Lingua Aegyptia

Lingua Aegyptia – Studia monographica 15

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Eitan Grossman, Stéphane Polis, Andréas Stauder & Jean Winand (eds.)

On Forms and Functions: Studies in Ancient Egyptian Grammar

LingAeg StudMon 15,
cloth, vi+366 pages
ISSN: 0946-8641
ISBN: 978-3-943955-15-6
Hamburg 2014


This volume is the outcome of a workshop on Ancient Egyptian syntax held in Liège in 2011. The contributions deal with several central topics in syntactic analysis – like coordination, control and raising, gradience, or non-expression of participants – but also investigate the relationship between syntax and other domains, from morphology to pragmatics, with special attention to construction types and grammaticalization processes. The studies cover the whole Ancient Egyptian corpus, from Old Egyptian down to Coptic, in both synchronic and diachronic perspectives. All of the papers share a common concern, namely, the relationship between form and function in Ancient Egyptian grammar. As such, the papers go beyond the descriptive level and address numerous stimulating ‘why?’ questions.


Eitan Grossman & Stéphane Polis Forms and Functions in Ancient Egyptian: A short introduction 1–6
Mark Collier Antiphrastic Questions with ı͗st and ı͗s in Late Egyptian 7–40
Questions with ist and is are analysed as closed antiphrastic questions, in which the proposition directly under question (P) is presented by the speaker as the closed option for elimination, being contrary to the speaker’s expectations, and a polar inverse inference option is invited (I) for the hearer to access the speaker’s intended point of view.
Todd Gillen Ramesside Registers of Égyptien de Tradition: The Medinet Habu inscriptions 41–86
This paper engages the conceptual tool of register to explore the relations between form and function in the historical inscriptions of Ramses III at Medinet Habu. In addition to a synchronic characterisation of the registers in use in view of their situational features and according to linguistic, discourse, and material parameters, the paper also offers a discussion of certain situations of formal identity (one form–many functions) and functional identity (many forms–one function) via a phraseological case study. Thus it is a contribution to the study of both the Medinet Habu texts and the heterogeneity of Ramesside égyptien de tradition.
Eitan Grossman, Guillaume Lescuyer & Stéphane Polis Contexts and Inferences: The grammaticalization of the Later Egyptian Allative Future 87–136
The goal of this paper is to describe the gradual emergence of an innovative future construction in the extant Late Egyptian and Demotic textual material and to discuss the grammaticalization of this construction down to Coptic, where it became a regular future form known as the “First Future” or “Future I”. We propose that, during the grammaticalization process, the selectional restrictions of the construction are relaxed due to the spread of speaker-oriented inferences. As a consequence, new types of subjects and predicates can appear and innovative grammatical meanings associated with future time reference, e.g., prediction, become increasingly entrenched. In a final section, we briefly comment on the future cycles in Ancient Egyptian and propose that the comparative notion of allative future is not only useful for comparing specific patterns across languages, but also within a single language with a lengthy attested history.
Matthias Müller Expressing Necessity in Sahidic Coptic 137–172
The present paper deals with the sub-patterns of a Sahidic Coptic syntactic construction that marks necessity. This consists of an initial element haps, followed in the majority of attested cases by a prepositional phrase comprising the preposition e- plus a verbal pattern called the ‘inflected infinitive’ in Coptological linguistics. In a number of cases, a verbal form called the ‘conjunctive’ or even an independent sentence can be found following the initial element. However, a sub-pattern with the subject element pe can be contrasted with one lacking this element. Based on the diachronic distribution of the patterns, the author proposes a development from a syntactic loan strategy copying a similar Greek pattern — syntactically ‘ungrammatical’ in Coptic — to a pattern amending this situation by inserting the subject element pe.
Elsa Oréal Noun Phrase Syntax and Definiteness Marking: A new explanation for the morphology of Earlier Egyptian participles 173–200
This paper proposes a new analysis of various morphological features characterizing different forms of the participle in Earlier Egyptian: graphemic endings and gemination. In both cases, the proposed explanation is based on the idea that participles may show nominal rather than verbal morphology. Syntactic and functional parameters are identified that may explain the hitherto neglected distribution of and endings, and gemination is shown to be better understood in relationship with discursive and referential properties of the participle itself that can be regarded as involving a form of defineteness marking rather than TAM values.
Stéphane Polis & Andréas Stauder The Verb ı͗b and the Construction ı͗b=f r sḏm: On modal semantics, graphemic contrasts, and gradience in grammar 201–231
Based on graphemic, morphological, syntactic, and semantic evidence, the paper shows that a clear-cut distinction can be made between a verb ib expressing an epistemic judgment (“to think”) and a non-verbal predicative construction ı͗b=f r sm (literally “his heart is towards hearing”), expressing volition (“to want”). In a second step, the volitional construction ı͗b=f r sm is shown to occasionally display features of syntactic gradience, reflecting its quasi-verbal semantics (“volitive agent-oriented modality”): in particular, this construction can combine with a marker of passive voice, a verbal category that is otherwise alien to non-verbal constructions. Problematic late occurrences of the construction ı͗b=f r sm are discussed in turn: in some of these, ı͗b=f may have been subjected to alternative construals as a verb.
Sami Uljas On Earlier Egyptian Control Constructions 233–256
An overview of the syntactic and semantic characteristics of the so-called control constructions attested in Earlier Egyptian. It is shown that in these constructions, where the reference of the subject expression of a subordinate clause is determined by some matrix clause expression, the choice of the controller and the licensing of control in general are based on semantic factors and parameters.
Pascal Vernus La non représentation segmentale du (premier) participant direct (« sujet ») et la notion de ø 257–308
Under the influence of structural linguistics, the notation ø has been integrated into Egyptian linguistics and used in numerous ways. To clarify the situation, ø is here restricted to the cases in which it marks the absence of the (first) immediate participant, i.e., the subject, in a slot in which this participant occurs elsewhere, the slot being defined by the conjunction of both suprasegmental marks and category marks, i.e., the substitution class of the elements that constitute the environment of the participant. Within this scope, ø is attested in the following syntactic environments: clauses with adjectival predicates; clauses with adverbial predicates; some of the verbal forms built on the mould of the adverbial predicate clause construction; Theme+subject verbal forms; and clauses with predicates of non-existence.
In these environments, ø can encode different types of referential status, including cataphoric reference, lexical anaphoric reference, notional anaphoric reference, contextual reference, and non-referential status.
Two trends account for the absence of the immediate participant in the above described environments: a trend towards sparing the segmental parts of a statement by relying on the context, and a trend towards attributing a signified to the absence of signifier. Interestingly enough in a cross-linguistic perspective, one can observe the evolution from pure absence in the slot towards some phonetic materiality. On the one hand, the sm-n=f verb form with ø subject may occur with an adverbial ending, marked in writing by and . On the other hand, jw without any noun or pronoun as subject undergoes a process by which it occurs with a phonetic ending marked in writing by . From these endings arises the new third plural person pronoun =w, as brilliantly shown by E. Edel some fifty years ago.
Daniel A. Werning Uninflected Relative Verb Forms as Converbs and Verbal Rhemes: The two schemes of the Emphatic Construction as a detached adjectival phrase construction and as a truncated Balanced Sentence 309–338
First, it is argued that, in the Second Scheme of the Emphatic Construction, the use of the Uninflected Relative Forms (traditionally “Nominal Verb Forms”) as initial circumstantial clauses is similar to the use of adverbial participles and adverbial relative clauses in other languages. Accordingly, the construction is identified as a detached adjectival verb form construction (here “Detached Relative Form Construction”, DRF-Cx), in which the Uninflected Relative Verb Form serves as a “converb”, i.e., a less inflected, adjectival verb form that is used adverbially. In a second line of thought, it is hypothesized that the Emphatic Construction proper (“First Scheme”) was born from a Verbal Balanced Sentence Construction with two identical Uninflected Relative Forms plus an additional adverbial phrase, in which the second ‘twin’ Uninflected Relative Forms was omitted due to its semantic redundancy. In contrast to earlier accounts, this scenario explains simultaneously a) the construction’s semantic layout, i.e., the sequence ground––focused foreground and the effectively absolute tense interpretation of the Uninflected Relative Form; b) its morphosyntactic layout, i.e., Uninflected Relative Form––adverbial phrase); and c) its paradigmatic fingerprint which is similar to that of Nominal Sentences. Altogether, this analysis takes notably 1) the Adverbial Sentence Construction, 2) the Detached Relative Form Construction (“Second Scheme of the Emphatic Construction”), and 3) the Emphatic Construction proper, alias “Circumstance Focusing Construction” (CF-Cx) as three different, unrelated constructions, –– the latter, i.e. the CF-Cx, however, being related to the Verbal Balanced Sentence, i.e., a Nominal Sentence.
Keywords: Emphatic Construction, Balanced Sentence, Detached Participle Construction, Absolute Participle Construction, Adverbial Participle Construction, Relative clause, Converb, Pragmatic focus, Adverbial Sentence, Great Hymn to the Aten 12.
Jean Winand When and meets with 339–366
After some general considerations regarding NP coordination, this study deals with multiple-subject coordination in Late Egyptian. As the second coordinand is often introduced by a preposition meaning “with” (ḥnꜤ or ı͗rm), a central issue addressed in this paper is the complex inter-relationships between CONJUNCTIVE and COMITATIVE. The final section is devoted to the diachronic relations between ḥnꜤ and ı͗rm.

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