Middle Egyptian language

Middle Egyptian
Region Ancient Egypt
Era ca. 2000 to 1350 BC, when it was replaced by Late Egyptian
Early forms
Archaic Egyptian
  • Middle Egyptian
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None

Middle Egyptian is the typical form of Egyptian written from 2000-1300 BC (after Old Egyptian and before Late Egyptian), during the Middle Kingdom and the subsequent Second Intermediate Period. In writing, it makes use of around 900 hieroglyphs. Middle Egyptian is not descended from Old Egyptian, which was based on a different dialect.[1]

Eventually evolving into Late Egyptian language around the 14th century BC, the Middle Egyptian language remained in use as a literary standard language until the fourth century AD. As such, it is the classical variant of Egyptian that historically attracted most attention from Egyptology. Whilst most Middle Egyptian is seen written on monuments by Hieroglyphs, it is also written using a cursive variant, and the related hieratic. As it is usually the first and most used form of the Egyptian language, it is frequently (incorrectly) referred to simply as "Hieroglyphics". Middle Egyptian is arguably the best-documented stage of the Egyptian language; there are many resources available for it.[2]

Archaeological findings appear to indicate that Mesopotamian civilizations had an effect on the Egyptian language over time, this is shown to us by the ivory tags discovered at Abydos, which also documented the quantity and geographic origin of such records. Today, thanks to archeologist findings and translators, 70 percent of hieroglyphs have been translated, with still much more to decode.

Middle Egyptian writing was composed entirely of pictures, just as it was in the old and new. There were some influences on the change from the Mesopotamian culture, as well as the Sumerians. It was not until the Egyptians converted to Christianity that they began to stop using their own writing, instead adopting the Greek alphabet which eventually evolved into the Coptic language (which today is still used as a liturgical language using the Coptic alphabet, which is a form of the Greek alphabet with additional letters borrowed from Demotic).

Due to the Muslim conquest of Egypt in the 600s, modern Egyptians speak Egyptian Arabic, which is also an Afroasiatic language.

Egyptian culture declined and disappeared nearly two thousand years ago; hieroglyphs were somewhat of a mystery due to this. It was not until Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 that the artifacts of the Egyptians were seen in Europe and their ancient culture began to be recognized again. The French leader discovered the Rosetta Stone, a find that was instrumental to deciphering the Egyptian tongue. This was only the beginning to the findings of the early, middle, and new languages of classical Egyptian period. Although Middle Egyptian became the literary and written language, the spoken language continued to change throughout the following years.

Progress in the understanding of Middle Egyptian is due to Adolf Erman and his "Berlin school". Erman also published the first Middle Egyptian grammar in 1894, surpassed in 1927 by Alan Gardiner's monumental work. From the mid 20th century, Egyptologists considered their understanding of Middle Egyptian to be essentially complete, and began focusing on Old Egyptian, but debate on Middle Egyptian grammar was revived by Hans Jakob Polotsky and his "standard theory" from 1944.[3] [4][5]


  1. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/265009/hieroglyph
  2. http://archive.archaeology.org/9903/newsbriefs/egypt.html
  3. http://www.friesian.com/egypt.htm
  4. http://www.egyptianhieroglyphs.net/the-essentials/
  5. http://mjn.host.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/egyptian/grammars/Allen.html


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