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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the language of the inscriptions of the kingdom of Meroe on the middle Nile (southern part of present-day Egypt and northern Sudan) from the second half of the first millennium B.C. to the first to fourth centuries A.D.

The inscriptions were written in two variant scripts of the Meroitic alphabet, which was derived from Egyptian writing. The alphabet was deciphered by the English scholar F. Griffith in the early 20th century, but the language is still not fully understood. Judging from the script, Meroitic had few vowels (four) and a relatively simple system of consonants. Grammatical suffixes (indicating case, plurality, and a definite article) and, according to some scholars, prefixes, have been discovered. The meanings of several dozen words have been established. Analysis of these words and the grammatical affixes leads to the rejection of the hypothesis of the German scholars C. Meinhof and E. Zyhlarz concerning the Hamito-Semitic affinity of Meroitic. Some Meroitic words (“man,” “water,” “star”) and certain grammatical morphemes show a resemblance to the Nubian language and other Nilo-Saharan languages, which has prompted the American linguists B. Trigger and J. Greenberg to suggest that Meroitic is related to the Nilo-Saharan languages. This hypothesis, however, remains unproved.


Griffith, F. L. Karanòg: The Meroitic Inscriptions ofShablul and Karanog. Philadelphia, 1911.
Zyhlarz, E. “Das meroitische Sprachproblem.”; Anthropos, 1930, vol. 25.
Hintze, F. “Die sprachliche Stellung des Meroitischen.” Afrikanische Studien, 1955, no. 26.
Vycichl, W. “The Present State of the Meroitic Studies.” Kush, 1958, vol. 6.
Trigger, B. G. “Meroitic and Eastern Sudanic: A Linguistic Relationship?” Kush, 1964, vol. 12.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"Meroitic hieroglyphs drive Egyptologists mad!" laughs Karla, referring to a language that's still not been deciphered.
(32) The last royal pyramids date to 350-360 and at the same time the material culture of the region ceased to be predominantly Meroitic, indicating that power had shifted away from Meroe to the Noba.
These small biographical details add to the growing evidence that prehistoric people had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture." Al Khiday is a complex of five archaeological sites which lie 25km south of Omdurman; one of the sites is predominantly a burial ground of pre-Mesolithic, Neolithic and Later Meroitic age.Ee As a multi-period cemetery, it gave the researchers a useful long-term perspective on the material recovered.
Project coordinator Salahaddin Mohammed Ahmed revealed the money will support 29 projects including the rehabilitation of ancient relics, construction of museums and study of the Meroitic language.
Inscriptions found in the Sedeinga tombs are in Meroitic, a phonetic writing simplified from the Egyptian.
Winters' most significant finding is the cognate language of Meroitic. By employing the evidence presented by the Classical sources that the Kushites ruled empires in Africa and Asia, Winters is able to show that the cognate language of Meroitic was the Tokharian language spoken by the Kushana people of Central Asia.
The name 'Candace' is derived from the Meroitic ktke or kdke, 'queen mother.' (25) In his Aithiopica, Bion of Soli claims that all mothers of Ethiopian kings were named Candace, (26) and Acts 8.
van Soldt's article presenting a straightforward and valuable explanation of how the Cuneiform syllabary (with its Akkadian values) was adapted to the phonemic systems of a number of different languages; Claude Rilly's article detailing the development of the Meroitic script (deciphered in 1911); van Soldt's second article, on the fascinating techniques that Ugaritic scribes used to "play" with Cuneiform by drawing on their knowledge of the Sumerian and Akkadian values of the graphs; Alex de Voogt's article on the Caroline Islands script and the ways that the goals of linguists may or may not serve the interests of the native users of a script; and Joukje Kolft's article on dance notation, which although lacking a theoretical framework presents inherently fascinating material.
Greene, Dentition of Meroitic, X-Group and Christian Populations from Wadi Halfa, Sudan, University of Utah, Anthropological Papers, no.
The float dedicated to the Meroitic Empire (figure 5), was made up of fourteen women chosen within the Salgueiro community.