V : Basic signs (conclusion)
signs are signs that present the phonetic value of 3 consonants.
Even more than was the case with biliteral signs, the distinction
between phonogram and ideogram is rather vague for the triliterals.
The following list provides an overview of the most common
was the case with biliteral signs, triliteral signs can be
accompanied by one or two uniliteral signs as phonetic complements.
The phonetic complement either repeats the last or the last
two consonants of the triliteral sign: reads aHa,
"to arise", and not aHaa , with the last
a being used as phonetic complement ; reads anx, "to
live, life" and not anxnx. In some more exceptional
cases, all three consonants can be repeated. The triliteral
signs can, like the biliterals, be used without any phonetic
Biliteral signs are normally not used as phonetic complements
for triliteral signs. Note however the group mAa that
combines the biliteral sign mA with the triliteral
Special cases and peculiar writings
has already been mentioned that phonetic complements are optional
and that some words may be written with phonetic or ideographic
signs only. Some of the most common words, stereotyped phrases
and formulae are often also abbreviated. These are some of
the most frequently used abbreviations:
- is an abbreviation for anx wDA snb, "may
he live, prosper and be healthy". It is used after
words referring to anything royal, including the king and
his name. This phrase was so stereotype that it was reduced
to three vertical lines in hieratic writings and later to
just a number of vertical lines.
- or , fuller writing
is read mAa-xrw
and literally means "true of voice", although
it is also translated as "justified". It is an
epithet that was added to the names of the deceased. It
refers to the fact that the deceased has passed the judgement
and is allowed to enjoy the afterlife.
- was used as an abbreviation for , nsw,
"King (of Upper Egypt)". The full writing of this
word itself is a special cases and will be explained in
the next paragraph.
- is read nsw-bi.ty and is usually translated
as "the King of Upper and Lower Egypt". It was
part of the royal titulary that will be elaborated in the
- is used as abbreviation for kA
nxt , "victorious bull", often used to refer
to the king.
addition to these abbreviations, it must also be reminded
that words can be written using ideograms only. E.g. the sign
can be used for ra,
"sun" and for ra, "Re", the solar god.
Transpositions of signs and words
normal order of signs as explained in Lesson I, can be changed,
either for graphic or for honorific reasons. Transposition
of signs for graphic reasons was led mostly by a concern to
use the available space as much as possible.
Small signs may be placed under the breast of a sign representing
a bird, even when the latter sign needs to be read first.
The group can thus be read tw
and wt, depending on the context.
Long narrow signs are usually written before a sign representing
a bird, where the normal sign-order would expect them to follow.
Thus we find for wD.
drastic are the transpositions with honorific intent, which
could not only change the order of single signs, but also
of words and entire phrases. Words referring to the king or
to the gods are often written before other words to which
they are closely connected. For instance, the sign-group , meaning "scribe of
the king" must be read sS-nsw and not nsw-sS.
The plant, used as an abbreviation for the word "king"
is placed before the sign sS, "scribe"
because the king was more important than his scribes.
For the same reason the sign meaning "god" is written
before the sign meaning "servant" in Hm-nTr, "servant
of god", "priest".
The names of gods may be moved to the front of phrases, even
if, grammatically, they belong at the end. Thus needs to be read mry
imn, "beloved of Amun". Any honorific titles
added to the name of a god, are moved to the front as well:
nb ns.wt tA.wj, "beloved of Amun, Lord of the Thrones
of the Two Lands".