Custom Search

Learning Egyptian Hieroglyphs - Lesson 3 (Part II)

by Caroline Seawright


I'm going to go through the book, "Egyptian Grammar" by A.H. Gardiner, and try to learn Middle Egyptian hieroglyphs. In this column, I will attempt to share what I learn as I go along!

The Suffixes as Subject of yw yw

yw yw 'is, are' may have, like other verbs, a suffix for its nominative. Remember, though, that the sentence with yw, though classed as non-verbal, is verbal in actual form.

Eg. ywn three stroke determinativempr stroke determinativef yw*n m pr*f 'We are in his house'.

If the subject of a sentence with adverbial predicate is a noun, putting yw gives it, basically, the importance of an independent assertion. This rule, though, does not always hold when the subject is a suffix pronoun - the suffixes must be joined to a receding word, and yw is the word commonly used as support.

This means that ywn three stroke determinativempr stroke determinativef yw*n m pr*f could have two meanings:

  1. a main clause as an assertion - 'we are in his house'
  2. a subordinate clause of some kind - rshnose determinativeman eating determinativescribe determinativeman determinativeywn three stroke determinativepr stroke determinativef rsh ssh, yw*n m pr*f 'the scribe rejoices (when) we are in his house'.

Sentences with the m m of Predication

In Egyptian, 'thou art a scribe' can not be written. It was written as 'though art (as) a scribe':

ywkmscribe determinativeman determinative yw*k m ssh m m 'though art as a scribe'

The preposition m m can mean 'in the position of' and 'as'... and so it is called m of the predication. By its use, the pattern of the sentence with adverbial predicate may express English sentences that require nominal predicate.

For example: ywndjssparrow determinativeman determinativepnmscribe determinativeman determinative yw ndjs pn m ssh 'this commoner is (as) a scribe'.

The ear determinativemf sdjm*f Form of the Verb

A form or tense of a verb with the subject (sometimes a noun or a suffix) is added directly to the sounds expressing the verbal notion:

ear determinativemf sdjm*f 'he hears'
ear determinativemscribe determinativeman determinative sdjm ssh 'the scribe hears'

In describing the various parts of the Egyptian verb, it is usual to take the verb ear determinativem sdjm 'hear' as the model... and since precedence over the first person singular is given to the third person singular, the verb form to which the reference has just been made is known as the sdjm*f form.

Later, you'll see that the sdjm*f form appears to have originated as a passive participant followed by a genitival suffix-pronoun... the original 'heard of him' came to mean 'he hears' or 'he heard'.

To create the passive form of sdjm*f, an element tw *tw (sometimes t *t) is inserted immediately after the verb stem, as in:

ear determinativemtwr stroke determinativepn sdjm*tw r pn 'this utterance is heard'.

The element *tw is an indefinite pronoun like the English 'one', and is sometimes used independently - djdtw djd*tw 'one says', 'it is said'. From this use, sdjm*tw*f 'he is heard' was probably derived from the analogy of the active sdjm*f

The full form of tw follows any determinative that the verb stem may have, such as rkhbook determinativetwf rkh*tw*f 'he is known'. The shorter writing, t, may either precede or follow the determinative... but rkhtbook determinative f is more correct than rkhbook determinative tf. The passive ending *tw is inseparable from the verb stem.

The full paradigm of the sdjm*f form is:

  Active Passive
1st singular ear determinativemman determinative
I hear ear determinativemtwman determinative
I am heard
2nd singular masc. ear determinativemk
Thou hearest ear determinativemtwk
Thou art heard
2nd singular fem. ear determinativemtsh
Thou hearest ear determinativemtwtsh
Thou art heard
3rd singular masc. ear determinativemf
he (it) hears ear determinativemtwf
he (it) is heard
3rd singular fem. ear determinativems
she (it) hears ear determinativemtws
she (it) is heard
1st plural ear determinativemn three stroke determinative
we hear ear determinativemtwn three stroke determinative
we are heard
2nd plural ear determinativemtshn three stroke determinative
you hear ear determinativemtwtshn three stroke determinative
you are heard
3rd singular ear determinativemsn three stroke determinative
they hear ear determinativemtwsn three stroke determinative
they are heard
Before nouns ear determinativem
hear, hears ear determinativemtw or ear determinativemt
is, are heard
Indefinite ear determinativemtw
one hears    

The duals are not used, since they are usually replaced by plurals.

When the subject of the sdjm*f form is a suffix, this is inseparable from the verb-stem. In the passive, it is inseparable from the verb-stem accompanied by *tw; *tw itself is inseparable from the verb-stem.

When the subject is a noun, though, this may be separated from the verb. Eg:

djdsnf djd*s n*f 'she says to him'
djdnfscribe determinativeman determinative djd n*f ssh 'the scribe says to him'

When the agent has to be expressed after the passive of sdjm*f (or any other passive form of the verb), we introduce it using yn yn 'by'. Eg:

djdtwr stroke determinativepnyns man determinative stroke determinative djd*tw r pn yn s 'this utterance is (to be) said by a man'.

The preposition khr khr 'with' or 'near' is sometimes used for the same purpose, though this is rarely used.

<< Lesson 3 (Part I) || Lesson 3 (Part III)>>

© Caroline 'Kunoichi' Seawright 2001 - present

If you enjoyed this page, please join my Egyptology & Archaeology Essays Mailing List.

Or contact me on Twitter:

comments powered by Disqus