Pre-Late Egyptian Reconstruction/The Perfect Active Participle

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In Egyptological studies the termed Perfect Active Participle[1], which apparently mirrored an identical internal frame as most other Afroasiatic languages (emitting a sort of adjectival dimension to the verb) is but a rather thorny issue among scholars. The main form of the perfect active participle is generally reconstructed with the pattern CaCiC. In addition, if the CaCiC form ever truly existed (as a templatic form) it would have collapsed alongside other forms at an early period and all the forms would have been indistinguishable from one another presumably at a point in Egyptian history when not only the vowels of unstressed syllables were no longer distinguishable in speech but also when a relocation of stress due to an augmented affix (or word) caused syncopation of the medial vowel. So, for example:

nāfir + af = nǎfraf ...and... nāfar + af = nǎfraf

To add insult to injury, the category of Egyptian adjectives has come into question on numerous occasions by scholars as a grammatical entity within all the phases of the language. Semantically and pragmatically there is also no obvious fine line between an adjective, a noun or a verb (sometimes even an adverb)- noticeably so in the hieroglyphics where attributive roots can most likely be found (in what appears to be an unaltered fashion) in all the aforementioned grammatical categories. Other than a remnant pattern [or two] specific to the defined attributive root, Coptic does not appear to answer many of the unanswered questions of the Egyptian adjective. And any information regarding the adjective is fairly scarce, un-unified and/or speculative leaving enthusiasts and learners to come to our own conclusions. With this being said, I am going to identify some unmentioned developments, with respect to the adjective's templatic patterns and usage, that I noticed while piecing together any information I could find on the adjective which at the least can give me some closure to the subject which I myself have been thrown into circles while trying to understand the ambiguity of the Egyptian adjective. Some of these observations are listed below:

  • Just about any root with a logical underlining descriptive element can function as an attributive modifier, this undoubtedly is the ultimate outcome and intended use of the idea of the adjective utilizing natural language progression into Coptic ... but there does appear to be some limitations in Old and Middle Egyptian where statives and other constructions (i.e., passive formations) were used for the more intricate and highly formal expression. So using comparative linguistics within the Egyptian language as a whole (as well as diving the language between the first phase which is Old/Middle Egyptian and the second phase which is Demotic/Coptic), semantics and pragmatics tell us the adjective went through simplification. However, the vocalic inflections of the adjective as shown in Coptic (including Cuneiform and Greek) relate a rather disconnected signal in relation to a unified pattern and this is while comparing the inflectional forms against the categories of the infinitive or the nisbe, which for example, the pair has unification albeit with a few irregularities, on the other hand an identifiable adjectival category is entirely constructed of irregularities. The only other grammatical and inflectional category composed of irregularities is the patterns of the nominal. One logical resolution here would be that in Coptic, all roots stemming from the adjectival attribute somehow merged into the category of nouns and was treated as such- scholars have already come to this conclusion. The question arises as to why was there more than one pattern given to the adjective if in comparison the infinitive had the overall CaC(a)C pattern? ...
  • Does Coptic eta < Ⲏ > give us some answers? Disregarding the numerous patterns of the Coptic nominal, < Ⲏ > is majorly regularly used in the Qualitative of 2-radical roots, the plural and when re-situating a historical final /-u/ better analyzed as a /w ~ j/ affix in a word (which is quite possibly also used for one of the patterns of the adjective in Coptic). With this being said, if we saw the phrase nfr ḥr (good of face; fair of face) in the hieroglyphics, we are going to assume the vowels inside are nafar ḥar, same is said for this sentence using the attributive construction: sḫr pn bajan (this bad plan). And the Coptic versions with < Ⲏ > stem from a roots ending in /w/ or /j/ (or some kind of coarticulation) categorizing these words as a separate hieroglyphic abstract marked sub-class which are then lexicalized in Coptic consisting of adjectival and nominal tendencies. J. Vergote does unintentionally hint on this hypothesis in his essay[2] but since many of his research was of the pluralic prototype-pattern for the modern day plural approach, the adjectival theories are more-or-less overlooked. This theory does unearth a problem- was there a divide with a hieroglyphic root form, i.e., CVCVC+aw, where in one direction it turned into CVCVC(e) / CVCVC / CVCVCaw [popular with abstract verbs turned into a nominal] and in another it turned into CuCVC / eCjuC(VC) [popular with abstract verbs that turned into some sort of (attributive-)noun]? Or was the difference based upon some kind of sound change? Or a mixture of the two? This kind of morphological/inflectional division also existed with the plural, as shown in Coptic with the broken plural, and it also existed with limitations in the Egyptian nisba - CVCVCaj ~ CVCVCi ~ CVCCe / CVCeC. Technically speaking, an original /-aw/ abstract marker, may have gone through even more changes then previously believed taking all the above into account.

Below are the forms of the Perfect Active Participle:

Templatic Class II: Form 1[edit | edit source]

The following paradigm equates to Osing and Schenkel's: Subjekts-Nominalisierungen: Nominalbildungsklasse II 1: sādim/sǎdm-t.

Form 1: AaBiC (masc)[edit | edit source]

Root Class Formula Example Notes
2-lit. AǎB
2ae-gem. AǎB wǎn - someone ⲞⲨⲞⲚSB, ⲞⲨⲀⲚAA2F - someone
3-lit. AāBiC wāɜid - green; fresh
3ae-inf. AāBij māsij - who was born ⲘOⲤⲈS. Copt, ⲘOⲤⲒB. Copt -(qual.) birth
4-lit. AǎBCiD dǎldil[3] - drop, drip, leak
4ae-inf. AǎBCij zǎḫnij[4] - fellow; pair

Form 1: AaBCat (fem)[edit | edit source]

Root Class Formula Example Notes
2-lit. AāBat mānat[5] - root NOYNE - root
2ae-gem. AāBat dābat - brick
3-lit. AǎBCatLEg
nǎfratLEg - the good/beautiful one
nǎfiratOEg-MEg - the good/beautiful one

bǎjnat - bad (fem)
ⲚⲀϤⲢⲈAA2 - good, profitable



3ae-inf. AǎBjat gǎbjat - weak, bad
4-lit. AaBCīDat daldīlat[7] - drop, drip, leak

Templatic Class II: Form 2[edit | edit source]

There appeared to be variant perfect active participle vocalizations[8].

There are two major explanations for this type of participle vocalization:

  • One explanation for the following irregularities may have to do with an i-Type Modification (better termed as coarticulation) due to the proximity of specific consonants (i.e., d, š, k, q, m, ect); for example; mǐn - stable, should mechanically be mǎn but 2-rad roots containing unstressed /a/ are going to have an automatic schwa/reduced sound anyway[9][10].
  • Another explanation is that the word may have been borrowed from another Afro-asiatic root consisiting of the ppattern CiCVC and was then used as an adjective as well as a noun in Egyptian. This appears to be the case for ϢⲒⲢⲈ and ⲚⲒϢϮ / ⲚⲈϢⲦⲈ.

Oftentimes, more than not, it appears all these forms had an adjectival dimension added to it's internal vocalic structure anyhow, which may have expressed an automatic original adjectival internal vocalic marker no matter how it is looked at.

Form 2: AiBaC (masc)[edit | edit source]

Root Class Formula Example Notes
2-lit. AǐB mǐn - stable (binding)
2ae-gem. AīBaB šīrar - small ϢⲒⲢⲈS.A.A2, ϢⲎⲢⲈS.
3-lit. AīBaC ꜥīfad - nail; pin
3ae-inf. AīBaj jījaj - has come
mīsaj -

A shift of stress to the final syllable comprises Form 4 (Osing and Schenkel's Subjekts-Nominalisierungen: Nominalbildungsklasse II 4: sidǎm/sidāmat)

(3-lit.) pitǎḥ - creator

(4-lit.) jinbǎɜ - mute (person)

Note: An observation to made here [with all of the shifts of stress of the participles] is that this shift may have been:

  • due to the verb originally containing |-aw| or |-uw| where the ending was eventually dropped
  • the original verb had an adjectival element associated with its meaning, where the shift occurred due to additions pre/su-fixed to the word which were later dropped
  • there was some sort of phonological priority including but not limited to vocalic metathesis

Form 2: AiBCat (fem)[edit | edit source]

Root Class Formula Example Notes
2-lit. AǐBat
2ae-gem AǐB(B)at šǐrrat - small ϢⲈⲈⲢⲈS., ϢⲀⲒⲢⲒB.
3-lit. AǐBCat qǐbɜat - chest
3ae-inf AǐBjat mǐsjat - woman who
gave birth
ⲘⲎⲤⲈS. Copt, ⲘⲎⲤⲒB. Copt[11]

A shift of stress (of the fem form) to the middle syllable comprises Form 4 (Osing and Schenkel's Subjekts-Nominalisierungen: Nominalbildungsklasse II 4: sidǎm/sidāmat)

(3-lit.) jiḥānat - cupped hand

Templatic Class II: Form 3[edit | edit source]

This form appears to be specialized for adjectives[12][13]. In the list compiled by Osing, there appears to be only about 17 verbs following this pattern:

Form 3: AūBiC (masc)[edit | edit source]

Root Class Formula Example Notes
2ae-gem AūBiB wūrij/r - big
šūrij - son; child
3-lit. AūBiC mūɜiꜥ - true
mūriš -red
3ae-inf AūBij mūtij - correct

Form 3: AūBCat (fem)[edit | edit source]

Root Class Formula Example Notes
2-lit. AūBat zūfat - knife, sword ⲤⲎϤⲈ
2ae-gem. AūBat wūrat - big
šūrat - daughter; child
kūmat - Egypt
3-lit. AǔBCat mǔɜꜥat - true
tǔtaf - art pitcher?!
3ae-inf. AǔBjat mǔt(jat) - correct
4ae-inf. AǔBCat šǔpsat[14] - sublime, perfect

Notes[edit | edit source]

This pattern can be broken down into[15]:

  • Dimension - wūri / wūrat - big, šūri / šūrat - small (also defined as 'young' which would then categorize this word as age as well as dimension)
  • Age (similar to dimension)
  • Value - šǔpsi / šǔpsat - sublime, precious (can so be considered a qualification)
  • Colour - kūmi / kūmat - black, dūšir / dǔšrat - red, mūriš / mǔšrat - light red
  • Qualification - mūɜiꜥ / mūɜꜥat - truth, mūtir / mǔtrat - correct, mūtij / mūtat - correct

The (Cu-Ca) pattern is partially discussed in this article[16], in reference to the place name Ugarita/Agorita ('krjt) and the pattern Ca-Cu, which I will translate in the below words from German to English:

...Regardless of whether it is the Albright mentioned south-Canaanic "Agôret(a)" or similar or there is an inner Egyptian reason, as Helck expresses "Egyptian felt the syllable sequence (Cu-Ca) as unpleasant", and for that very reason, according to the phrase which Helck uses "umvokalisiert" (changing of the vowel[17]). In fact, in the nominal noun formations of the Egyptian language, the initial sequence of syllables (Ca-Cu) is best documented in different nominal classes:

Nominalbildungsklasse II 10: sadūm-w / sadǔm-w-t
Nominalbildungsklasse I 8: sadūm-w / sadǔmwut/sadǔmut

In contrast, the syllable result (Cu-Ca) plays a rather marginal role. It is occupied in a single deverbal nominal formation class, and, if one takes into account the three-syllable of (Ugarit), only in the feminine, and finally, when the syllable structure with initial open syllable is computed, only with two-radicular roots (at least not with three-radical roots):

Nominalbildungsklasse I 7: sǔdmaw / sudmāw-t, Pronounced vocal 'u' from masculine counterpart (in other words, in this class, in Coptic the feminine 'u' is not shown but implied by the masculine 'u')...

Problematic Vocalizations[edit | edit source]

  • Some words appear to have shift of stress to the final syllable which makes it difficult to postulate the vowels in the first syllables- these forms obviously emit a sort of vocalic metathesis:

(2ae-gem. fem) ḥat(t)ǎt[18] - armpit ; epaulette [ϪⲞS, ⲀϬⲞB].

  • Some words exhibit not only a final stress but also a vowel quality of |ǔ| in the final syllable:

(3-lit. fem) t-wɜǔt ~ tǔɜat > taɜǔt - doorpost [ⲦOⲨⲀS.A. Copt, ⲐOⲨⲀⲒ,ⲐⲂⲀⲒ B. Copt - doorpost]
(3ae-inf. fem). p-r(w)ǔt ~ pǔrat > parǔt [19] - seed [ⲠⲢⲰSA2F, ⲪⲢⲰB, ⲠⲢⲞⲨA - winter] [par-/pir-PAA = fruit, corn[20]] - it is assumed this word belongs to Form 3: sūdim/sǔdm-t.

  • And some words exhibit an |ě| in the final stressed syllable:

(2-lit. fem) ḥamět[21] - peg; stake
(2-lit. fem) m-rět[22] - painful , bad ; disease [mrPyr.OEg - be ill] [ma(Ha)rPAA - be ill; weak[23]]

Interesting Notations[edit | edit source]

  • Helmut Satzinger, in his essay[24], states: "Stem vocalization was completely reorganized [corresponding/comparisons to the Egyptian Stative Conjugation)[25]; cf. Arabic with CaCaC-, CaCiC- and CaCuC-: ’axaDtu, -ta, -ti, ’axaDa, ’axaDat etc., “I / you / he / she took”; ‘alimtu “I learned” etc.; Hasuna “he has become good” etc. The internal passive is probably another innovation: ’uxiDa “he has been taken”".
  • Helmut Satzinger also says[26]: "To be exact: we are dealing in Egyptian with two verbal nouns, an unmarked form CaCVC, and a marked form with gemination or reduplication and “pluralic” meaning, as we would say today".[27]
  • Through more intensive online research it appears the vocalization CaCiC was often-times amended to C(Ⲉ/Ⲁ)CCⲈ in Coptic which shows metathesis of the last syllable expressing the adjectival dimension of a root.. so it can be assumed the process of the adjectival marker went through the following progression:
CaCiC / CaCeC ~ CaCCi
Though it is interesting to note that not all roots went through this process (i.e., ⲚⲞⲨϤⲈ > nfr, ⲚOⲨⲦⲈⲘ > ndm, ect). At the current time the amended adjectival variation appears to be used sparingly and unpredictably mimicking the nisba construction.
  • The CaCiC form did not directly surface in Coptic vocabulary, this has caused doubt as to its overall existence in Egyptian grammar and is still considered a speculative reconstruction. Maybe some research on the history on why Semitic languages utilized adjectives with the inflection CaCiC might answer this, as I read somewhere that the reason Hebrew had CaCiC had a lot to do with the final syllable being reduced when appendixed to a word, which at the least shows an overall construct form rather than an actual adjectival inflection but this reduced form was so predictable and specific to adjectives that it began to be termed an adjectival form.
In Hebrew, the qātîl pattern (The patterns are described in more or less their actual shape, rather than in an underlying or historical form, as in many grammars) shapes adjectives (## 9–11) as well as substantives. The pattern is used for professional terms, some passive in sense (## 12–14), some stative or active (## 15–17), although the distinctions should not be pressed. The words for certain agricultural activities also employ this pattern.... The Hebrew Qal stem has (1) qātal/yiqtōl, (2) qātēl/yiqtal, (3) qātōl/yiqtal, (4) qātal/yiqtal, (5) qātal/yēqtēl, and (6) qātēl/yiqtōl as the various stative vowel patterns. The Qal stem distinguishes stative verbs from fientive verbs by demarcating a distinct vowel pattern for the stative.[28]

..... ...... .....

  1. Most adjectives other than nb and nisbes have an extant cognate verb, e.g. nfr "good" and nfr "become good". These can usually be analyzed as participles, because they share a common vocalization with non-adjectival participles, e.g. wbḫ *wabiḫ > ⲞⲨⲰⲂⳈ/ⲞⲨⲰⲂϢ "white" ("one who is light", from wbḫ "become light") and wḥꜥ *wáḥiˤ > ⲞⲨⲰϨⲈ "fisherman" ("one who nets", from wḥꜥ “net”). They are therefore generated by the same syntactic process as participles, as in jmnt nfrt (Pyr. 282b) "the beautiful West". - Allen, James P. The Ancient Egyptian Language: An Historical Study pg 75.
  2. The Plural of Nouns in Egyptian and in Coptic by J. Vergote pg 84
  3. A noun (not an adjective/participle) according to Jürgen Osing and Wolfgang Schenkel (Zur Rekonstruktion der deverbalen Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen).
  4. A noun (not an adjective/participle) according to Jürgen Osing and Wolfgang Schenkel.
  5. A noun (not an adjective/participle) according to Jürgen Osing and Wolfgang Schenkel.
  6. Loprieno, Antonio. A Linguistic Introduction pg 87.
  7. A noun (not an adjective/adjective) according to Jürgen Osing and Wolfgang Schenkel.
  8. 'As was to be expected, pattern no. 1 (sādim fem sǎdmVt) is the vocalization of the perfect active participle. It can not be excluded that also pattern no 2 (sīdam) has this function, although languages usually have a uniform pattern for participle forms. - Satzinger, Helmut On Egyptian Participles and Nomina Agentis pg 475
  9. Peust Carsten pg 248.
  10. In Antonio Loprieno's book 'Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction' pg 87 and 260; Antonio Loprieno mentions Wolfgang Schenkel's notations consisting of III-inf verbs of movement showing the pattern ci:caj... - to be noted/examined is that most i-Type participles are not verbs of movement.
  11. Here there is a sort of metathesis which occurred: mǐsyatMEg ~ mǐysatLEg ~ ⲘⲎⲤⲈS. Copt.
  12. Satzinger, Helmut On Egyptian Participles and Nomina Agentis pg 475
  13. An identical vocalic pattern (CuC[iC]) is also predominantly used as the vocalization of the qualitative in Coptic (for II Lit. verbs and some other classes) which indirectly shows those roots/verb forms utilizing original |u| had static/state origins in meaning. Through progression in time these forms were exclusively used for those verbs of static meaning (or nouns/adjectives) and then only used for this purpose
  14. technically šěpsat
  15. .. pg 17
  16. file:///media/removable/ESD-USB/Laptop%20Files/Egyptian/CaCuC_Schenkel_2013.pdf
  18. A noun (not an adjective/participle) according to Osing and Schenkel.
  19. A noun according to Osing and Schenkel.
  20. Etymology is found on\data\semham\egyet&first=901... Some might find some of these etymologies unreliable.
  21. A noun (not an adjective/participle) according to Osing and Schenkel.
  22. A noun (not an adjective/participle) according to Osing and Schenkel.
  23. Etymology is found on\data\semham\egyet&first=901... Some might find some of these etymologies unreliable.
  24. SEMITIC SUFFIX CONJUGATION AND EGYPTIAN STATIVE: A hypothetic morpho-syntactic scenario of its origin by Helmut SATZINGER pg 9.
  25. In reference to the accented Original Absolute |-a| vowel between the verb and the suffix of Afro-Asiatic Suffix Conjugations which split [in the progression of some Afro-Asiaitic languages] into into an accusative case (in -a) for the direct object, etc., and — at least in Proto-Akkadian — an absolute state (in zero) for quotation, address, predicate, focus, topic, etc.: kind of a bare noun... Helmut Satzinger, in his essay SEMITIC SUFFIX CONJUGATION AND EGYPTIAN STATIVE: A hypothetic morpho-syntactic scenario of its origin by Helmut SATZINGER pg 8.
  26. pg 230
  27. Helmut Satzinger continues by stating: Semitic and Egyptian developed their verbal systems independently, from the same starting point (three verbal bases: (a) qVtl; (b) qtVl; (c) qVttVl. / (a) sVdm; (b) sdVm; (c) sVdVmm), but arrived partly at different points.... So Semitic developed the prefix conjugation by inversion of the suffix conjugation: qatl- + ta > ta-qatil. The Egyptian suffix pronoun conjugation (i.e., the "suffix conjugation" of Egyptological terminology), on the other hand, is reached by conceiving the subject as genitival.
  28. and