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Reducing Polyvalency In Writing Systems: From Egyptian To Meroitic

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Chapter Summary

The concept of polysemy is originally used in lexical semantics, where it "refers to the situation in which a lexical item has more than one meaning". Meroitic was the language of the successive kingdoms of Kush, the Ancient Sudan, along the Middle Nile, roughly from the first Cataract up to the region of Khartoum. Apart from some names of places, kings and gods, and from rare Egyptian loanwords and titles, such as "priest", "envoy" or "general", no more than three dozens of indigenous words could be translated with certainty. Polyvalency of the original Egyptian hieroglyphs used by Napatan scribes for apical consonants was solved this way by specializing polygraphic signs and modifying an original sign. The development of the Meroitic script displays many common features with its counterparts in other civilizations. In that respect, polyvalency in Meroitic writing system is a particularly significant approach.

Keywords: Egyptian; Meroitic; Napatan; polysemy; polyvalency; writing system



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