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When looking up a Middle Egyptian word, it's usually not too hard to find the consonants: for example, if I look up U2 Aa11 D36 X1 C10 in Dickson's or Gardiner's dictionary, they tell me it means "rightness", and the consonant phonemes are m-ꜣ-ꜥ-t (that is, something like /mʔʕt/).

However, no dictionary I've found lists the vowels, even in cases when we can be fairly certain of them. In this case, the word is transcribed into Akkadian as mu-a (in names like Nimmuaria), which seems like good evidence that the vowels were /u/ and /a/.

Is there a standard reference work for cases like this, where I can look up U2 Aa11 D36 X1 C10 and see the reconstructed vocalization alongside the consonants?

P.S. I'm most interested in Middle Egyptian, but if such a work exists for a different stage of the language, that's also good to know about!

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  • it's obviously a secondary (rather than scholarly) source, but wiktionary has reconstructed pronunciations for many Egyptian words. Unfortunately most are unsourced so it's hard to assess their accuracy
    – Tristan
    Jun 3, 2020 at 14:38

3 Answers 3

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You say 'if such a work exists for a different stage of the language, that's also good to know about!'. Well Coptic (the last stage of Egyptian) is plentifully written with vowels, because the Egyptians migrated from the hieroglyph-based writing system to an alphabetical one around the turn of the christian era. A google search for 'coptic dictionary' should find you one. As far as Middle Egyptian goes and as far as I know there is no such book. It is waiting to be written. Takacs has begun an etymological dictionary which by its nature considers vowels, however he has not got through the alphabet (yet?). As well as the work by Takacs, Loprieno and Vycichi (which I didn't know - thank you Arnaud), Peust is worth reading on Middle Egyptian phonology (although he does write in German).

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Attempts at reconstructing the actual vowels of Egyptian can be found in Loprieno's and also in Vycichl's books.

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  • Thank you! Unfortunately, while Loprieno goes into wonderful detail on the vowel system, and covers examples like mu-a in the main body of the text, the lexicon in the back includes only consonants. (I haven't been able to find Vycichl's work yet so I can't comment on that one.)
    – Draconis
    Jul 22, 2019 at 20:30
  • See also fr.scribd.com/doc/148293184/…
    – user23769
    Jul 23, 2019 at 5:43
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As of 2020, the Madùwwe Project has released ThotBank, a database of information on Egyptian words including reconstructed vocalizations from a few different sources. For example, searching for rmṯ shows that Vycichl 1983 reconstructs it as *rāmiṯ, while Osing 1976 gives *r'a:mvṯ.

It's not perfect—many nouns and verbs have no reconstruction given, and the sources for the reconstructed forms are sometimes not the most recent—but it's the best reference I've found so far.

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  • An unfortunate name...
    – siride
    Jan 8, 2022 at 14:03

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