The Great Disappearing Act: The Development of Adjectives in Ancient Egyptian (Josefin Percival, Uppsala University)

Start time: 13:00 / End time: 14:00 / Date: 17 Dec 2020

Open to: Students within this Faculty / Staff within this Faculty / Any UOL students / Any UOL staff / Any potential undergraduate students / Any potential postgraduate students / Any potential international students / University of Liverpool Alumni / General Public

Type: Webinar

Cost: Please email Rachael Cornwell ( or Daniel Lowes ( for the Zoom link.

Contact: For more information contact Rachael Cornwell at

About the event

One of the main ways in which humans describe the world around them is through adjectives, whether it be color, physical features or emotions. What happens when the structure of that system changes? During the development of the Ancient Egyptian language (ca. 3200 BC – 600 AD) the adjectives go through such a dramatic change that they have been considered by Egyptologists to disappear and are instead lexicalized or its function replaced by verbs. However, it seems unreasonable that such a prominent feature of a language simply vanishes, so what is really going on here? What caused the adjectives to be phased out and replaced?

This paper is an historical description of the diachronic development of the adjectives with the intention to bring some much needed attention to this topic. Through a ranged selection of corpus from Old Egyptian to Coptic, including letters, hymns and narrative texts, the study will try to answer the questions of how the adjectives changed over time and what may have catalyzed these changes. Additionally, it will approach the possibility of variety within different semantic scopes and how semantics can be transferred between different adjectives and adjectival expressions.

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