From World Afropedia
Jump to: navigation, search
r n km.t
RegionAncient Kemet
Eraevolved into Demotic by 600 BC, and ceased to be spoken widely by the 17th century.
Language family
Writing systemMedu Neter, demotic (occasionally Arabic script in government translations)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Papyrus Ebers.png
Ebers Papyrus detailing treatment of asthma

Kemetic was the language spoken in Ancient Kemet until around the 7th century AD when Arabs invaded and superimposed their culture on the native culture.

is the oldest known language of Egypt and a branch of the Negro-Egyptian language family. The earliest known complete sentence in the Egyptian language has been dated to about 2690 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known, along with Sumerian.


Seal impression from the tomb of Seth-Peribsen, containing the oldest known complete sentence in Kemetian

Scholars group the Kemetian language into six major chronological divisions:[1]

The earliest Kemetian glyphs date back to around 3300 BC.[2] These early texts are generally lumped together under the general term "Archaic Kemetian." They record names, titles and labels, but a few of them show morphological and syntactic features familiar from later, more complete, texts.[3]

Old Kemetian is dated from the oldest known complete sentence, found in the tomb of Seth-Peribsen and dated to around 2690 BC. Extensive texts appear from about 2600 BC.[3] Middle Kemetian was spoken from about 2000 BC for a further 700 years when Late Kemetian made its appearance; Middle Kemetian did, however, survive until the first few centuries AD as a written language, similar to the use of Latin during the Middle Ages and that of Classical Arabic today. Demotic Kemetian first appears about 650 BC and survived as a spoken language until the fifth century AD. Coptic Kemetian appeared in the fourth century AD and survived as a living language until the sixteenth century AD, when European scholars traveled to Kemet to learn it from native speakers during the Renaissance. It probably survived in the Kemetian countryside as a spoken language for several centuries after that. The Bohairic dialect of Coptic is still used by the Kemetian Christian Churches.

3rd-century Coptic inscription

Old, Middle, and Late Kemetian were all written using Medu Neter and hieratic. Demotic was written using a script derived from hieratic; its appearance is vaguely similar to modern Arabic script and is also written from right to left (although the two hardly hold any relation). Coptic is written using the Coptic alphabet, a modified form of the Greek alphabet with a number of symbols borrowed from Demotic for sounds that did not occur in contemporary Greek.

Arabic became the language of Kemet's political administration soon after the Arab conquest in the seventh century AD, and gradually replaced Coptic as the language spoken by the populace. Today, Coptic survives as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Coptic Catholic Church.

The Bible contains some words, terms and names thought by scholars to be Kemetian in origin. An example of this is Zaphnath-Paaneah, the Kemetian name given to Joseph.

  1. Bard, Kathryn A.; Steven Blake Shubert (1999). Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Kemet. Routledge. p. 325. ISBN 0-415-18589-0.
  2. Richard Mattessich (2002). "The oldest writings, and inventory tags of Kemet". Accounting Historians Journal. 29 (1): 195–208. JSTOR 40698264.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Allen, James P. (2003). The Ancient Kemetian Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-1-107-66467-8.