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Chicago Demotic Dictionary Featured in the New York Times

The New York Times recently featured the completion of a dictionary of ancient Demotic Egyptian, a language named by the Greeks to denote its use by the demos, or common people. Janet Johnson, the Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor at the Oriental Institute and editor of their Demotic dictionary, explains that the language “was used for business and legal documents, private letters and administrative inscriptions, and literary texts, such as narratives and pieces of wisdom literature” and that the 2,000-page dictionary is “an indispensable tool for reconstructing the social, political and cultural life of ancient Egypt during a fascinating period of its history.”

From the article:

The Demotic dictionary, begun in 1975, supplements and updates a more modest glossary of Demotic words published in German in 1954 by Wolja Erichsen, a Danish scholar.

The new Demotic-English work includes new words not in that glossary, as well as new uses of previously known words and more extensive examples of compound words, idiomatic expressions, place names, reference to deities and words borrowed from other languages. Completed chapters have been posted online from time to time in recent years.

“What the Chicago Demotic Dictionary does is what the Oxford English Dictionary does,” said James P. Allen, an Egyptologist at Brown University. “It gives many samples of what words mean and the range and nuances of their meanings.”

The dictionary is available free online. Eventually there will be a published edition, primarily for research libraries. Read more about the Chicago Demotic Dictionary here.

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