17 May 2007

Eight, at last

Decoding Egyptian Hieroglyphs: How to read the secret language of the pharaohs by Bridget McDermott (3/5)

I found this tome to be both instructive and irritating. Most of the irritating is technical. The Roman alphabet looks fine in book sized fonts, but hieroglyphs reduced to fit within English sentences leave much to be desired. I also wish the hieroglyphs in the sign index were larger. And I wish (probable) pronunciations were included along with the transliterations of hieroglyphs throughout the book instead of only when a sign is first introduced- at least also in the sign index. (Learning hieroglyphs is hard enough without adding learning the pronunciation of transliteration signs to the process.)

A few of the hieroglyphs in the sign index also didn't match up properly with their transliterations. There are probably exceptions in the language, but it would've been nice if it said so somewhere. Otherwise, there are a few errors in the transliterations. The biliteral and triliteral signs also should've been introduced along with the basic alphabet to facilitate recognition of signs throughout the book before the final section on grammar. Mostly it's the subtitle How to read the secret language of the pharaohs that I take issue with. The grammar section is left to the end and is kind of hard to follow. (Some of that is no doubt my failing as grammar isn't my forte.)

On the flip side, the sample translations are well done: reasonably sized hieroglyphs with transliterations, pronunciations, and their English translations. The book addresses the Decoding of Egyptian Hieroglyphs part of its title quite well. Large color photographs of artifacts and sections of monuments show hieroglyphs in situ. When signs are introduced, what they represent is explained and contextualized with history.

It's not the book on how to read hieroglyphs I'm looking for, but I don't mind having it on my shelf. A decent survey of the subject with lots of excellent photos for a beginner.

Two years ago at TTaT: Housekeeping
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