Pre-Late Egyptian Reconstruction/Templatic Class II: CvCvC + vw/vj

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Affixes can be attached to all the previous word formations discussed to form new participle dimension to the word's meaning. Unfortunately the interpretation of these affixes in Egyptological studies are not entirely understood semantically nevertheless there are several credible hypotheses. This area of Egyptian grammar is probably one of the most complicated in relation to a unified pattern, and proper divisions of sub-classes within the /-w/ and /-j/ affixes have not entirely been acknowledged by most Egyptologists.

Affix -w[edit]

Marked forms of the /-w/ affix marker should be divided into 3 main categories based upon their individual morphological and inflectional differences:

  • The Abstract/Participle Marker
  • The /-u/ Nominal Ending
  • The Plural

But Special attention should also be noticed with:

ꜥwɜ - look after, care for ? => ꜥwɜy - robber => ꜥwɜj - steal, rob, robbery
  • As well as collective nouns:
hnꜥ - to row => hnyt - (collective noun) sailors also hnw - sailor
  • And roots which naturally consisted of a final j, y or w:
zj - man
ḥw - the Egyptian diety
  • Furthermore, j, y and w are also susceptible to morpheme switching within themselves, which can further complicate a word's intended use, [specifically] in the hieroglyphics.
  • The 3rd person masculine of the stative construction /.j < .w/ can additionally be grouped in this category superficially, but it is discussed in detail in the Stative section.

The Abstract/Participle Marker[edit]

The various uses of the -w affix in Egyptian has caused there to be different theories by scholars and enthusiasts:

  • As an abstract ending -w was analyzed as the unit -aw (versus the masculine plural instead being vocalic -u [discussed below]), for example, surviving in stressed position in Coptic ϤⲦOOⲨ - four (ifdǎwMEg) and ⲤOOⲨ - six (jisǎwMEg)[1] ... An interesting addition to Callender's theory should include the word ϨOϤ (hfꜢw) = snake, which according to Osing is also of this class of verb forms, the ending exposes itself in the plural, ϨϤOⲨⲒ, as well as the feminine singular counterpart ϨϤⲰ, ϨϤOⲨ. ϢⲘⲘO (šmꜢw) - wanderer, also thought to be of this class, does not expose the consonantal -w ending in Coptic but is at times used in the hieroglyphics, the feminine singular form ϢⲘⲘⲰ / ϢⲘⲘOⲨ, the masculine plural is irregular ϢⲘⲘOⲒ / ϢⲘⲘⲰOⲨ.
With this theory, there must have been a strong distinction between /-aw/ (participle) and /-w/ (plural) forms in the old language, as noted by John Bryan Callender[2], with an eventual semi-assimilation in the two opposing suffixoids during the later phases of the language in the spoken varieties, as shown below:
Plural Participle
ⲢⲰOⲨ - doors ϤⲦOOⲨ - four
ⲔⲀⲀⲤ - bones ϨOϤ - snake
ⲤⲚⲰSa - two
the dual suffered assimilation
into the plural vocalization
ⲀⲔⲰ - magician
The concluding result (combining Callender's theory with the above mentioned comparison examples) has two major outcomes:
1) By the time of the Middle Kingdom, there was obvious confusion between the two forms (maybe slightly on the outskirts of malapropism; malapropism is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound), although, in this case, it is the misuse of an affix/suffix. Ultimately in the final stages of the spoken language, knowledge of the -w ending as a separate participle categorization was most possibly limited and instead integrated sporadically in the corpus of Coptic vocabulary... It is interesting to note that in many instances there were still subtle differences in the spellings of these two forms in Coptic.
2) The plural suffix was a secondary feature of the /-(a)w/ marker (or the abstract marker was a secondary feature of the plural, which I find to be less likely/probable). Indirect evidence of the plural and the abstract marker stemming from an identical affix and needing to be distinguished vocally, can be shown in the normal feminine plurals of Coptic nouns (to an extent), where the Coptic pluralic feminine participle has been reduced to the ending /a/ (ϨϤⲰ - snake but MEg ḥfꜢwt and ⲂO(O); ϤOⲒ - canal but LEg bꜢ(y)t[3]) omitting the remaining ending -/wat/ which is rather preferred in the Coptic feminine plural (ⲢⲘⲠOOⲨⲈ - years). This process of elimination also appears in the comparison of masculine plural participles and masculine plural nouns: ⲤⲚⲰ(Ⲱ)Ϥ - blood but MEg snf.w and ϨϤOⲨⲒ - snakes but MEg ḥfꜢ(w).w, where the original participle /-aw/ marker reappears in the stressed accent position of the Coptic words ϨϤOⲨⲒ - snakes, ⲀⲬⲰOⲨⲒ - wizards, both words adding the homonymous Coptic feminine plural suffix.
  • As a note, I'd like to provide, to further the study of the -w Participle Marker, the root ḥr in its various forms:
Root Preposition Derived Nominal Form Nominal Form Possible Related word Adjective-Verb
ϨⲢ (Ⲉ)ϨⲒ- up, on ϨⲢⲀⲒ - upper part
... ϨⲢⲎ(Ⲉ)Ⲓ
ϨⲰⲢ - Horus
... ϨⲀⲢ-
ϨO / ϨⲀ - face, ϨⲢⲀ=
hypothetical Pl: ϨⲎⲢ[4]
(Ⲉ)ϨOOⲨ - day
... ϨⲢⲈⲨ (Pl)
ϨⲢ- (in ϨⲢⲦⲈ - fear)
ḥr ḥr ḥr.w > ḥr.y ḥr (possibly ḥr.w) ḥr > ḥ.jrj (Pl)[5] hrw > hrw.w (Pl) ḥr
... Root used in a condensed form?! Looks like a participle
merged into a nisba
or vice versa
Adopts the infinitival
form as a noun
Adopts a version of the preposition
used as a noun
Original nominal form
(with possible -u ending)
Though a different meaning
exposes comparisons of the
adjective/verb form with identical letters

  • The Egyptian marker -w of the perfective passive sdm-w=f form is equivalent, for example, with Semitic -u "vowel of pass. in inner flexion", Hbr. -u-, preserved in intens. act. qiṭṭēl vs pass. quṭṭal (cf. the -o- in caus. act. hiqṭīl vs pass. hoqtal), Ar. -u-, e.g. I act. kataba vs kutiba, II act. kattaba vs. pass. kuttiba, III act. kātaba vs. pass. kūtiba ect, NBrb. Qabyle -u- pass. marker between the personal prefix and the stem, WCh. hausa -ú- suffix of pass. and refl. stems.[6]... Though, unfortunately, the author gives no examples in Egyptian (nor in Coptic) to corroborate.

Most of the examples below using the /-w/ affix as an abstract/participle are taken from Osing's research unless otherwise cited.

  • More examples of the -(a)w affix ending
nǎš(w)aw - vessel (2-rad: AǎB[aw])
OⲨOⲚS.B., OⲨⲀⲚA.A.2F. - someone, something (2-gem: AǎB(Baw) - maybe related to wnMEg - to be
ϨOϤ - snake (ḥfꜢwMEg - snake, ḥfꜢt - intestinal worm; crawling posture (3-lit. #1 AǎBCa(w), hǎfꜢaw)... fem ϨϤⲰ - snake (3-lit. AaBCāw(at), ḥafꜢāw(at) - snake)
ḥqꜢwMEg - magic, ḥqꜢw - magician, ϦⲀⲔOS./ ⲀⲔⲰB. - magician, wizard (#2 AaBCǎ(w), ḥakꜢǎw)
ϢⲘⲘOSAA2-ϢⲈⲘⲘOB (šmꜢw) - country stranger, wanderer (šamꜢǎw )
pǎꜢ(jaw) - bird (maybe related to pꜢMEg - dem. pronoun (which is written in hieroglyphics with picture of a bird) ( 3-inf. AǎB(jaw))
wyꜥDem - farmer, ꜥwꜢy - to harvest (4-inf AaBǎC(jaw), (ꜥa)wǎꜢ(jaw) - farmer)
jǎpyat - measure (2-lit. fem AǎB(j/wat))
mas(j)āw(at) - childbearer (3-inf. fem AaBjāw(at))
mǐḥ(w)aw - nest (2-lit. AǐB(w/jaw))
pǐlgaw - torn robes, rags, scraps (3-lit. AǐBCaw)
šǐꜢja(w) - pig (3ae-inf. AǐBjaw)
ϨⲒⲚ / ⲈⲒⲚ - vessel; a cup .... hīnaw - pot; a measure (3ae-gem. AīBaw)
ϤOⲒB, ⲂO,ϤOⲒ ⲂOOS = (bꜢ(y)t - hole; dig) canal, water conduit (2-lit. fem AǐB(y/wat)), bǐꜢ(y)at - hole; dig
ϢϤⲰ/ϢⲂⲰ - sifḫāwat - story, tale (3-lit. fem AiBCāw(at))
niꜥjāwat - land peg (3ae-inf. fem #1 AiBjāw(at))
ḫiwyat - palace, sanctuary (3ae-inf. fem #2 Aǐwyat)
ⲚⲈⲈϤ / ⲚⲎϤ (nfw) - sailor (possibly a participle)
ϢⲰⲘ (šmw) - summer (could be a participle)
ϨⲰⲢ (ḥrw) - Horus (could be a pasrticiple)
ϨOⲘ (ḥmww - craftsman) - shoemaker (could be a participle)
Notice the Semitic root ḫnw loaned into Coptic ϢⲚⲀⲨ - market
Notice the possible loan word ⲘϨⲀOⲨ / ⲘϨⲀⲀⲨ (mhw) - tomb, cavern
Notice ⲘⲦⲀⲨ (mdw) - word(s)

  • Patrick C. Ryan[7] theorizes:
Egyptian did have devices for indicating verbal aspects, for example, imperfective (-w) (used to describe ongoing, habitual, repeated, or similar semantic roles, whether that situation occurs in the past, present or future), perfective (-i); iterative (-t), and habitual ([partial] reduplication) as well as a verbal nominalization (-n), among others. The distinction between imperfective (-w) and perfective (-i) is clearly seen in *i, "come". The form iw implies the process of "coming"; the form ii focusing on the perfective result of "coming", i.e. "arriving". It is also present in the so-called negative complement which occurs when needed in the negative imperative where a distinction could be made between m snD, "do not be frightened" and m snD.w, "do not be afraid".

The /-u/ Nominal Ending[edit]

  • The fossilized OEg ending of masculine nouns -w (attested only occasionally) has, however, evident reflexes only outside Semitic, cf., i.e. Brb w- ~ u- prefix of nouns in status annexus, PCu -u morpheme of the masc. gender, NOm: Kafa masc. noun suffix[8]. James P. Allen, [9], agrees with these findings: It is also possible, however, that it ( /u/ ending) was a gender morpheme original to all masculine nouns, subsequently lost in some, unwritten in others, and reflected as /w/ in the remainder...
Although, Osing, contradicts James P. Allen, proposing that there were feminine forms of the noun consisting of -u (as seen in the list below).

Examples of the -u affix ending[10]

(2-lit. #1 jaAāBu(w)) - jatāmu - Atum (Egyptian god)
(2-lit. #2 AāBu(w)) - rādu - plant switches, greenhouse
(2-lit. #3 AǎBu(w)) - wǎn(y)u - light
(2-lit. #4 AaBǔ(w)) - jamǔ - owl
(2ae-gem. AǎBBu(w)) - ḫǎnnu - wave, flood
(3-lit. #1 AǎBCu(w)) - pǎrqu - coat
(3-lit. #2 AaBāCu(w)) - sanādu - the scary
(3ae-inf #1 AǎBj/wu(w)) - sǎtju - lance, arrow
(3ae-inf #2 AaBāju(w)) - sarāju - posh; prince
(4-lit. AaBCāDu(w)) - ??
(4ae-inf. AaBCāju(w)) - qaꜢdāju - Pan , stove , fireplace, Firewood, Fuel
(2-lit. fem AǎB(j/w)ut) - ḥǎnwut - mug, cup
(3-lit. fem AaBǎCwut) jamǎnwut - female version of Atum
(3ae-inf. AǎBCj/wut) wǎgwut - pine

Some interesting notes on the /-u/ nominal ending:

  • Egyptian in its infancy, in comparison to other nearby areal languages, must have stood against nominals ending in vowels, which were rather productive features of nearby languages; take for example:
Hurrian - To the root and RE of the nominal stem there is a final vowel, or a Theme vowel, which is frequently i or e, or more rarely a; actual Hurrian u-stems are not securely proven.[11]
Sumerian - The stock of Sumerian primary nouns was relatively limited, and the language relied instead upon a large number of different types of nominal compounds to render experience. To these chains of nouns vowels were added to the noun and also case (by use of vowels) was also utilized.[12]
Hittite - utilized vocalic case endings, a (and ā)-stems in Substantives, a-stems in adjectives, i-stems in substantives and adjectives, ect.
Old Nubii language - Noun morphology: an absolute state in -a (predicate, address,etc.).[13]
Akkadian - followed typical Semitic case endings, i.e., libbum 'heart', nom., libbam 'heart', acc., libbim 'heart', gen.
It is thus remarkable how Egyptian disfavored nouns ending in any type of differentiating nominal markers and this reduction of final endings must have set them apart from their neighbors. It must thus be even more remarkable to know that Egyptian verbs must have been systematically more affiliated superficially with the Anatolian languages, Hurian, Summerian and the Nilo-Saharan languages which all utilized compound patterns to achieve various verbal categories where the Semitic languages achieved this through a fusion of affixes and internal vowel patterning.


Vocalization theories of the masculine plural variation are also divided among scholars; unlike the feminine plural's vocalization which has been stable and clearly re-constructable without much doubt.

  • /-aw/ Masculine Pluralic ending usually reconstructed and based upon Coptic plural reflexes (also in parallel to the feminine plural), infamously analyzed by Wolfgang Schenkel with his research and approach.
  • /-u/ vocalic - as John Bryan Callender[14] states:
"No examples of stressed masculine plurals have survived in Coptic" ... (I should add, that scholars have thus far uncovered; article was written in 1987) ... Callender adds, "two pieces of indirect evidence indicated that the masculine plural must be constructed with the rounded back vowel /-u/" ...
1) First Piece of Evidence, Callender continues by illustrating a process of elimination due to abundant evidence of an abstract ending in /-aw/ but not enough of the endings of /-iw/ or /-uw/. He then concludes (on this first piece of indirect evidence) by saying, "The evidence tends to show that one should not reconstruct such endings," (in relation to Osings reconstructions of -iw and -uw abstract endings which are rather a change of vowels in co-articulation of the surrounding consonant/s), "and that, therefore, there is a careful distinction in Egyptian between an abstract /-aw/ and the plural ending /-uw/, a distinction that disappeared by the Middle kingdom".
2) Second Piece of Evidence, is in relation to Old Kingdom graphemics, when in combination of the final root consonant and the plural ending /w/ are represented by a bilateral, the plural is thus spelled out with the vowel /u/. Suggesting that the bilaterals, 𓇓 - sw, 𓃛 - jw (ɜw), 𓏌 - nw, 𓈗 - mw, ect were vocalic due to their New Kingdom usage in syllabic transcriptions of foreign words. Callender adds that things do get complicated when in the Old Kingdom, when these signs were used, sometimes they also indirectly represented consonantal /w/ (especially with the bilaterals 𓏌 - nw and 𓈗 - mw). Callender concludes his research by saying, "Their use here, however, seems to provide at least circumstantial evidence for the existence of a plural ending /-uw/".
  • /w ~ u/ + /w/ = OEg plural marker -w- (preceding the gender suffix masc. -w < -w-w vs. fem.-w-t) ~ Sem. -āt- < -aw-at- (?) 'fem. pl. ending'. PCu. -aw ~ -wa 'morpheme of plural'. CCh. e.g. Lame wó 'pluralisateur'.[15] There are several plurals in Coptic showing this pattern, albeit only a handful of examples still exist in Coptic:
ⲤⲚⲎⲨ - brothers
ϨⲢⲈⲨ - days
ϬⲘⲎOⲨ - gardeners
ⲔⲢⲔⲎⲨ - settlements (Coptic singular word is ϬⲰⲢϬ)
Antonio Loprieno[16], theorizes a similar approach, "The formation of the plural is more complex. A semivocalic morpheme -w or ~aw, possibly derived, like the corresponding Semitic plural in -ū, from a longer form of the singular ending -u, was added to most singular forms, although a few nouns may have possessed a plural or collective form without external suffixes"... The derived -aw vowel, which Loprieno mentions in his book, he believes is an inherited absolute case marker also used by distant Afroasiatic sister languages but not by the native Egyptian abstract -aw marker which Callender[17] instead, eludes to /-aw/ as being more of a native innovation within the Egyptian language. Either way, if the /-a/ was inherited through the Afroasiatic absolute case, cases are unproductive in Egyptian grammar just as the abstract marker /-aw/ grows unproductive in later phases of the Egyptian language. Callender's native Egyptian abstract marker /-aw/ and Loprieno's aboslute case marker /-aw/, at the least, does expose indirect affinities to one another due to the /-aw/ stages of OEg. neutrality, MEg. assimilation, and eventual Coptic unproductive grammatical use despite the origin of /-(a/)w/.
Three important notations should be taken here:
1) In the hieroglyphics, when both /w/ morphemes were used after the root (transcribed as __ww, __w.w, __.ww, ect ) and in this case being /u + w/ they are technically deemed two separate syllables in Egyptological standards but in speech we were probably dealing with one syllable with an onset, nucleus and coda combination which would be best represented in this combination precisely as a syllable consisting of the diphthing -uw, termed a narrow diphthong because the syllable ends with a vowel which on a vowel chart is quite close to the one that begins the diphthong, i.e.:
[ʊu̯]British or [ʉu̯]american in the English word loon
So the OEg word sn (brother) in the plural sn.ww (brothers) would have been pronounced sənʊu̯ eventually turning into ⲤⲚⲎⲨCoptic (senēu).
2) the nominal /-u/ marker appeared to completely vanish amidst the letters of most Egyptian masculine plural noun formations (this also occurred systemically within the hieroglyphics to such an extreme that causes speculation on its regular employment in Old (Pre-)Egyptian nouns).
3) In such case, most Coptic masculine plural nouns, instead, follow the paradigm of the so-called broken plural which should rather be analyzed as vocalic metathesis (discussed in more detail below).

Sub-Classes of the Plural[edit]

The plural is best learned in distributions according to how they would normally be pronounced:

  • u + u - already discussed above
  • Word Final Assimilation
ⲢⲰOⲨ (rɜ.w) - doors ~ ⲢO (rɜ) - door
ⲦOOⲨ (tɜ.w) - lands ~ ⲦO (tɜ) - land
  • Neutralized
ⲈⲒOⲦⲈ - (jt(j).w) - fathers ~ ⲈⲒⲰⲦ (jt(j)) - father = this is a tricky word as the singular version appeared to originally end in a diphthong (jatǎi) or (jǎtaf), scholars are divided on the enunciation of this word in the singular. The ending was omitted at an early period. The plural must have originally sounded something similar to (j)at-i-jūw. The Coptic variety obviously neutralized the pronunciation to jǒte with the pluralic ending /-jūw/ being entirely omitted, the plural ending doesn't even appear to be monophthongized.
  • Vocalic Metathesis
  • Guttural/Laryngeal
ⲀⲚⲀⲨϢ (ꜥnḫ.w) - oaths ~ ⲀⲚⲀϢ (ꜥnḫ) oath - the /-u/ is brought forward
  • Diphthongization
  • Final Vocalic Harmony
  • The Feminine

Maculine AaB(aCaD) Plural

Root Class Formula Example Meaning Notes
2-lit. #1 AaBāw
#2 AaBǎw
#3 AǎBaw
#4 Aāw [18]
#5 AāB(aw)[19]
rāw [original: raꜢǎw]
ϢⲘⲰOⲨ - father-in-laws
ⲀϤOⲨⲒ[21] - flesh
ⲤOⲦ ~ ⲤⲀⲦⲈ - dung
ⲢⲰOⲨ - doors
ⲤⲰ(Ⲱ)ⲠS/ⲤOOⲠ - seasons/times
3-lit. #1 AaBǎCaw
#2 AaBāC(aw)
ⲈⲂⲀⲦⲈ[22] - months
ⲤⲚⲰ(Ⲱ)Ϥ - blood
3ae-inf. AǎB(j)aw[23] jǎtjaw fathers ⲈⲒOⲦⲈ - fathers

Feminine AaB(aCaD)at Plural

Root Class Formula Example Meaning Notes
3-lit. AaBCǎwat ranpǎwat years ⲢⲘⲠOOⲨⲈ - year
3ae-inf. AaB(aj)ǎwat ras(ay)ǎwat folds ⲢⲤOOⲨⲈ - fold(s)

w Affix forms of AaBiC, AiBaC, AuBiC & Irregulars[edit]

So far we have been dealing with a-Type forms but what of the other vocalic forms? Most of these forms show an irregular form in Coptic:

Metathesis of |-w| in Proximity of |-i-|[edit]

Most of these type of verbs originally contained the vowel |-i|, whether from a participle form or a modified i-Type formation, and in a few dialects the |ḥ| not only caused the vowel to be pronounced like an /a/ but metathesis occurred in the plural form where the pluralic ending /-w/ was brought a syllable to the left and the stressed /i/ was then colloquially pronounced like an /e/. There are a few verbs which followed the same pattern which did not contain an |ḥ|. It is not entirely known if this was also the pronunciation during Middle Egyptian.

Root Formula Example Meaning Notes
2-lit. qǐssingular ~ qǐjs bones ⲔⲈⲈⲤS.-ⲔⲀⲀⲤS.(ⲔⲀⲈⲤⲈ)-ⲔⲎⲎⲤF.
3-lit. #1 AiBěwḥ
band, fetter
pain, sorrow
3-lit. + aw
ḫǔp(i)raw ~ ḫupǐwr ~ ḫupěwr forms Akk. transcription (a)ḫ-pe/i-e/ir
for a later Egyptian form *ḫpeʔr)[24]

-ⲎⲨ & -ⲈⲈⲨⲈ Plurals[edit]

These plurals utilizes an |-ēw| in the plural rather than |-aw| due to contact with the consonant |j/y| and/or contact with another |i or u| vowel. It is also not clear if this was the also the pronunciation during Middle Egyptian.

  • šīrar (small) ~ šīrar + aw => širēw[25] [ϢⲢⲎⲨ]
  • dǎy (boat)/dꜢyMEg/dyDem/ϪOⲒ ~ dǎy + aw => adēw[26] [ⲈϪⲎⲨ]
  • ḥaꜢǎyat/ḥǎꜢyat (field canal)/ϨOⲒ (field/canal)/ḥꜢytMEg - border of a canal or wall ~ ḥaꜢǎyat/ḥǎꜢyat + aw => ḥaꜢyǐwat (ϨⲒⲈⲈⲨⲈ)[27]
  • ꜥaꜢum [ⲀⲘⲈS-ⲀⲘⲎF. (herdsman)]... ꜥꜢmMEg-Dem (herd(sman)) ~ ꜥamꜢu[28] ~ ꜥamꜢu + aw => ꜥamꜢē(w)

Double Affixal Endings[edit]

There are instances where a participle + aw/uw form became lexiconalized/nominalized and also needed to be pluralized. Since the |-aw/-uw| affix was not pronounced in many instances (also reflected as such in the hieroglyphics as well as Coptic) the original affix reappeared in shifted stressed position once the new pluralized |-aw| was attached:

Root Class Example Meaning Notes
2-lit. + u(w)
sǎn(u)singular ~ sanŭwaw (~ sanēw)
hǎwsingular[29] ~ harǔwaw (~ harěw)
3-lit. + u(w)
3-lit. + a(w)
kǎꜢm(u) ~ kaꜢmǔwaw
hǎf(Ꜣaw) ~ hafꜢǎwaw
ḥakꜢǎ(w)singular ~ ḥakꜢǎwaw
ϨϤOⲨⲒ - snakes

Metathesis of Plural Formations[edit]

There are a group of words which follow a unique pattern of bringing in the Ancient Egyptian pluralic ending /w > j/ one syllable to the left in Coptic causing double vowels or a change of quantity/quality:

  • ⲀⲂⲰⲔ - crow ~ ⲀⲂOOⲔ
  • ⲔⲀⲤ - bone ~ ⲔⲀⲀⲤ
  • ⲚOⲨⲦⲈ - god ~ ⲈⲚⲦⲈⲢ, ⲈⲚⲦⲎⲢ

And sometimes even after bringing in the pluralic ending one syllable to the right, there are remnants of the original pluralic ending still attached to the end of the word:

  • ⲔⲖOⲘ - wreath ~ ⲔⲖOOⲘ(Ⲉ)
  • ⲚOⲨⲦⲈ - god ~ ⲈⲚⲦⲈⲢ(Ⲉ)
There is some debate regarding a broken plural, with a CaCuC stem. But it can also be equally looked at as these types of plurals follow the same pattern as other plurals where /u > w > j/ is simply brought forward a syllable or that plural was borrowed from another dialect:
  • ⲈⲂOⲦ - month ~ ⲈⲂⲎⲦ, ⲈⲂⲀⲦⲈ

In terms of the plural, what makes sense at least to me, is that that if a singular word had (in the final syllable) a vowel that it had a corresponding pluralic partner, i.e.,

O ~ ⲰOⲨ / OⲨⲒ = ⲢⲰOⲨ - mouths/doors
Ⲱ ~ O(O) = ⲀⲂⲰⲔ - crow ~ ⲀⲂOOⲔ
Ⲁ ~ ⲀⲀ = ⲔⲀⲤ - bone ~ ⲔⲀⲀⲤ
Ⲉ ~ Ⲉ(Ⲉ) = ⲚOⲨⲦⲈ - god ~ ⲈⲚⲦⲈⲢ(Ⲉ)
Ⲏ ~ Ⲁ = ⲈⲢⲎⲦ - promise ~ ⲈⲢⲀⲦⲈ

If a singular word had the penultimate syllable accented the plural most likely had a shifted accent in the plural:

  • ϬⲰⲢϬ - settlement ~ ⲔⲢⲔⲎⲨ
There are exceptions to this pattern, for example: ⲤⲰϢⲈ - field ~ ⲤOOϢϢⲈ, but this looks like secondary grammatical leveling and is rare
The (ⲰOⲨ / OⲨⲒ) pattern was the original regular plural template but it also created lengthy words, and it readily grew unpopular colloquially. Instead, the original pluralic pattern (in the feminine) is most frequently used exclusively for feminine words:
  • ⲢOⲘⲠⲈ - year ~ ⲢⲘⲠOOⲨⲈ

Eventually, because of Coptic words becoming fossilized, different plural forms appeared to be borrowed for the singular, especially throughout the Coptic dialects- this is also believed, by some experts, to be the broken plural formula CaCuC + aw, i.e.,


Affix -y[edit]

Patrick C. Ryan[30] mentions the /-j/ affix as constituting a perfective state (used to describe an action viewed as a simple whole—a unit without interior composition). Also note -j/y is also used as the 1SG pronoun as well as an (adjectival) nisba. The below examples are taking from Osing's Class II: 5 pattern of sādmij / sadmījat patterns.


Root Class Formula Example Meaning Notes
2-lit. AāBi(j) Ꜣāhi(j) painful
2ae-gem. #1 AǎBBi(j)
#2 AaBBǐ(j)
#3 AāBi(j)
3-lit. #1 AǎBCi(j)
#2 AaBCǐ(j)
Strong; Strong; the protector; giant
3ae-inf. AaB(j)ǐ(j) gaꜢjǐ(j) ugly


Root Class Formula Example Meaning Notes
2ae-gem AaBBī(jat) kammī(jat) black
3-lit. AaBCī(jat) sawgī(wat) foolish
3ae-inf. AaBjī(jat) gaꜢjī(jat) ugly


The following can be grouped as follows[32]:

  • Dimension - wārij / warījat - big (also age)
  • Age
  • Value
  • Colour - kǎmmij / kammījat - black
  • Physical Property - gǎnni(j) / gannījat - soft, bǎlli / ballījat - blind, nǎḫti / naḫtiījat - strong, mǎnḫi / manḫījat - excellent, gaꜢjǐ(j) / gaꜢjǐ(j) or gǎꜢji(j) / gǎꜢjījat - ugly, šǎwji / šawjījat - dry, tǎnji / tanjījat - lazy (in the sense of) powerless
  • Human Propensity - sāwgi / sawgījat - foolish
  • Qualification - mǎnḫi / manḫījat - excellent

Conclusion: List of All The Forms[edit]

As shown in Coptic, all of the participle forms from the previous page could utilize an affix. The question arises which form with an affix is used for which verb?! It various according to the type of verb used and since we have yet to classify verb-types it is rather difficult to assume which verb-type exclusively used which affixal form versus another. It is just as probably that any form can utilize an affix. According to Osing's research (and others) we are also confronted with a new internal vocalization [CaCuC][33]. There is no general rule for stress placement to date for the participle[34]. The list of affixal vocalizations derived from Coptic/Greek/Cuneiform known examples are shown below:

[pl -aw]
CaCaC CaC(a)Ca CaCaCaw CaC(a)Cij CaC(a)Cu
CaCiC CaC(i)Cij
CiCaC CiC(a)Ca
CiCiC CiCiCaw
CuCiC CuCCa CuC(i)Cij CuC(i)Cu
Newly Found
CaC(u)Caw CaC(u)Cij CaC(u)Cu

Noticeable Observances:

  • The CaCaC, CaCiC & CaCuC forms can look identical if the medial vowel is omitted once an affix is attached. It is possible, in the old language, all the CaCvC forms were the most flexible in form as well as the most variably used compared to all the other forms.
  • It seems the CaCiC & CiCaC Genitive Forms do not appear to have Nominative Forms [according to Coptic known examples].
  • Likewise the CaCuC Nominative Form does not appear to have Genitive forms [according to Coptic known examples]- this seems to also be the case with the CiCaC Genitive Form.

Extra Notes[edit]

Challenging previous accounts, ORÉAL argues that formal differences between Old Egyptian participle forms signal consistent semantic and syntactic differences. Specifically, the author argues that graphemic endings (<ø>, <j> or <w>) and gemination provide evidence for an analysis of Old Egyptian participles as showing nominal morphology. In terms of graphemic endings, she distinguishes between ‘property encoding’ (with <ø>) and ‘class membership encoding’ (marked by <w>) for the active participles. For the passive voice, ORÉAL suggests a distinction between the stativere-sultative (marked by <j>) and the class membership encoding with passive orientation (with <w>). She further proposes an explanation for the syntactic distribution of the two forms (e.g., examining their uses in depictive phrases and secondary predications), which takes into account both morphological and semantic criteria. Regarding the gemination in the participles of verb roots with weak final radical, Oréal argues that it originates in definiteness marking and discusses definiteness in relation to property encoding and TAM readings. In a final section, the author sketches the implications of her iconoclastic proposal in the broader framework of the analysis of Earlier Egyptian morphology[35].


  1. Plural Formation in Egyptian John Bryan Callender Journal of Near Eastern Studies Vol. 46, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 27-37
  2. ... By the Old Kingdom period there is no confusion between the masculine plural ending and the abstract ending which also ends in -w ... JOURNAL ARTICLE Plural Formation in Egyptian John Bryan Callender Journal of Near Eastern Studies Vol. 46, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 27-37
  3. Interchange of y>w
  4. Indirect evidence of the plural is on page 15 ...
  5. Whether this is incorrect or correct, indirect evidence of the plural is on page 15 ...
  6. ... pg 12
  8. .. pg 9
  9. Egyptian (Ancient); The Ancient Egyptian Language - An Historical Study pg 61
  10. CaCaCu is usually attested with transitive verbs... .... pg 471
  11. .. pg 32
  14. JOURNAL ARTICLE Plural Formation in Egyptian John Bryan Callender Journal of Near Eastern Studies Vol. 46, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 27-37
  15. The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook edited by Stefan Weninger pg 10.
  16. Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction First Edition Edition by Antonio Loprieno pg 58
  17. JOURNAL ARTICLE Plural Formation in Egyptian John Bryan Callender Journal of Near Eastern Studies Vol. 46, No. 1 (Jan., 1987), pp. 27-37
  18. These consist of those 2-lit. roots/stems which contain a weak consonant in the last syllable which cause that consonant to vanish and cause an elongated aaahh sound at the end of the word.
  19. This form may have not needed -aw since the form AāB is distinctive- there appeared to be a gradual loss of the usage of the affix -aw and when unnecessary it was immediately omitted.
  20. James P. Allen shows a reconstructed singular form as |ꜥuf instead of ꜥaf| - Unfortunately (at the current time) I am unable to prove or discredit either spelling as both can be applicable.
  21. The Coptic pluralic ending -OⲨⲒ has been transcribed as -uj several times by C. Peust (Egyptian Phonology: an introduction to the phonology of a dead language pg 137, 142, 148)- though this is more in relation to specific words which follow the pattern -OⲨⲒ ~ uj due to a syllable ending in a semi-consonant... The Coptic Church appears to sound out pluralic endings as |-owee| other times |-wee| coinciding with the hieroglyphs ... Some plural words may alternate between -OⲨⲒ and -ⲰOⲨ.
  22. Theres another well-known plural form for this word: ⲈϬⲎⲦ, and this form will be discussed here.
  23. At some point between Middle and Late Kingdom the stressed syllable of the word moved one to the left which is reflected in Coptic spelling.
  24. Antonio Loprieno, A Linguistic Introduction pg 58.
  25. Note that the r ~ j sound change has assimilated an original a vowel into an i ~ ēw and a shift of stress.
  26. Note here the y is treated as a consonant which causes an extra syllable to form in the front of the word... the y is then assimilated into a vowel and the vowel |i| reemerges in palatal position as well as modification due to the consonant |y|.
  27. Here the vowel |a| turned into an |i| like it did in the previous example.
  28. Metathesis occurred in Pre-Coptic.
  29. This form is irregular as the hieroglyphics show a hrww form in the singular and a hrw.w form in the plural... this may have been an indication that the |r| was not pronounced and instead the |w| was pronounced in the singular form but then the |r| reappeared in the plural form.
  31. There is also an alternate spelling of gannǐ(j).
  32. ... pg 18
  33. Some words which follow this pattern: ϬⲢⲎϬⲈ - dowry [grgt - dowry; from the root grg (masc.) - equipment and from ϬⲰⲢϬCopt to prepare, provide]
    Alternative plural for months: ⲈϬⲎⲦ
  34. It is my opinion that a change in stress signaled a different participle class or phonological alterations.