The New Chicago Demotic Dictionary

A couple weeks ago we discussed the languages and scripts use throughout Egypt’s history. Even though we are currently discussing predynastic and pre-historic Egypt, I read an interesting article this week that I would like to share.

As Ethan mentioned a couple weeks ago, the Demotic language was used by the general public in Egypt from approximately 650 B.C. to the last-known use in 452 A.D.. The language is also well-known to scholars because it’s presence on the Rosetta Stone.

In an article in ScienceDaily, the editor of the new Demotic Dictionary, Janet Johnson, stated that the Demotic language was used in a number of Ancient Egyptian contexts, such as business and legal documents, religious literature, and scientific texts such as medicine and astronomy. Although Demotic was widely used during Egypt’s history, it has only been within the last half-century that research and scholarship has really expanded on this ancient language.

The Chicago Demotic Dictionary contains thousands of words that will allow Demotic scholars to decode more Demotic materials to better explain life in Egypt 1500-2500 years ago.

After looking into this new dictionary, I was curious if there were any other dictionaries on ancient languages. I came across an Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic dictionary by Budge, but after looking at some reviews, it seems that a lot of Budge’s material is out-of-date. The big difference between these two reference materials is that the Demotic dictionary seems more reserved for scholars, while there are a number of Egyptian hierglyphic study books aimed for the general public.

Thus, I propose the following question: Why do publishers aim books on decoding Egyptian hieroglyphics towards the general public, while it is only this year that a Demotic dictionary is being published – but still aimed more for scholars? I’m not insinuating that there are no scholar-orientated hierglyphic dictionaries, or that the general public has no knowledge of the Demotic script, but I find this discrepancy in popularity very interesting, and I am curious to hear what you guys think.

1 thought on “The New Chicago Demotic Dictionary

  1. I thought the content of your blog was actually very interesting. I am obviously not super familiar with the release of the New Chicago Demotic Dictionary, and I did not even know that the dictionary for hieroglyphs existed. Up until Ethan discussed Ancient Egyptian languages in class a couple of weeks ago, I was honestly only aware of hieroglyphs as the universal script. Taking my own previous knowledge of Egyptian languages into account, a reason for the popularity discrepancies might be the general public’s real interest and even knowledge of Ancient Egypt.

    I remember in grade school, 6th grade was the first year we studied world history, specifically ancient Egypt. It was the basic: these are the pyramids, Egyptians depended on the Nile, make a mummy out of card-stock, write your name in hieroglyphs, etc. Other than that, I never really learned too much more than what you see in the media. I’m going to go ahead and make a generalization that the vast majority of Americans are in the same boat as myself. There are only a few things that the average person can name about Ancient Egyptians, and I don’t think there practice of numerous languages is one of them.

    With that being said, I am going to say that perhaps Budge’s dictionary of hieroglyphs was available to the public because their was an actual interest and acute knowledge of the material. Something like the New Chicago Demotic Dictionary probably does not offer half as much appeal due to the public’s lack of awareness of it. So, I think that part of the reason one was available to the public while the other is not could be based solely on content. Scholars are going to make more use out of the Demotic Dictionary being so thorough while us average Joes are more interested in the things we have been exposed to.

    Just a thought, but I still think the case is really interesting.

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