Peust, Carsten
Egyptian phonology: an introduction to the phonology of a dead language — Göttingen, 1999

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Consonants

i.i

Egyptian stops: preliminary remarks

In most Afroasiatic languages stops have three manners of articulation, namely voice-
less, voiced, and emphatic. This is true for Semitic (emphatic stops are lacking in modern
Hebrew and some peripheral dialects of Modern Arabic), Berber, Chadic, and Cushitic
(some Cushitic languages do not have emphatic stops).

In Earlier Egyptian, stops had four places of articulation and likewise appear to have had
three manners of articulation, which is most evident for the dental stops. While it is
possible to assign the Egyptian stops to three classes representing manners of articula-
tion, let us postpone the question of what these manners of articulation actually were
until §3.2.
We can arrange the stops of Earlier Egyptian as follows:



labial

dental

palatal

velar

w

<P>

<t>

<t>

<k>

(a)

1

<d>

<d>

<q>> <K>

(3)

<b>

<S

<i>?

?

The assignment of single phonemes to one of the articulation classes rests on several
pieces of evidence. Note particularly:

• The members of row (l) are written as aspirates, the members of row (2) as non-
aspirated stops in Bohairic Coptic.

• The fact that <k> was palatalized to <t> (Kg* §§3.9.1 and 3.9.2) - and not, for
example, to <d> — confirms the assumption that <k> and <t> share the same manner of
articulation.

* The fronting <t> > <t> and <d> > <d> (K§° § 3.9.7) confirms that <t> and <t> share one
manner of articulation, as do <d> and <d>.

* All members of row (3) appear as spirants in the later stages of the language, but at
least for <b> and <c> there is evidence that they were originally stops. The assignment
of <j> to this class is hypothetical and will not be discussed further in this book.64

It is disputed at which time stops of class 3 developed into spirants. I argue that both <b>
and <S (=/d/) probably remained stops until the Middle Kingdom. Occasionally they are
preserved as n and T respectively even in Coptic (US' §§ 3.12.4 an^ 3.6.2).

64 For a possible etymological connection of <j> to Afroasiatic /g/ see Schenkel (1990:
51) and Schneider (1997: 193).

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