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emk
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 Message 945 of 1317
19 February 2014 at 2:00pm | IP Logged 
My favorite method of learning a language is to puzzle things out using context, and maybe some helpful hints. This is probably why I like Assimil so much. Assimil provides graded, bilingual texts, as well as audio and the occasional grammatical explanation.

Today I’ll be finishing lessons 39 and 40 in L’Égyptien hiéroglyphique, and I thought this would be a nice time to walk through an actual Assimil lesson, and show you the “thought process”, if you will. Keep in mind that I’ve already seen quite a few lessons at this point, so I’m familiar with much of the material below.

This lesson has been translated into English, and I’ve replaced Assimil’s rather odd transliterations with Manuel de Codage equivalents. Unfortunately, any budding Egyptologist is going to have to learn to translate between 3 or 4 transliteration systems on the fly. Happily, this is quite easy: the differences are small and easily puzzled out from context. As usual, my glosses make a vague attempt to adhere to the Leipzig glossing rules. Assimil’s original French glosses are much more informal, of course.

Assimil L’Égyptien hiéroglyphique lesson 39

 
ky | Sri
monkey | little
The Little Monkey

In the lesson title itself, we get two useful words: “monkey” and “little.” We’ll see these below, with various endings for plural, feminine, and so on.

     
mT | ky.w | m-m | smA.w
look.IMP.F.PCLE | monkey-MPL | among | branch-MPL
Look, the monkeys are among the branches.

The mT is sort of halfway between an imperative and a grammatical particle. You could translate it as a more formal version of “Hey,” and it wouldn’t be too far off. The masculine version is mk. Later in this line, we can also see the masculine plural ending .w.

   
iw=sn | m | hA(i).t
PCLE=they.3PL | in | go.down-INF
They're going down

We start with iw, which doesn’t really translate. It’s even weaker than mT/mk, and it shows up whenever the sentence template requires a particle, and we don’t have anything better to use. We often hang a suffix pronoun off of it; in this case, =sn “they.”

The preposition m “in” followed by an infinitive carries an aspect of being “unfinished.” This can be translated as either an English progressive with “-ing” or as being “about to do something.” The infinitive hA(i).t ends in the weak consonant i, so it gets an extra .t in the infinitive form.

Assimil tends to explain these little details as we go along. But they rarely provide any big picture overview, which is good for some people and disasterous for others. This is why I recommend picking up a slim grammar book to go with Assimil courses whenever possible.

   
r | Ssp | dqr.w
towards | take.INF | fruit-MPL
to get fruit.

Here, the infinitive Ssp is written without a .t because it has a strong triliteral root. As with Arabic and Hebrew, Egyptian is written without vowels.

           
iw | sA.t | Sri.t | Hr | dg(i).t | r | Sri
PCLE | child-F | little-F | on | look.for-INF | towards | little
The younger daughter is looking for the little [monkey],

And here we see the femine ending .t on sA.t Sri.t. The masculine version would be sA Sri. The preposition Hr works like m did above; it gives us an incomplete or progressive sense. (Verbs of motion tend to prefer m, but aspect also seems to play a role.) The final Sri is a bare adjective standing in for a noun, much like the French le petit or the English “the little one.”

     
nn | sw.t | Sri | m-Hr-ib=sn
NEG | however | little | in-on-heart=they.3PL
But there isn't a little [monkey] among them.

And a negation! Plus the handy work sw.t. Assimil really packs in lots of useful turns of phrase, so it’s worth keeping our eyes open.

Using Assimil

As you can see, my goal is basically to “absorb” each lesson. I don’t actually memorize it, because that’s overkill, but I try to make sure I can read the raw hieroglyphs and understand this one, familiar text. In a living language, I also make sure I can understand most of the audio with my eyes closed before moving on.

Because I mostly learn by looking at examples, I appreciate the way that Assimil focuses on Egyptian texts, and treats everything else as secondary. I like this far better than “traditional” textbooks, which have an unfortunate tendency to have huge amounts of English text and only tiny bits of the actual foreign language. (However, if you’re looking for a more traditional textbook, Allen’s Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs is one of the finest language textbooks I’ve seen, for any language, and I recommend it highly.)

The last I heard from Assimil’s Twitter account, they’re hoping to release L’Égyptien hiéroglyphique with an English base in 2015. For another fun glossing exercise, see my recent post in the Egyptian team thread.

Edited by emk on 19 February 2014 at 2:08pm

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emk
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 Message 946 of 1317
23 February 2014 at 12:38am | IP Logged 
Just arrived. Some new reading material:

Blacksad : Quelque part entre les ombres (BD). If you love film noir, you need to check this out. The protagonist is a talking cat, the art is marvelous, and the writing is top-notch. The first volume is a complete story, but if you like it, there are several more volumes available. You can rent it for 1.99€ on Izneo. Seriously, this is worth a look.

Paul dans le métro (BD). I haven't looked at this yet, but the Paul series is always brilliant, and it's always full of great little details about life in Quebec. If you like little slice-of-life stories, check out this series.

Alter Ego : Fouad (BD). I've only read a few pages of this. It appears to be part 1 or 1 6-part thriller. It's not as

Chroniques du monde émergé : L'intégral (book, fiction). This a three-part fantasy epic translated from Italian. It's supposedly a young adult novel, and it has some nice dust-jacket blurbs. And since the first couple of pages seemed reasonable, I figured why not?

Syndicalistes ou voyous ? (Crime et bâtiment) (book, non-fiction). This was written two former union leaders from Quebec. It actually looks pretty entertaining and opinionated, with tons of dirt on commercial construction.

What's up with MdV? Seriously. I have a copy of their Les aventures de Sinouhé, an interlinear hieroglyphic/transliterated/French edition of the classic Egyptian tale. This is the sort of translation which can't just come out and write "Ra" for 𓇳 ra, choosing instead to translate it as Le Verbe en acte. Everything is smothered under a layer of gratuitous, long-winded mysticism.

Anyway, I read about ~70 lines of hieroglyphs this morning, with much help from hierogl.ch and the overwrought translations. This would count as 2 pages towards the 100-page dead languages challenge, so I think this challenge should be doable.

I also spent a few minutes designing the challenge tracker. I'll announce the official start and end date soon.
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emk
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 Message 947 of 1317
23 February 2014 at 5:26pm | IP Logged 
The tale of Sinuhe, R67, B43–45

I found this passage on page 70 of André Fermat’s Les aventures de Sinouhé. As I mentioned above, I’m not fond of this translation, because it tends to overdramatize things: “Ra” is translated as “the Word in Act,” and all sorts of other foolishness. But at least it’s a bilingual interlinear edition, which saves me a lot of dictionary time.

The following passage caught my eye, because there were quite a few complicated things going on. So I decided to put my extensive reading on hold and do a bit of intensive work. Here’s Fermat’s translation, which I’ve translated in turn into English:

Quote:
Alors, il me dit : « Comment ce pays existera-t-il en son absence de ce dieu efficient dont la crainte s’était répandue à travers les pays étrangers comme la Terrifiante (Sekhmet) lors de l’année de pestilence ? »

So he said to me, “How does that country exist in his abscence of that efficient god of which the fear is spread throughout the foreign countries like the Terrifying (Sekhmet) during the year of pestilence?

   
aHa.n | Dd.n=f | xft=i
then | say-PRF=he | before=me
Then he said, before me,

I hadn’t seen xft before. Nice. Note the signs are written out-of-order as xtf, presumably to save space.

         
wnn | ir=f | tA | pf | mi | m
exist | as.for=it.M | land | that.M | like | what
"So that land exists how,

The Egyptian verb wnn “to exist” is rather tricky—it has all sorts of grammatical functions that I haven’t grasped yet. As usual, I’ve translated ir=f as “so,” which seems to be the most common meaning of this expression. I hadn’t seen m “who, what” yet; it’s nice to pick up some question words.

     
m-xmt=f | nTr | pf | mnx
without=him | god | this.M | efficient
without him, that efficient god,

Most translators choose “efficient” here, but my dictionary also gives “powerful.” My apologies for the rather indelicate sign used to spell mt; it’s used phonetically here.

     
wnn.w | snD=f | xt | xAs.wt
exist-IMPERFECTIVE | fear=his.3MSG | throughout | foreign.lands-FPL
fear of whom exists throughout foreign lands

Allen actually uses this exact sentence as an example of a possessive relative:

Quote:
3) A possessive

The antecedent occasionally is identical with a suffix pronoun attached as possessive to a noun in the relative clause. English normally requires the translation of such clauses with the relative word whose or of whom, without an expressed co-referent…

I don’t really get this yet, but I imagine that things will become clear with more examples.

     
mi | sxm.t | (m) rnp.t | idw
like | Sekhmet | (in) year-F | plague
like Sekhmet in the year of the plague?

According to Fermat, the word m “in” appears in several manuscripts. Reading his translator’s notes, I get the impression that Egyptian scribes struggled with some parts of this manuscript: there are words which are different in every extant copy, as if those the scribes were guessing and trying to make sense out of what they were reading.

Remember, Middle Egyptian is a bit like Latin: Long after all the native speakers were dead, it was used as the standard written language of an educated class. Many scribes, and even writers, were working in their L2. And the cursive hieratic script is not always as legible as might be desired.

Conclusion

This seems like a good strategy for me at this point: Do some extensive reading with bilingual editions, and when I encounter a passsage which looks especially interesting, drill down and figure out what’s going on. Today, I learned about m “who, what”, the preposition xft “before, in face of” and possessive relatives. Not bad for a short passage!

But only a small fraction of the text is worth this kind of detailed attention. Normally I just read the bilingual edition and occasionally look up a word in the dictionary.
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emk
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 Message 948 of 1317
24 February 2014 at 3:30pm | IP Logged 
Back from Montreal!

I just returned from another weekend in Montreal. This time, just for fun, I decided to try puzzling out the local rules for language choice: When I could observe that people were clearly anglophones (based on their choice of language among themselves), I greeted them in English. Otherwise I went with my French default.

While there, I spent ~$110 at Renaud-Bray. And I had time for a little reading:

Les aventures de Sinouhé, about 100 lines (equivalent to ~4 pages). This seems to have been a popular work in ancient Egypt, and Wikipedia claims the author has been called an "Egyptian Shakespeare." But so far, I'm not impressed: It's basically little 10-line chunks of action separated by 35-line chunks of praising the old Pharaoh, praising the new Pharaoh, and pointing out how generally awesome Sinuhe is. Basically, it appears to be an ancient Gary Stu fic. It has neither the simple charm of the Westcar papyrus (magic wax crocodiles!) nor the structural brilliance of The Eloquent Peasant, which weaves a comic "framing" tale around a series of speeches on the importance of justice. Still, at least I'm learning a lot about what the Egyptians considered to be an awesome, admirable life.

Le Monde émergé, chapter 1. Wow, this is actually quite promising so far. The main character is a sword-loving tomboy (garçon manqué) raised by her father, a smith. The first chapter established her character, and her relation with her father, and it did so quite deftly. Students of Italian may want to look for the original.

Blacksad, volume 1. I am officially hooked.
Sanctuaire, volume 1 & 2. I've got to get volume 3.
La Main gauche de la nuit (ebook), a few pages. LeGuin is always excellent, even in translation.

Speaking French continues to be somewhat hit or miss. Sometimes I can handle almost anything; at other times, my fluency falls apart. There's never any question as to whether I can express anything I need to express, but sometimes, I demand a bit too much patience from my listeners.

But whenever my French sucks, I've taken to performing a quick little sanity-check: I close my eyes, and ask myself if I'm tired. If the answer is, "Wow, I can barely stand up," well, then I have my explanation. And this is almost always the cause: if I can't string together a coherent sentence in French, it's usually because I need to sleep for a week. Parenting can be like this, sometimes. :-)

One cool thing I've noticed: my brain associates languages with certain people and places, and merely driving into Montreal is enough to toggle my thought process into French.
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emk
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 Message 949 of 1317
27 February 2014 at 12:32pm | IP Logged 
Today, a bit of French media.

La legende de Korra, season 1, book 1. Overall? An excellent 12 episodes, although they felt very rushed. There were more cardboard villains, and plenty of story lines were far too compressed. But at 5 minutes before the end, it looked like we were being set up for an excellent follow-up half season—the Avatar weakened, great losses taken, a villain or two still loose. The final five minutes, though, wrapped everything up almost ridiculously. Still, La legende de Korra always suffers by comparison to L'Avatar, which was arguably one of the very best children's animated series ever made. Worth watching if you liked the original series, but don't get your hopes too high.

Le Monde emergé. I've read about a third of the first book, and I'm really enjoying this so far. It's very solid epic fantasy for young adults. There's plenty of advanced vocabulary, but thanks to my earlier fantasy reading, and my two months of serious SRS Collector/Anki work, I know almost all the advanced vocabulary. It's a nice, fast read, which is good, because I have almost 1,200 pages in this doorstop volume. The original version is Italian, and there are translations to French, Portuguese, and maybe one other language?

This is one of my major takeaways from learning French and doing the Super Challenge: It's possible to really enjoy foreign language TV and foreign language novels with only a few missed lines of dialog, or a few missed words here and there. And while the price may seem high as a beginner, it's still ridiculously low: it took me a few dozen novels, and a stack of multi-season DVD box sets to reach this point. Input may not be the whole story, but I can't imagine reaching this point without lots of it.
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Iversen
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 Message 950 of 1317
27 February 2014 at 1:59pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

     
wnn.w | snD=f | xt | xAs.wt
exist-IMPERFECTIVE | fear=his.3MSG | throughout | foreign.lands-FPL
fear of whom exists throughout foreign lands

Allen actually uses this exact sentence as an example of a possessive relative:

Quote:
3) A possessive

The antecedent occasionally is identical with a suffix pronoun attached as possessive to a noun in the relative clause. English normally requires the translation of such clauses with the relative word whose or of whom, without an expressed co-referent…

I don’t really get this yet, but I imagine that things will become clear with more examples.


I don't study Egyptian, but this caught my attention because Allen's formulation implies that an antecedent is a subordinate element within a relative clause - and that would be weird indeed! Could you quote the complete sentence in which you found the quote? Preferably with a hyperliteral translation - otherwise I don't understand any-. My guess is that there is an antecedent outside the quote, and that it is the relative element which is expressed as a suffix pronoun.

Edited by Iversen on 27 February 2014 at 2:04pm

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akkadboy
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 Message 951 of 1317
27 February 2014 at 2:31pm | IP Logged 
Allen doesn't mean that the antecedent and the suffix pronoun are the same word but that the antecedent is mentioned again in the relative clause by the use of a suffixe pronoun. French egyptologists call this pronoun a "pronom de rappel".

In the case of relative clauses built with a relative pronoun (REL) :

the man REL I see his house > the man whose house I see
the man REL I am giving an apple to him > the man to whom I am giving an apple
the house REL I live in it > the house I live in
the ground REL I walk upon it > the ground upon which I am walking
etc.

Otherwise said, English makes clear what's happening by changing the relative element (who, what, which, whom, to whom, upon which...) while in Egyptian this is explained by adding an extra information in the clause. The relative element (be it a verbal form or a relative pronoun) remains unaffected by these differences in meaning.

Edited by akkadboy on 27 February 2014 at 2:38pm

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Iversen
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 Message 952 of 1317
27 February 2014 at 2:43pm | IP Logged 
So essentially Egyptian is using a construction reminiscent of *"the man which I him see" (or - slightly less shocking - *"L'homme que je le vois" in French), just with a possesive pronoun instead of the object pronoun in the relative clause?


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