

Causative Roots[edit | edit source]

Causative Roots - are stems consisting of an s- prefix defining the verb as 'causing something to happen'. This prefix is attested in Arabic and other Afroasiatic languages.

  • caus. 2-lit (causative biliteral) srd - plant, cause to grow
  • caus. 2ae-gem. (causative second-geminate) sqbb - cool, make cool
  • caus. 3-lit (causative triliteral) sndm - sweeten, reside
  • caus. 3ae-inf. (causative third-weak) smsj - deliver, cause to make birth
  • caus. 4-lit (causative quadriliteral) sḫdḫd - invert
  • caus. 4ae-inf. (causative fourth-weak) sbɜgj - make weary
  • caus. 5-lit. (causative quinquiliteral) snḫbḫb - cause to draw back

Extra Notes[edit | edit source]

There are a few more antiquated prefixes used as part of the root- eventually they became part of the verb stem, some are inflected with special conditions and others are treated as any other verb root. Irregular roots in Egyptian are called Anomalous. A few roots/verbs only appear in one or two forms and are termed Defective. These (verb-)roots will all be discussed in greater detail once we conjugate the verb.

A root may have more than one categorization or class, for example:

  • jwr - conceive, is a 3-lit. and a 'weak root'.
  2. ... pg 61.