Re: Egyptian Demotic

From: ROSMORDUC Serge (
Date: Thu May 25 2006 - 14:38:44 CDT

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    Raymond Mercier a écrit :

    > I have been wondering why there is nothing as yet in Unicode for
    > Egyptian Demotic. Unlike the great mass of Hieroglyphic forms, the
    > Demotic is relatively modest in scope, and comparable with Coptic. The
    > list in Spiegelberg's Demotische Grammatik has only 27 consonants,
    > which, with sign variants, amounts to some 45 signs. I wonder if
    > anyone has been making proposals ?
    > Raymond Mercier

    If one wants to encode the translitteration of demotic, the problem is
    not that complex. Currently, there is more or less a standard about it.
    I haven't had a close look at it, but after the addition of the signs
    needed for translitterating hieroglyphs (mostly in this case the
    Egyptological Aleph and the ayin), we would have a unicode system fit
    for demotic.

    Now, encoding the demotic script itself is a completely different thing.
    The number of glyphs in demotic is lower than in hieroglyphs (but far
    exceed 45, which only corresponds to the "alphabetic" signs), but, as
    far as I know, there is still a lack for a reasonably complete
    paleography and catalog of sign (plus one has also to account for
    diacronic variations) . A paleography has recently been published, but
    there's still lots of work to do on the subject. Moreover, quite a few
    of those glyphs correspond to multiple characters.

    On a language like demotic, there are serious issues about glyphs vs.
    characters. To summarize, some demotic signs are ligatures, which
    represents a number of different group. If the word is not identified
    well, the *glyph* might be identifiable, but the corresponding characters
    might be ambiguous. Worse, in lots of cases, the glyph itself is not
    completely recognisable. So, encoding actual texts is quite tricky.

    Encoding words for grammatical works and the like might be more
    reasonable (but there is still the problem of diachronic variants, which
    is quite relevant for ancient languages. The whole "we encode
    characters, not glyphs" rule simply doesn't match the needs of scholars
    in such fields.

    A last problem for encoding demotic is that the number of demoticists is
    quite low. There are quite a lot of people who can read hieroglyphs on
    this planet. The number of people proficient in demotic might be around
    one hundred or two.

    Now, I'm not saying it can't be done, and I would certainly be
    interested to have a close look at it. But it's certainly not trivial.


    S. Rosmorduc

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