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Some important rules for how to read the Egyptian Hieroglyphic texts:

by Dr. Ossama Alsaadawi


I. Direction of reading the Egyptian Hieroglyphs:

Direction of reading Hieroglyphs is from right to left as in Hebrew and Arabic, because most of AE Hieroglyphic texts are written (truly) from right to left (R>L). Few examples are: Palermo Stone, Pyramid Texts, Book of the Dead (BOD), Rosetta Stone, Obelisk Texts, etc. However, Egyptian Hieroglyphic words could also be written from left to right as we notice in few texts. Egyptian words could be written from up to down as well, as in the case of Pyramid Texts or Book of the Dead. It is not allowed to change physical or written construction of the Hieroglyphic words, reversing direction of writing, adding or removing some signs even if they are very simple. Scientific honesty implies that Egyptian Hieroglyphic words should be recopied or rewritten as they were originally reported in their genuine Egyptian records and sources.

The single Egyptian word  or expression could include both horizontal and vertical writing in the same time, the reason for this is to save enough space for writing on the rocks and hard stones. And for the same reason some signs could be written inside each other .. please see the following examples. Also beauty  of the writing form plays a role in this regard.




II. Nature of the Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic writings:

The written Ancient Egyptian Language is not alphabetic. So, one can't read or (write) Egyptian words using a series of simple letters or phonemes. It depends solely on bilateral phonetic signs. Therefore, any Egyptian word could be written in a variety of ways depending on what proper bilateral signs should be used.  

III. Reading Rules:

The following important rules and remarks should be followed **strictly** for the sake of correct reading (and writing) of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic texts, taken from the 'Alsaadawi's Theory On True Hieroglyphs':

1. The sequence of reading successive signs should be followed exactly, and there is no exception for that.

It means that one could never read the second or third sign then return to read the first sign. This is an absolute ERROR.

2. There are two groups of basic Egyptian Hieroglyphs:

a. The **Phonemes** group given by the following table:


b. The **Bilateral** phonetic groups.

Please, see   < Dictionary >   and  < Common Hieroglyphic Words >

**All** basic Egyptian Hieroglyphic graphemes have only **bilateral** phonetic values. 'Compound' graphemes only, which consist of two or more basic graphemes, could have trilateral or more phonetic values.

3. From theoretical point of view all bilateral phonetic Hieroglyphs could be read in mirror form like (rb / br) or (bn / nb) or (Hr / rH) and so on. It depends on the context of the word in a sentence.

4. **All** Egyptian Hieroglyphs have certain and specified phonetic values. There are **NO** so called pure 'indicative' signs or 'ideograms' or 'ideographs'!

It means that 'EVERY' AE Hieroglyph should have a specified phonetic value which **should** be used as an integral part of the pronunciation of the word or the sentence following also the proper sequence of the signs.

5. The correct phonetic values of the AE Hieroglyphs should be **strictly** followed and pronounced without any trial to change their vowels or utterances.

6. There are two sets of **motorizing** phonemes or 'letters':

a. The **short-form** group which includes the phonemes:


Including all their sub-tones or vowels.

b. The **full-form** group which includes the whole AE phonemes given in the table AT-1 shown above, including all their sub-tones or vowels.

7. There are two sets of vowels for reading the AE Hieroglyphic texts that should be **strictly** followed without and any 'exception' :

a. The independent vowel system: ( a - i - u )

b. The embedded vowel system: like for instance ( ma - mi - mu )