Hieroglyphics Lesson 1: Introduction


Update: Hieroglyphics Lesson 2 is finally here. Nouns in Ancient Egyptian.
Hieroglyphs as you probably know are pictures used as signs for writing. Just like our alphabets today.


Egyptians have chosen pictures of object that related to their life and their nation... usually used forces of nature. Here are examples of some signs, so you have have an idea how they look.

Actually some of these signs represent what shape them. For example the picture of a mouth
means mouth! Pronounced “r”. (we'll talk about the stroke sign under the mouth later).

However, this case is rare. Most of what ancient Egyptians wrote, did not really mean the shape they are made of. But the signs rather convey sounds.


One more example:




Depicts a schematic house. So when we want to write the noun “house” we write it like this:



pronounced “pr”. Doh! The same stroke-sign again! We will discuss it later)


Interesting is that the same sound combination “pr” means ''to leave'' (a verb) but it is written in a different way (house, mouth and walking legs):






If we think of it literally (Picturally, if I could say) These signs would mean ''house mouth legs” which surely makes no sense. But rather actually the mouth part (as we already know it is pronounced “r”) is here to construct the whole “pr” sound. So there is no way we could take these signs and interpret them with the object they draw. However something else so interesting is the walking legs. They indicate some motion. Give us a hint that the word is describing some movement.


If you get confused with this, here an example that might help you understand:
The word “belief” in English consists of two sounds ''bee'' and ''leaf/leef''
What if we didn't have alphabets? How would we possibly write this word using pictures of everyday's life? Here is an answer, we would simply draw leaf next to a bee! This way:




Though the word belief has nothing to do with bees and leafs, a bee and a leaf succeeded to represent the typical sound of the word ''belief”. Makes sense? That's how ancient Egyptians did it!


And now here is what you might have been waiting for, a list of the common basic Hieroglyphs and the sound their represent:
Since nobody today really expects you to be drawing all these shapes to write down words or sentences, Egyptologists today have adopted transliteration of these pictures into written sounds, or rather into English alphabet.

Example? Ok instead of drawing the word house this way:

They simply write ''pr''. So they don't have to be drawing for long time, just grabbing a pen and writing two letters and the job would be done. However, of course this is not as charming as the original Hieroglyphs. But I think it is good to be aware of this transliteration (or Romanization if you would say, like they tried to alter the Japanese Hiragana/Katakana with Romaji/Romanized Japanese) , since most Egyptologists use it anyway, so we better get used to it.

One more reason is that you probably won't be able to write the proper symbols on your computer. So we probably better get used to the transliterated version of the language. However, I will do my best to create a simple system for the computer to be able to write Hieroglyphs just like it writes English.



Please do leave comments here and tell me how easy/hard this lesson was. 
Tomorrow (Sunday, I will post an exercise of few Hieroglyphics words and you will have to put the answers in the comments below!)

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Hieroglyphics Lesson 1: Introduction

Update: Hieroglyphics Lesson 2 is finally here. Nouns in Ancient Egyptian.
Hieroglyphs as you probably know are pictures used as signs for writing. Just like our alphabets today.


Egyptians have chosen pictures of object that related to their life and their nation... usually used forces of nature. Here are examples of some signs, so you have have an idea how they look.

Actually some of these signs represent what shape them. For example the picture of a mouth
means mouth! Pronounced “r”. (we'll talk about the stroke sign under the mouth later).

However, this case is rare. Most of what ancient Egyptians wrote, did not really mean the shape they are made of. But the signs rather convey sounds.


One more example:




Depicts a schematic house. So when we want to write the noun “house” we write it like this:



pronounced “pr”. Doh! The same stroke-sign again! We will discuss it later)


Interesting is that the same sound combination “pr” means ''to leave'' (a verb) but it is written in a different way (house, mouth and walking legs):






If we think of it literally (Picturally, if I could say) These signs would mean ''house mouth legs” which surely makes no sense. But rather actually the mouth part (as we already know it is pronounced “r”) is here to construct the whole “pr” sound. So there is no way we could take these signs and interpret them with the object they draw. However something else so interesting is the walking legs. They indicate some motion. Give us a hint that the word is describing some movement.


If you get confused with this, here an example that might help you understand:
The word “belief” in English consists of two sounds ''bee'' and ''leaf/leef''
What if we didn't have alphabets? How would we possibly write this word using pictures of everyday's life? Here is an answer, we would simply draw leaf next to a bee! This way:




Though the word belief has nothing to do with bees and leafs, a bee and a leaf succeeded to represent the typical sound of the word ''belief”. Makes sense? That's how ancient Egyptians did it!


And now here is what you might have been waiting for, a list of the common basic Hieroglyphs and the sound their represent:
Since nobody today really expects you to be drawing all these shapes to write down words or sentences, Egyptologists today have adopted transliteration of these pictures into written sounds, or rather into English alphabet.

Example? Ok instead of drawing the word house this way:

They simply write ''pr''. So they don't have to be drawing for long time, just grabbing a pen and writing two letters and the job would be done. However, of course this is not as charming as the original Hieroglyphs. But I think it is good to be aware of this transliteration (or Romanization if you would say, like they tried to alter the Japanese Hiragana/Katakana with Romaji/Romanized Japanese) , since most Egyptologists use it anyway, so we better get used to it.

One more reason is that you probably won't be able to write the proper symbols on your computer. So we probably better get used to the transliterated version of the language. However, I will do my best to create a simple system for the computer to be able to write Hieroglyphs just like it writes English.



Please do leave comments here and tell me how easy/hard this lesson was. 
Tomorrow (Sunday, I will post an exercise of few Hieroglyphics words and you will have to put the answers in the comments below!)

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