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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cat Square Squiggle God-symbol, 22 Nov 2005
This review is from: How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A step-by-step guide to teach yourself (Hardcover)
Well, what title should I give for a book on Egyptian hieroglyphs?
Actually, the information blurb from the Library Journal linked to the book's entry here states: 'Reference collections desiring more complete coverage will want Alan Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar (1957. 3d ed.) despite some obsolescence in the treatment of the verbal system.'
I actually learned hieroglyphs using that text at the University of London in the 1980s. But I have assembled a collection of more accessible books on how to learn hieroglyphs as refreshers and for sharing. I have four texts, and this was the first of the lot.
If you are truly interested in learning Egyptian hieroglyphs for an upcoming trip to Egypt or to visit a museum with a collection (I amazed a friend once by being able to read an inscription at the museum; I confessed that of the hundreds of 'paragraphs' of hieroglyphs in the collection, that that was one of only two I could decipher without my notebook), Collier and Manley's 'How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs' is a good choice for learning.
It begins with a basic description of the way in which hieroglyphs are used (some signs are words, but actually very few, and others are sound-meaning symbols). Collier and Manley introduce a transliteration system to ease your way into pronunciation (and pronunciation is very sketchy, given the fact there are no recordings from ancient Egypt). Symbols can vary occasionally for sound, meaning, and determinative value.
The pattern of hieroglyphs is also variable. Generally, you always want to 'read into the face', i.e., the picto-glyphs will be facing the direction from which to start -- more often right to left than left to right, and columns go top to bottom. There are no punctuation marks and no word breaks -- this can make meanings hard to decipher.
Consider the example:
IAMNOWHERE
which could be broken into
I AM NOW HERE
or
I AM NOWHERE
and in this case, context might not help provide which meaning is the true one. Or perhaps the author is poetical and sees the trouble of distinction and means that trouble to be present.
No wonder hieroglyphs are hard!
Collier and Manley's book is excellent in basic vocabulary building and basic grammar. And, if you're like me and will make flash cards, you'll become a better draw-er too.
There are exercises, and pictures of inscriptions to practice on, and a key to the exercises in the back of the book.
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