How Do You Read the Egyptian Hieroglyphic Alphabet?


Quick Answer

The Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet is read by locating a figure with a head and reading from the direction that the figure is facing; if the figure faces right, the hieroglyphs are read from right to left. Stacked hieroglyphs are read from top to bottom.

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Full Answer

Hieroglyphs were arranged in groups, rather than side by side, to conserve space. Smaller characters were arranged in a stack, while larger characters stood on their own. Some symbols in the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet also appear in the English language. Pronunciation of hieroglyphics is not known, although it may be related to Coptic, which was the final stage of the Egyptian language and was spoken until the 17th century. Hieroglyphs can be interpreted through a system known as transliteration, which is a way of mapping characters from one language to another.

The hieroglyphic alphabet used in ancient Egypt constituted a system of written language that combined alphabetic and pictorial characters. The Egyptians used hieroglyphs, which they considered a formal type of writing, for religious texts. A less formal type of script also used by the ancient Egyptians is not classified as hieroglyphic. The hieroglyphic system was designed to be flexible, with text arranged in both rows and columns.

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