Policemen attached to North Horr push their vehicle after its engine failed to start on November 4, 2013. Kenyan security agencies have been put on high alert after about 50 heavily-armed Ethiopian soldiers and police officers crossed the border and reportedly took over a police station. FILE PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP
The Etymology Online Dictionary shows the etymology for the English word, "house," although mainly with related words from European languages. One of the hieroglyphic words for "house" in Dover’s, "An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary," by Wallis Budge, is, "geza," from the Tigrigna language — one of two related languages of ancient Egypt’s complex dual language writing system of Upper and Lower Egypt. The Amarigna "gzat"/"territory, possession," is directly related to the Tigrigna "geza."
Egyptologists were not linguists, although today many are. And since Egyptologists mistakenly did not consider the influence and dynamics of sound change, they never applied sound change when deciphering hieroglyphic characters. The result was limited and slightly misleading transliterations that left Egyptologists unable to match the hieroglyphic language to a living language, declaring it a "dead" language. But in order to match it to a living language, Legesse had to consider sound change.
Linguists say that through sound change, a G sound, like in ancient Egypt’s, "geza," can soften to an H sound and the Z can soften to to an S sound. This is how we arrive at the German word, "haus." It is the same word as geza, but just with a change in the sounds.
But also, through sound change, linguists say a G sound can become a K sound, as in the change from geza to Spanish word, "casa." In the Serbian, "kucha," the Z sound changed to CH, while the Hungarian, "haz," retains the Z. Even in Chinese, through sound change "geza" has become "jizu."
How is this all possible? It has less to do with the influence of the ancient Egyptian Amarigna and Tigrigna languages and more to do with the fact that when people left Ethiopia and what is now Eritrea in East Africa up to 50,000 years ago, according to National Geographic’s Genographic DNA project, they took language with them.
(see http://migration.ancientgebts.org for more)
In other words, it was not like the leaders of each group said before leaving, "Hey, we’re leaving Africa for new lands so we’re going to invent a new language. Anybody have any ideas for new words, raise your hands." This simply did not happen. They took language with them. And through sound change, we have the world’s languages from Amarigna and Tigrigna.
Between Amarigna and Tigrigna, themselves, there are types of sound change between related words. In Amarigna, a CH’ sound might be TS’ in Tigrigna, for example. So when Ethiopians developed writing in ancient Egypt to write out the two languages, initially for recording business and trade, a single CH character had to also represent the Tigrigna TS and vice versa.
So to effectively develop the hieroglyphic writing system, the Ethiopian founders of ancient Egypt had to consider the sound change between both Amarigna and Tigrigna languages. Amarigna was the language of Upper Egypt (the south) and Tigrigna of Lower Egypt (the north).
The entire hieroglyphic language considered the sound change between all the Amarigna and Tigrigna words. So today, this is why the English word, "house," the German word, "haus,", the Spanish word, "casa," and the Chinese word, "jizu," can all be written with the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic words, "geza" and "gzat." Because all those forms of "geza" are merely later forms that experienced sound change across those cultures and societies since leaving Ethiopia 50,000 years ago.
Therefore, having understood the dynamics of sound change to develop the first writing writing, the Ethiopian founders of ancient Egypt could be considered the world’s first linguists.
The importance of Legesse Allyn’s work can help those involved in language and linguistics get a better understanding of ancient language and ancient writing systems by understanding the sound change built into the hieroglyphic system, which extended to most other related writing systems in the ancient world.