Goldwasser, O. 2006. “A Comparison between Classifier Language and Classifier Script: The Case of Ancient Egyptian.” In: A Festschrift for Hans Jakob Polotsky, eds. G. Goldenberg and A. Shisha-Halevy, 16-39. Magnes Press: Jerusalem.

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  Goldwasser, O. 2006. “A Comparison between Classifier Language and Classifier Script: The Case of Ancient Egyptian.” In: A Festschrift for Hans Jakob Polotsky, eds. G. Goldenberg and A. Shisha-Halevy, 16-39. Magnes Press: Jerusalem.
    A Comparison between Classifier Languages and Classifier Script:   The Case of Ancient Egyptian   Orly   Goldwasser 1 .    Introduction  Nearly the last words I heard from Prof. Polotsky on my last meeting with him were: “The young generation should go back to the old masters.” There, he said, they would find many of the ideas which were now recycled or hailed as new. It was vital to return to them, both to do them justice, and to refresh our own vision with the primacy of theirs. In this article I follow the wishes of the “father of the ‘Jerusalem School’”  by returning to the “father of modern Egyptology,” Jean-François Champollion, whose fertility of imagination and invention gave him a degree of empathy with the past which enabled him not only to crack the code of the language, but to reach startlingly accurate conclusions as to what may be called the “workings of the Egyptian mind”; these conclusions still stand today, and have often been repeated, unattributed, by scholars great and small through the generations. I shall concentrate on the phenomenon of Egyptian classifiers, which Champollion studied on a large scale as a phenomenon of its own right, and which is only now being revisited by scholarship. Polotsky the Egyptologist never lost sight of the special case of Egyptian within the wide-ranging landscape of general linguistics. By analysing the  phenomenon of Egyptian classifiers in the light of modern linguistics studies of noun categorization, I hope to follow his lead. The Egyptian hieroglyphic system incorporates the most detailed classification system known in any script of the world. Yet, it has rarely been recognized as such by most Egyptologists. The signs which play the role of classifiers are generally known in Egyptology by the term “determinatives.” The difference in terminology is not merely technical. This terminology reflects the fact that most Egyptologists do not see the determinatives as a system of classifiers, i.e, that reflect classes,  although most of them would probably agree that some of the determinatives may sometimes play the role of classifiers.    Classifier Languages and Classifier Script    17 The so-called determinatives are pictograms that are placed after the vowelless root in the Egyptian script, functioning as reading aids but carrying no additional  phonetic  value. 1  They mark the end of words and provide semantic information about the preceding word through their   iconic  meaning alone. 2  The same word may sometimes take different determinatives. A word can be followed by a single determinative, two determinatives or even more. Determinatives never stand in arbitrary relation to the word they classify. First appearing during the Archaic period, 3  this mechanism reached its peak in the Middle Kingdom and later. 4  In this article I shall try to confront two major issues: a. Considerations for assessing the determinatives as classifiers. The assessment will be done via a comparison between the operation of determinatives in the hieroglyphic script and the operation of classifiers in classifier languages.  b. Assessment of the reasons which may have impeded most students of Egyptian grammar from conceiving the determinatives as a system of graphemic classifiers. 2 . History of research: Champollion’s contribution to the study of the classsifier system As in many other matters, it was Champollion who identified the special semiotic role of the pictographs that occupy the final position in the hieroglyphic word. He was also the first to coin the term “determinative”. 5 He seems to have taken deep interest in this phenomenon, as he devoted a large  part of his  Principes generaux  to the classification and discussions of the signs he recognized and defined as “déterminatifs”. 1 In the Archaic period, the Old Kingdom, and sometimes later, classifiers may play a role which stands between logogram and classifier. The classifiers in these cases provide through their  pictorial meaning essential information which completes the phonetic information provided by the  preceding pictograms (Kaplony Strukturprobleme  61; Kahl System  79). The “phonetic determinatives” are not dealt with in this publication, as their iconic meaning has, in most cases, to be discarded; see Goldwasser  Icon , and in general Schenkel  Einführung   47. 2  “To say that a classifier has meaning is to say that it indicates the perceived characteristics of the entities which it classifies; in other words, classifiers are linguistic correlates to perception …” (Allan Classifiers  308). 3  Kahl System  106–113. 4  A word may consist of a complete unit of information without a classifier. In these cases the co-text plays the role of enhancing or pointing to the choice of the correct meaning. However, in these cases, no additional iconic  information is provided for the word. Most prepositions and a limited number of nouns and verbs consistently avoid classification. A discussion of this  phenomenon will appear in a forthcoming publication. 5 On the history of the term see Lefebvre Grammaire  18, n.6.    Orly Goldwasser 18 Unlike Champollion, Gardiner dismissed the whole phenomenon of the determinative in a short statement, in which he presents it as a mere variation of his “ideogram”: “In several of the examples… the ideogram follows one or more  phonograms and ends the word. In cases such as these it is called a determinative , because it appears to determine the meaning of the foregoing sound-signs and to define that meaning in a general way” (  Egyptian Grammar   31). 6  This very brief definition falls short of explaining or even faithfully describing the complex phenomenon. Champollion’s treatment of the phenomenon of the determinative, in fact, surpasses the treatment of all his followers. .7  He presented it from a perspective which has since unfortunately been neglected by grammarians. His departure  point was an attempt at the definition of the possible  semantic   relations  that may exist between a word and its determinative. The first group he singles out are the “déterminatifs figuratifs d’espèce”. He sees this kind of determinative (“repeater” in our terminology, see 4.1 below) as “la représantation même de l’object dont le mot est le signe oral”. 8  The second type of possible relation defined by Champollion is “déterminatifs d’espèce, tropique ” (  schematic  relations in our terminology; see 4.3 below). Here he suggests the option of four kinds of relations, including “metaphorical” relations. 9  However, an examination of his list of examples (Champollion Grammaire  79  –  81) clearly shows that only two kinds of relations can be identified in the list: a. Synecdoche : In a synecdoche, a part stands for the whole, e.g, “une tête de  bœuf signifiait un bœuf” (Champollion Grammaire  23).  b.  Metonymy : “On figurait…, à la suite du mot, l’image d’un objet physique en rapport plus ou moin direct avec l’objet de l’idée exprimée par le mot ainsi déterminé” (Champollion 1836: 78–79). Most of the examples he cites are of this type — e.g. irp   “wine”+[ WINE JARS ]; irtt   “milk”+[ JAR  ]; mna    “nurse”+[ BREAST ] or hAw  “day”+[ SUN ].   6 Gardiner  Egyptian Grammar   31. For a recent discussion of terminology, see Depuydt  Hieroglyphic Script  . 7  An elaborate yet somehow forgotten discussion of the “determinatives” in Demotic, following the approach of Champollion, appears in Brugsch 1855: 22–57 8 Champollion does not see the semiotic difference between the pictorial and the phonetic. A  pictorial representation of a dog does not have the same signified as the word “dog”. For discussions of this problem in the light of modern semiotics, see Goldwasser  Icon . 9  In my studies, metaphorical relations are differentiated from metonymic relations.    Classifier Languages and Classifier Script    19 The third kind of determinatives to be analysed by Champollion were the “déterminatifs de genre (génériques)”. Defining this kind of determinative, Champollion writes: “D’autres signes ajoutés à la fin des noms écrits phonétiquement sont, à  proprement parler, des déterminatifs génériques, puisque chacun d’eux se  joint, pour en indiquer l’acception, à un nombre plus ou moins considérable de noms très-differents dans leur signification, mais qui, tous, expriment des individus ou  des objets appertenent au même genre d’êtres bien que d’espèces divers ”   ( Grammaire  82; my italics). Gardiner’s  definition, given more than a hundred years later, of what he calls “generic determinatives” does not go beyond Champollion’s definition, nor does it add to the clarification of the phenomenon: “Ideograms that serve to determine a considerable number of different words can naturally only express the kind   of sense borne by these, and not their specific meaning; they are therefore called generic determinatives ” (Gardiner  Egyptian Grammar   31). This  statement concerning the “generic determinatives” is very open-ended and says nothing about reasons or constraints for the assemblage of “a considerable number of different words” under a certain determinative. Nevertheless, the “generic determinative” (even if so vaguely and imprecisely defined), was the only kind of determinative that was acknowledged by Gardiner to be a sort of “real” classifier. In his  long discussion of the “déterminatifs génériques”, Champollion makes a clear and important differentiation between central and marginal, and takes the most inclusive and important classifiers of this sort to be the subject of his study. He begins with the signs and as the first “déterminatifs” to be discussed, thus correctly choosing for discussion the most frequent classifiers which present most central “natural categories” of the Egyptian script and livelihood — [ HIDE AND TAIL = QUADRUPED ]   [ BIRD ]   [“ S  WORM ”] 10   and [ TREE ]. He was the first to identify the iconic meaning of the [ HIDE AND TAIL ] sign to be “la moitié inférieure d’une peau de bœuf ou de tout autre quadrupède”, and he also defined its transposed meaning (to borrow a Polotskian term) 11  to be “le déterminatif générique de tous les noms de quadrupèdes à défaut des déterminatifs figuratifs ” (Champollion 1836: 82). 10  [ S  WORM ]   ,   a portmanteau word = [ S   NAKE  + WORM ],   see Goldwasser Wor(l)d  .   Champollion defines as classifier for “tous les nomes de reptiles” (Champollion Grammaire  86). 11 Polotsky used this term in the grammatical sense; see Polotsky Transpositions .    Orly Goldwasser 20 Many years later, Erman, Gardiner, and Lefbvre, 12  present the “generic determinatives” or “determinatives” in lists according to their iconic meanings (mankind, parts of body, animals, buildings etc.). 13  This method of mechanically assembling determinatives exclusively according to their pictorial features results in an arbitrary accumulation of all sorts of classifiers of different roles and meanings. It misleads the uninitiated reader, as it represents central classifiers and peripheral classifiers as playing an equal role in the system. It also bypasses the elaborate semiotic shift which a pictograph in the role of classifier may undergo (see below). It is only during the last decade that a few Egyptologists have turned again to the path that was pioneered by Champollion. 14  3 . Why are the “determinatives” classifiers? In his article Classifiers  which deals with the classifier phenomenon in many languages, Keith Allan gives the following definition for morphemes identified as classifiers: (a) They occur as morphemes in surface structures under specifiable conditions. (b) They have meaning, in the sense that a classifier denotes some salient  perceived or imputed characteristic of the entity to which an associated noun refers, or may refer (Allan Classifiers  285) 15 . If we exchange the word “morpheme” for the word “grapheme” in the above citation, it would be obvious that the Egyptian “determinative” system easily fits the requirements of a classifier system. All basic phenomena that occur in the graphemic classifier system have parallels in morphemic classifier systems. In the following discussion, I shall describe some of these parallel phenomena. The hieroglyphic classifier system is very detailed and elaborate. Unlike some of the morphemic classifier systems, the script system presents a highly motivated, transparent system of classifiers that is subject to a small number of 12  Edel (1955: 24–25) described the “Determinative” as ideograms that provides the “Begriffsklasse” to which certain words may belong. He calls classifiers such as and “Das generelle Determinativ (das Klassenzeichen),” thus coming closer to the idea of classification. 13 Erman 1928: 23–25; Gardiner  Egyptian Grammar   31–33; Lefebvre Grammaire  22–23. Gardiner calls his list “a list of the more important generic determinatives,” while Erman and Lefebvre use simply “wichtigsten Determinative” and “principaux déterminatifs.” 14  See Rude Graphemic Classifiers , a general book about classification. In Egyptology, see, Schenkel 1974; 1976; 1997: 45–47; Kahl System  107; Kammerzell  Aristoteles  8–15; Goldwasser  Icon  80–107; Goldwasser Wor(l)d  . 15 See also Allan  Natural Language  307.
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