The ancient Egyptian language first used a hieroglyphic form of writing that underwent several stages of development in the course of the centuries. From hieroglyphics evolved an Egyptian cursive handwriting known as hieratic; and from hieratic, a simplified script called demotic, in which was recorded the form of the Egyptian language also called demotic. Egyptian hieroglyphics and the styles of writing derived from them are associated with pagan civilization. Their extinction followed the victory of Christianity over the pagan religions.
Some scholars regard Coptic (see Copts) as a fifth period of ancient Egyptian, although others classify it as a different language descended from the ancient tongue. If Coptic, which is written in a modified version of the Greek alphabet, is considered a continuation of the Egyptian language, a written record of the latter may be said to cover an unbroken span of at least 40 centuries, the longest such record known for a language.
See also Rosetta Stone under Rosetta.
See studies by A. Bakir (1983, 1984); A. H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar (3d ed. 1957); N. M. Davies, Picture Writing in Ancient Egypt (1958); E. W. Budge, Egyptian Language (8th ed. 1966).
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