Learn Hieroglyphs

The Ancient Egyptian Language

The Ancient Egyptian language belongs to the Afro-Asiatic linguistic family, sometimes classified under the Semito-Hamitic language family, which predominately emerged from the Arabian Peninsula and settled in the regions of Southwest Asia and North Africa. It certainly has a strong connection with one of those two groups; the Semitic languages, in its distinguished structures, nominal sentences, and guttural sounds like Arabic, Amharic, Armenian, and Hebrew.
The Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs dates back to 3400 BCE (ca.), when the it first appeared on memorial palettes and ivory tags. During that long period of the Ancient Egyptian language, many changes occurred prompting researchers to divide it into five main phases.
1- Old Egyptian: This applies to the oldest phase in the language's history. Although the language first appeared about 3400 BCE. Early writings were just expressions of names and short writings. So it is possible for us to say that the Old Egyptian actually began 2600 BCE with the beginning of the Old Kingdom and continued until 2100 BCE. Famous Pyramid Texts were inscribed according to the grammar and alphabet of this phase.
2- Middle Egyptian: This phase came directly after the Old Egyptian phase. It began to appear around 2100 BCE and continued for about 500 years as a spoken and written language. It was the main phase of the Ancient Egyptian language, and it is considered as a classical phase or an era of linguistic eloquence, and it is the phase in which the language reached the peak of its development with its most magnificent literary works. As this phase “Middle Egyptian” represents the most complete phase the Ancient Egyptian language reached, it became the most suitable phase to start with when studying the Ancient Egyptian language.
3- Late Egyptian: This phase might have started to replace Middle Phase as a language for speaking and writing after 1600 BCE. Although it appeared in writings before 1600 BCE but did not fully appear until 1300 BCE, and remained in use until 600 BCE. This phase appeared in trade documents and letters from the Ramesside Period in which was evident the presence of foreign vocabulary in the Ancient Egyptian language.
It is noticeable that the development of the different phases of Ancient Egyptian language all differ from the early phase of Ancient Egyptian writing, at least in grammar.
4- The Demotic Phase: This phase developed from the Late Egyptian. It began to appear in the Eighth Century BCE, and remained in use until the Fifth Century CE.
5- The Coptic Phase: This is the last phase of the Ancient Egyptian language, that is directly after  the Demotic phase. Coptic appeared in the Third Century BCE, and remained a spoken language for the Egyptians for over 1000 years.