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I've already asked about how to rewrite the hieroglyphs using Unicode, which requires using Gardiner's List (over 1000 hieroglyphs). However, if you look at Wikipedia's Transliterating Ancient Egyptian, there is only a short table of say 30 hieroglyphs (compared to the 1000 in Gardiner's). How do you romanize the remaining 1000+ glyphs? Are ancient Egyptian glyph sequences mostly sequences of Word-Glyphs, or of Sound-Glyphs? Or a mixture? Or how does that work?

Without going to the books yet, this seems to suggest that most of the glyphs are for words or phrases, such as 𓀉 for wrdj meaning "to be tired or weak". But how do they know it sounds like that? (That's a tangent question). The main question is how do you take any arbitrary sequence of hieroglyphs and convert it to a (however rough) romanization? I get that there are "as many systems for romanizing ancient Egyptian as there are egyptologists", but picking some decent system, how do they do it for all the Gardiner's list. I don't need to have an answer outlining every transliteration, just where to look or how it works is all.

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    You've got to know the Ancient Egyptian language to be able to transliterate Ancient Egyptian texts because its spelling is complicated, a hieroglyphs can stand for a word (what it depicts) or can be used phonetically or it can be a partial reading of another hieroglyph standing nearby (support reading). The chart of all the hieroglyphs with their readings can be found in any Ancient Egyptian language textbook. – Yellow Sky Sep 28 '19 at 5:54
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because lack and ignorance of basic research – jk - Reinstate Monica Sep 28 '19 at 17:33
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(Foreword: if you want to be pedantic, this will be a transcription or a bound transcription, representing the phonemes as best we can, but not necessarily representing the orthography.)

The list you've found on Wikipedia are the uniliteral signs. Each of these originally represented a single consonant phoneme in the standard dialect (though this changed over time). They don't quite represent the whole phonemic inventory (see Loprieno for details), but they're reasonably close.

But then in addition to those are biliteral signs, which represent pairs of consonant phonemes. For example, Gardiner H6 represents the pair šw. And triliteral signs, which represent triplets of consonant phonemes, like Gardiner L1 xpr. And logograms, which represent specific words, like Gardiner N14 "star" (sbꜣ). And determinatives, which aren't pronounced but disambiguate between words with the same consonants. There are a lot—being a scribe wasn't easy!

The main question is how do you take any arbitrary sequence of hieroglyphs and convert it to a (however rough) romanization?

This is going to be a disappointing answer, but: look it up. Good dictionaries will let you look up words and phrases by Gardiner number and tell you the relevant consonant sequences. I've found Dickson's dictionary especially good for this, since it's available as a PDF that you can Ctrl-F through.

But how do they know it sounds like that? (That's a tangent question).

Now this is the interesting bit! It's a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: the first steps involved figuring out the uniliterals using translated names. We know "Ptolemy" was written like this, so this sign must be p, and this sign must be l…and then we sometimes find names written with biliterals and triliterals, and can piece together what those must mean…and eventually use those to figure out the meanings of logograms, since the word for "star" is sometimes spelled with the single sign N14 and sometimes with a series of uniliterals and biliterals.

It was an enormously complicated undertaking! One of the reasons the Rosetta Stone is so famous is because it's what made the first steps possible, and everything built up from there.

  • I was going to post this as a separate question but probably would be downvoted. Do you know if this Egyptian word dictionary has standard pronuncations? Is it based on anything? Are the transliterations normalized enough so as to be able to convert them into IPA? For example on the first page, words Ais, or phrase pt m Aiw, are there standard pronunciations that you could build up / derive from these transliterations? I think it is based on this. – Lance Pollard Dec 5 '20 at 3:05
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    @LancePollard At first glance both dictionaries look reasonable; they're using the transliteration system from the Manuel de Codage, a standard way of converting transliterated Egyptian to ASCII. But in general, Egyptian writing only indicates the consonants of the words; figuring out the vowels (which you'll need to get useful IPA) is significantly more complicated. – Draconis Dec 5 '20 at 3:37

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