Die Prinzipien der Klassifizierung im Altagyptischen.

Author:Depuydt, Leo
Position:Book review

Die Prinzipien der Klassifizierung im Altagyptischen. By ELIESE-SOPHIA LINCKE. Gottinger Orient forschungen, vol. IV/38. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2011. Pp. xiii + 159. 38 [euro] (paper).

The book under review is a partially revised and augmented version of a Magisterarbeit--M.A. thesis--submitted in September 2007 to Berlin's Humboldt University. It presents a detailed analysis of the so-called determinatives of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing as they are used in the oldest Egyptian texts, the Pyramid texts. At the end come two appendices, one an essay on sign mutilation and the other an excerpt from a final report on a research project.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with Egyptian hieroglyphic writing knows that each hieroglyph in a hieroglyphic text exhibits one of three functions. Hieroglyphs function either as ideograms, as phonograms, or as determinatives.

Many hieroglyphs can exhibit more than one of these three functions and quite a few even all three. Stating that a hieroglyph is, say, an ideogram therefore in effect means the same as stating that it functions as an ideogram.

For example, when functioning as an ideogram or meaning sign, a hieroglyph depicting the outline of a dwelling can be used to write the word pr 'house'. When functioning as a phonogram or sound sign, the same hieroglyph can denote the two consonants p and r in the verb pr(y) 'leave, go out'. And when functioning as a determinative, the same hieroglyph appears at the end of a word--as all determinatives do--and marks words denoting all kinds of buildings.

It should be noted that meaning signs always indirectly also denote sound because meaning, or signifie', "signified," and sound, or significant, "signifier," are connected in a word, or signe, "sign," using Saussure's terms. By contrast, sound signs indirectly also refer to meaning only when they denote the entire sound pattern of a word.

As opposed to ideograms and phonograms, determinatives signify neither the meaning nor the sound of a word. Rather, they associate the meaning of a word in a certain way with another meaning or concept, thus adding definition to the written representation of a word. For example, the writing of all kinds of words denoting human beings will typically contain a seated person as a determinative.

All the words marked by the same determinative can be thought of as a set or class. The words belong together not just because their written forms exhibit the same determinative. It may...

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