So I've begun teaching myself Hieroglyphic Egyptian with James Allen's introduction. He presents a table of transcriptions in European format (he has one with computer, budge, British, and proto-Semitic transcriptions on the next page.) So it goes something like this. (i'm showing names and symbol names.)

Vulture Aleph, Reed Leaf (Nothing), Dual Strokes j, Double reed-leaf y, etc...

The problem is the reed leaf does not have a transcription or name. It also would not make any sense for it to be either the transcription of dual strokes or the vulture. In all the other cases, he adds an "or" at the end of the line. So in his table it would be.

Owl or Unknown Object w

So what's going on with the reed leaf?

3 Answers 3


You are probably reading James Allen's "Middle Egyptian. An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs", 3rd Edition, 2014, because both in the 1st Edition (2000) and in the 2nd one (2010) he has those signs this way:

(vulture) aleph

(reed-leaf); also (dual strokes) j

(double reed-leaf) y


(owl); also (unknown object) w

That is, every pair of the signs that are transliterated the same ways has ; also separator in it.

Unfortunately, I have no access to the 2014 3rd Edition, so if you (or somebody else) could post here a snapshot of that page, that would help answer your question in a more definite way, but still I am sure that is just a kind of a typography fault, for I doubt that the transliteration (I guess, that's the right term to be used here) of an Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph could change radically during the last 4 years.

  • Yes, his table is off then. I think he also uses the word transcription in the table (another error probably.) Perhaps I just misread that though. Not too impressed with the 2014 3rd edition now :( Thank you so much for the help! It's really hard teaching yourself Hieroglyphic without people to answer questions. I'm still too young to be in college so I have little access to Egyptologists as well. Thanks :) Oct 23, 2014 at 2:27

The reed leaf is transcribed as a 'j'. If you go to page 18 Allen explains that the reed leaf is not actually a consonant but a way to show that there should be a vowel. We have no idea what that vowel is. The dual stroke is exactly the same but appears only at the end of a word to show should be a vowel.

Therefore both the single reed leaf and the dual stroke a 'j' is used when transcribing.

I hope this helps.


Have you thoughht of learning through Glyph study? It's a Yahoo self-help group where Middle Egyptian is studied. https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/GlyphStudy/info

  • That sounds great. Maybe I'll join this summer when I have more time. I'm currently a High School Student, so my hobbies like Egyptology and Philosophy are not on the forefront of my priorities list, and it sounds like a dedicated group, so I'd imagine time constraints would be hard for me currently. Thank you so much for the pointer :) Feb 13, 2015 at 16:35

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