The project investigates the semantic structure and the diachronic change of Ancient Egyptian spatial terms and constructions from a typological perspective.
In the sub-project ‘The loss of spatial prepositions‘, Frank Kammerzell researches the omission as well as the erosion and loss of Egyptian prepositions and the subsequent syntactic reanalyses (3rd mill. BCE-2nd mill. CE).
In the sub-project ‘The semantic space of spatial prepositions‘, Daniel Werning is researching the space of simple prepositions on a semantic map of static spatial relations. He compares the use of spatial prepositions in Hieroglyphic Ancient Egyptian (3rd-1st mill. BCE; Fig. 1-a) with that in English (Fig. 1-b), German, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and – in cooperation with Dr. Ulrike Steinert – in Akkadian. For further information, see this feature.
In her PhD project in C-I-1, Eliese-Sophia Lincke studying spatial adverbs and the typological classification of motion events in Coptic (1st-2nd mill. CE), the last phase of the Egyptian language. Spatial adverbs in the Coptic material may be evidence of an atypical typological shift in Egyptian from the verb-framed pattern in former phases to the satellite-framed pattern.
Humboldt Fellow and former Topoi Junior Fellow Camilla Di Biase-Dyson is researching the use and diachronic change of spatio-temporal prepositions in Egyptian, i.e. of those prepositions simultaneously that have spatial as well as temporal meanings, from a functional and cognitive perspective.
Fig. 1: The semantic space of simple static prepositions in Hieroglyphic Ancient Egyptian (a) and English (b) (Daniel Werning)
Space and spatial relations are not only cognitively processed in the human brain but can also be verbally expressed in language. The domain of space in language comprises the (static) localisation of a figure with respect to a ground and the change of location of a figure with respect to a ground. The latter is called a motion event. My PhD thesis studies the means used by the Egyptian language (2500 BC – 1600 AD, esp. in the Coptic stage from 300 AD) to verbalize motion events.
Languages vary considerably in their way of encoding a change of location. English, for instance, prefers verbs like creep, run, or climb that encode manner of motion and particles like down, up, out to encode path. Other languages like the Romance family do not make abundant use of manner-of-motion verbs and don´t usually use extra morphemes to express path information either. In the past 25 years, much research has been conducted in linguistic typology (and other disciplines) in order to analyse and compare the inventories and preferences in encoding strategies of motion events in the world´s languages and to extrapolate their cognitive repercussions.
In the long attestation period of the Egyptian language there is evidence of a change in its preferred motion encoding strategy. I analyse the way to express motion events in Coptic – the latest stage of the Egyptian language – particularly on the basis of a text corpus from the 3rd/4th centuries AD that consist of 13 papyrus codices found near Nag Hammadi (the Nag Hammadi library). In a second step, I will trace the diachronic changes in the preferred motion event encoding strategy in order to demonstrate the typological shift that can be observed.
Frank Kammerzell ist Professor für Archäologie und Kulturgeschichte Nordostafrikas an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Er beschäftigt sich mit Phonologie, Morphologie, Syntax und Lexik der Ägyptischen Sprache, Sprachgeschichte und diachroner Typologie des Ägyptischen, Sprachkontakt und Sprachverwandtschaft, Entstehung, System, Gebrauch und Geschichte von Schrift, der Geschichte der Karer in Ägypten sowie Forschungsgeschichte. Mit seinen Forschungen trägt er zur Arbeit der Gruppe “The Conception of Spaces in Language” (C-I-1) bei.