Facts of Hieroglyphs

Each and everyone’s language has a system of writing. It has it’s own letters, words to represent itself through the feelings. But, I am going to take you to the tour of an interesting writing system – HIEROGLYPHICS.

HIEROGLYPHICS, this is a formal writing system mainly found to be used in ancient Egypt. It is a combination of logographic, syllabic and alphabetic elements(will discuss on this three later on…So no worries), with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters.

Cursive Hieroglyphic were used for religious purpose. Hieratic and demotic Egyptian scripts were derived from this Hieroglyphic writing. Later on, Meroitic was derived from demotic.

Let’s find it’s origin

This emerged from the preliterate artistic tradition of Egypt. Do you know, symbols on Gerzean pottery from 4000 BC have been argued to resemble hieroglyphic writing.

The Proto-hieroglyphic(consist of visible marks of communication) symbol systems develop in the second half of the 4th millennium BC. The first full sentence written in hieroglyphs so far discovered was found on a seal impression in the tomb of Seth-Peribsen at Umm el-Qa’ab, which dates from the Second Dynasty (28th or 27th century BC)

There are around 800 hieroglyphs dating back to the Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom Eras. By the Greco-Roman period, there are more than 5,000.
However, due to the lack of direct evidence, no definitive determination has been made as to the origin of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt.

The three part in this statement

Logographic

Here the logogram or the logograph is used as the written charecter to represent a word or phrase.
The use of logograms in writing is called logography. A writing system that is based on logograms is called a logographic system.
Logographic systems include the earliest writing systems; the first historical civilizations of the Near East, Africa, China, and Central America used some form of logographic writing. This system depends on rebus principle.

Logographic writing systems include:

Logoconsonantal scriptsThese are scripts in which the graphemes may be extended phonetically according to the consonants of the words they represent, ignoring the vowels.

Logosyllabic scripts
These are scripts in which the graphemes(smallest meaningful constructive unit in a sentence) represent morphemes(smallest grammatical unit), often polysyllabic morphemes, but when extended phonetically represent single syllables. They include:

  • Anatolian hieroglyphs: Luwian
  • Cuneiform: Sumerian, Akkadian, other Semitic languages, Elamite, Hittite, Luwian, Hurrian, and Urartian
  • Maya glyphs: Chorti, Yucatec, and other Classic Maya languages
  • Han characters: Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese
  • Derivatives of Han characters:
    • Chữ nôm: Vietnam
    • Dongba script written with Geba script: Naxi language (Dongba itself is pictographic)
    • Jurchen script: Jurchen
    • Khitan large script: Khitan
    • Sawndip: Zhuang languages
    • Shui script: Shui language
    • Tangut script: Tangut language
    • Yi (classical): various Yi languages

Syllabary


A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent the syllables or moras which make up words.

A symbol in a syllabary, called a syllabogram, typically represents an consonant sound followed by a vowel sound that is, a CV or V syllable but other phonographic mappings such as CVC, CV- tone, and C are also found in syllabaries.

Alphabets

An alphabet is a standard set of letters that is used to write one or more languages based upon the general principle that the letters represent phonemes (basic significant sounds) of the spoken language. This is contrast to other types of writing systems, such as syllabaries and logographies .

The Proto-Canaanite script, later known as the Phoenician alphabet, is the first fully phonemic script. Thus the Phoenician alphabet is considered to be the first alphabet. The Phoenician alphabet is the ancestor of most modern alphabets, including Arabic, Greek, Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and possibly Brahmic.
As writing skills developed and became more widespread among the Egyptian people, simplified glyph forms developed, this resulting in the hieratic (priestly) and demotic (popular) scripts. These variants were also more suited than hieroglyphs for use on papyrus(religious book).
Knowledge of the hieroglyphs had been lost completely by the medieval period.

But, again it is rediscovered.

Few more fascinating facts
  • The word “Hieroglyphic” means holy writing. (Hiero – Holy, glyphic – writing)
  • The Egyptians believed there was great power in a name. If someone’s name was remembered then he or she would survive in the afterlife. That’s why pharaohs’ names were written in hieroglyphics in their tombs!
  • Most of the pictures stand for the object they represent, but usually they stand for sounds.
  • In Egyptian, the owl stands for the sound “m”. The Egyptian symbol for a mouth can mean mouth but it’s usually read as the sound “r”.
  • Hieroglyphics can be pictures of living creatures, objects used in daily life or symbols. Some are easy to identify, some confusing and some impossible!

Let’s have a look on the alphabet chart

A – Egyptian vulture
B – a foot
C – a basket with handle
D – a hand
E – a reed
F – a horned viper (an Egyptian snake)
G – a jar-stand
H – a reed shelter
I – a reed
J – a cobra
K – the basket with the handle again (because hard “C” is like “K”)
L – a lion
M – an owl
N – a zigzag symbol for water
O – a lasso
P – a square stool
Q – a symbol for the slope of a hill
R – a mouth
S – a piece of linen folded over
T – a bun
U – a quail chick (which stands for the sound “U”)
V – a horned viper
W – a quail chick
X – a basket and folded linen
Y – two reeds
Z – a door bolt
CH – a hobble
KH – a ball of string
SH – the rectangle (which is the symbol for land)

Hope you enjoyed the tour with the fascinating fact. Why don’t you try to write your name in Hieroglyphic and have fun.

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