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1. of, relating to, or characteristic of Egypt, its inhabitants, or their dialect of Arabic
2. of, relating to, or characteristic of the ancient Egyptians, their language, or culture
3. Archaic of or relating to the Gypsies
4. a member of an indigenous non-Semitic people who established an advanced civilization in Egypt that flourished from the late fourth millennium bc
5. the extinct language of the ancient Egyptians, belonging to the Afro-Asiatic family of languages. It is recorded in hieroglyphic inscriptions, the earliest of which date from before 3000 bc. It was extinct by the fourth century ad
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the language of the ancient Egyptians, the inhabitants of the Nile valley. Together with Coptic, which developed from it, Egyptian belongs to the Hamito-Semitic family. A dead language since the fifth century A.D., Egyptian is one of the most ancient cultural languages of the world. The first written records in Egyptian date from the turn of the third millennium B.C.; the latest documents are from the fifth century A.D. Over a period of 35 centuries the language changed considerably. The following periods are distinguished in its development: the Old Egyptian period (30th to 22nd centuries B.C.), the Middle Egyptian period (22nd to 16th centuries B.C.), the Late Egyptian period (16th to eighth centuries B.C.), and the demotic period (eighth century B.C. to the fifth century A.D.). Coptic began to take shape in approximately the third century A.D.

The phonetic composition of Egyptian has been comparatively poorly studied: the consonants are known, but the vowels are not, since they were not written. In open syllables the vowels were long; in closed syllables they were short. The stress fell on the last and penultimate syllables. Nouns were of two genders, masculine and feminine, and there were three numbers—singular, dual, and plural. The case forms in Egyptian were not expressed by affixes. The cases were analytical—that is, they were expressed by prepositional groups. Adjectives were qualitative or relative; there were both cardinal and ordinal numerals. Verbs in Egyptian were of three categories—transitive, verbs that could be both transitive and intransitive, and intransitive—and had both active and passive forms. The imperative and subjunctive moods could be distinguished morphologically. There was no category of tense in early Egyptian. Verb forms indicated action or state, momentary or repeated quality of action, brevity, and duration of action. Later, certain forms in Egyptian came to be used more or less systematically to express time periods and gradually came to acquire the meaning of tense. The predicate is the basis for classification of sentences in Egyptian; it is expressed by the verb, as well as by certain other parts of speech. As a result, both verbal and nonverbal sentences existed in Egyptian.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.