What happened to the ancient Egyptian language?
!The Fate of the Ancient Egyptian Language:
Egyptian is considered a member of the group of Afroasiatic languages, which includes the Semitic languages—like Arabic and Hebrew—and North African languages like Berber. Though the alphabet that was used to write the Semitic languages may have originally been developed by Canaanites living in Egypt on the basis of the hieroglyphic writing system, it was entirely different in the sense that it used one letter for each sound, whereas hieroglyphic signs could represent individual letters, syllables, or complete ideas. They did, however, have in common that they did not represent vowel sounds, which makes the reconstruction of ancient Egyptian words a difficult process.
Answer and Explanation: 1
The language spoken throughout the kingdoms of ancient Egypt, which lasted from the 3rd through the 1st millennia BCE, has been divided into three eras—Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, and Late Egyptian. But even after that, when Egypt was conquered first by the Persian Empire and then by Alexander the Great in the 6th-4th centuries BCE, it continued to be spoken; though instead of hieroglyphics it was written in a script derived from them, called Demotic ("popular"), and after that in the Coptic alphabet, which was based on the Greek one. This last alphabet was a product of the fact that the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt for 300 years after Alexander's conquest spoke and functioned in Greek; and the citizens of Alexandria, which was an enormous city and the only one of any size in the country, were likewise Greek speakers. But the language did not penetrate very deeply into the rest of the country; and when Christianity arrived in Egypt, it began to use the Egyptian of the time and was therefore called Coptic (from the Greek word Aiguptos, "Egypt"). Egyptian continues to be used today within the Coptic Church; to which between 10% and 20% of Egyptians belong; but even Egyptian Christians speak Arabic, which has been the country's national language since shortly after the Muslim conquest of the 7th century. At that point, some people in the countryside may have continued to speak Egyptian; though the older forms of the language were lost until Europeans learned how to decipher hieroglyphics in the early 19th century.
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fromChapter 3 / Lesson 7
In this lesson, we will discuss some of the major achievements of ancient Egypt, including its unification by King Menes, the pyramids, hieroglyphics, and the Egyptian calendar.