restricted access Chapter 10: Major Egyptian Terms in Greek: Part 1

From: Black Athena

Rutgers University Press colophon
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[CH. 10] MAJOR EGYPTIAN TERMS IN GREEK, 1 245 T his chapter and Chapter 11 treat the ramifications in Greek of a number of terms central to Egyptian civilization. As such, they are precisely those that one should expect to have been exported. It is, therefore, not surprising to find that they do in fact provide many plausible origins for Greek words with no, or only very improbable, IndoEuropean etymologies. 1. NTR/KÅ The hieroglyphic for ntr ≈ (R8) was a cloth wound round a pole, an emblem of divinity used broadly for gods, including deceased monarchs, and for the life force in general. Even more difficult to define is kÅ Ì (D28) “embracing arms”: it is a spirit or one of the Egyptian souls, a manifestation, agent or doppelganger of a person or divinity. Interestingly, ntr and kÅ may well have a common origin. The origin of the Egyptian /t/from an earlier/ky/ and /Å/ as a liquid /r/ or/l/ were discussed in Chapter 8 above.1 Thus one could hypothesize a form * enkera in which originally allophonic variants of /k/ and /ky/ became phonemically distinct and the palatalized variant lost its initial /n/. In fact, the hypothetical proto-form exists in reality as inke\ra and enkera\ “soul, life” in the Central Cushitic languages of Bilen and Kwara. Franz Calice pointed this out in his posthumous work published in 1936. Werner Vycichl MAJOR EGYPTIAN TERMS IN GREEK Part 1 CHAPTER 10 246 BLACK ATHENA dismissed their significance because “these languages resemble Egyptian so little.”2 I do not believe the parallel can be dismissed so easily as it is clear that Cushitic and Chadic languages have preserved many very ancient Afroasiatic features. More recent scholars would do well to follow the great African linguist Karl Meinhof who wrote in 1915: At the present time there is a tendency among philologists to consider some of the “Hamitic” languages of Africa as greatly worn-down Semitic languages. I cannot accept this view. Since the Hamitic languages possess living forms which appear in the Semitic as mere rudimentary survivals, I think we are justified in assuming the former to be more ancient.3 Vycichl was more tolerant when he considered Semitic languages. He drew attention to what he called the “astonishing” correspondence between what he reconstructs as the early Egyptian nati|r and the Ge’ez naki|r “pilgrim, stranger, other” with an adjective manker “miraculous, amazing.”4 Apart from the last, the semantic parallels are far less impressive than the phonetic ones from Bilen and Kwara. Ntr > [Anqo", etc. In their critique of my work, Jasanoff and Nussbaum found my proposal that ntr was “given five different phonetic treatments in Greek” to be absurd and outrageous.5 Parallels from varying manifestations of Chinese loans into Japanese or Romance loans into English, however, make the number in itself unexceptionable. For instance, English has borrowed often and separately from two Vulgar Latin words: camera “arch, vault” and cantare “to sing.” From camera comes “chamber” through the French and the legal term in camera through Italian. From camera obscura (darkened room with a double lens as the only source of light) we derive the modern photographic apparatus called a “camera.” Even more phonetically distinct derivations come from cantare: whining “cant” from Northern French; “cantata” from the Italian; “chant” and, finally, “sea shanty,” said to be from the Modern French imperative chantez.6 In these cases we have a reasonably detailed knowledge of the development of Romance dialects and the periods of borrowings. If all we knew were the Latin canere “to sing” and camera “vault” and the English “chant,” “cant,” “cantata” “shanty,” and “chamber” and “camera ,” we would merely have groups of words with vague semantic and phonetic resemblances without the precise regularities traditional Indo- [CH. 10] MAJOR EGYPTIAN TERMS IN GREEK, 1 247 Europeanists require. Yet, they are all certain borrowings from Romance languages!7 For an east Asian parallel, see the character for “lark” or “pipit” pronounced lìu in modern Chinese. It has eight different on (Chinese) readings in Japanese; ryu– ru, bo–, hyu–, mu, kyu, gu, and ryo–. Thus, unlike Jasanoff and Nussbaum, I have no difficulty in believing that the Egyptian ntr, which is more complicated phonetically than the prototype of lìu, could have had “five distinct phonetic treatments.” Therefore, we should look at the proposed etymologies from ntr individually . The most important proposed derivation, that of the Greek ánthos requires some explanation. The Indo-European etymology claimed...