Egypt's population density is made up of Egyptians and Muslims. Most of the Egyptians are native speakers of modern Egyptian Arabic.
Egyptian is the oldest known language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known, outside of Sumerian.
Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the form of Coptic. The national language of modern-day Egypt is Egyptian Arabic, which gradually replaced Coptic as the language of daily life in the centuries after the Muslim conquest of Egypt.
Coptic is still used as the liturgical language of the Coptic Church. It has a handful of fluent speakers today.
Egyptian belongs to the Afroasiatic language family, formerly known as Hamito-Semitic. Among the typological features of Egyptian that are typically Afroasiatic are: fusional morphology, consonantal lexical roots, a series of emphatic consonants, a three-vowel system /a i u/, nominal feminine suffix *-at, nominal m-, adjectival *-ī, and characteristic personal verbal affixes. Of the other Afroasiatic branches, Egyptian shows its greatest affinities with Semitic, Berber, and to a lesser extent Cushitic.
In Egyptian, the Proto-Afroasiatic voiced consonants */d z ð/ developed into pharyngeal <ꜥ> /ʕ/, e.g. Eg. ꜥr.t ‘portal’, Sem. *dalt ‘door’. Afroasiatic */l/ merged with Egyptian <n>, <r>, <ꜣ>, and <j> in the dialect on which the written language was based, while being preserved in other Egyptian varieties. Original */k g ḳ/ palatalize to <ṯ j ḏ> in some environments and are preserved as <k g q> in others.
Egyptian has many biradical and perhaps monoradical roots, in contrast to the Semitic preference for triradical roots. Egyptian probably is more archaic in this regard, whereas Semitic likely underwent later regularizations converting roots into the triradical pattern.
Although Egyptian is the oldest Afroasiatic language documented in written form, its morphological repertoire is greatly different from that of the rest of the Afroasiatic in general and Semitic in particular. This suggests that Egyptian had already undergone radical changes from Proto-Afroasiatic before being recorded, that the Afroasiatic phylum has so far been studied with an excessively Semito-centric approach, or that Afroasiatic is a typological rather than genetic grouping of languages. (The general consensus is that Afroasiatic is indeed a genetic grouping, and that Egyptian did in fact diverge greatly in its prerecorded history, although there is almost certainly a Semitic bias in Afroasiatic reconstruction.][)
Scholars group the Egyptian language into six major chronological divisions:
Egyptian writing in the form of labels and signs has been dated to 3200 BC. These early texts are generally lumped together under the general term "Archaic Egyptian."
In 1999, Archaeology Magazine reported that the earliest Egyptian glyphs date back to 3400 BC which "...challenge the commonly held belief that early logographs, pictographic symbols representing a specific place, object, or quantity, first evolved into more complex phonetic symbols in Mesopotamia."
Old Egyptian was spoken for some 500 years from 2600 BC onwards. Middle Egyptian was spoken from about 2000 BC for a further 700 years when Late Egyptian made its appearance; Middle Egyptian did, however, survive until the first few centuries AD as a written language, similar to the use of Latin during the Middle Ages and that of Classical Arabic today. Demotic Egyptian first appears about 650 BC and survived as a spoken language until the fifth century AD. Coptic Egyptian appeared in the fourth century AD and survived as a living language until the sixteenth century AD, when European scholars traveled to Egypt to learn it from native speakers during the Renaissance. It probably survived in the Egyptian countryside as a spoken language for several centuries after that. The Bohairic dialect of Coptic is still used by the Egyptian Christian Churches.
Old, Middle, and Late Egyptian were all written using hieroglyphs and hieratic. Demotic was written using a script derived from hieratic; its appearance is vaguely similar to modern Arabic script and is also written from right to left (although the two are not related). Coptic is written using the Coptic alphabet, a modified form of the Greek alphabet with a number of symbols borrowed from Demotic for sounds that did not occur in Ancient Greek.
Arabic became the language of Egypt's political administration soon after the Arab conquest in the seventh century AD, and gradually replaced Coptic as the language spoken by the populace. Today, Coptic survives as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Coptic Catholic Church.
The Bible contains some words, terms and names thought by scholars to be Egyptian in origin. An example of this is Zaphnath-Paaneah, the Egyptian name given to Joseph.
Pre-Coptic Egyptian does not show great dialectal differences in the written language due to the centralized nature of Egyptian society. However, they must have existed in speech; this is evidenced by a letter from c. 1200 BCE complaining that the language of a correspondent is as unintelligible as the speech of a northern Egyptian to a southerner. Recently, some evidence of internal dialects has been found in pairs of similar words in Egyptian, which, based on similarities with later dialects of Coptic, may be derived from Northern and Southern dialects of Egyptian. Written Coptic has five major dialects which differ mainly in graphic conventions, most notably the southern Saidic dialect which was the main classical dialect and the northern Bohairic dialect which is currently used in Coptic Church services.
Most "surviving" texts in the Egyptian language are primarily written on stone in the hieroglyphic script. However, in antiquity, the majority of texts were written on perishable papyrus in hieratic and (later) demotic, which are now lost. There was also a form of cursive hieroglyphic script used for religious documents on papyrus, such as the Book of the Dead in the Ramesside Period; this script was simpler to write than the hieroglyphs in stone inscriptions, but was not as cursive as hieratic, lacking the wide use of ligatures. Additionally, there was a variety of stone-cut hieratic known as lapidary hieratic. In the language's final stage of development, the Coptic alphabet replaced the older writing system. The native name for Egyptian hieroglyphic writing is or "writing of the words of god". Hieroglyphs are employed in two ways in Egyptian texts: as ideograms that represent the idea depicted by the pictures; and more commonly as phonograms denoting their phonetic value.
Due to the fact that the phonetic realization of Egyptian cannot be known with certainty, Egyptologists use a system of transliteration to denote each sound which could be represented by a uniliteral hieroglyph. The two systems which are still in common use are the traditional system and the European system; in addition a third system is used for computer input.
While the consonantal phonology of the Egyptian language may be reconstructed, its exact phonetics are unknown, and there are varying opinions on how to classify the individual phonemes. In addition, because Egyptian is also recorded over a full two millennia, the Archaic and Late stages being separated by the amount of time that separates Old Latin from modern Italian, it must be assumed that significant phonetic changes would have occurred over that time.
Phonologically, Egyptian contrasted labial, alveolar, palatal, velar, uvular, pharyngeal, and glottal consonants, in a distribution rather similar to that of Arabic. It also contrasted voiceless and emphatic consonants, as with other Afroasiatic languages, although exactly how the emphatic consonants were realized is not precisely known. Early research had assumed opposition in stops was one of voicing, but is now thought to either be one of tenuis and emphatic stops, as in many of the Semitic languages, or one of aspirated and ejective stops, as in many of the Cushitic languages.
Since vowels were not written, reconstructions of the Egyptian vowel system are much more uncertain, relying mainly on the evidence from Coptic and foreign transcriptions of Egyptian personal and place names. The vocalization of Egyptian is partially known, largely on the basis of reconstruction from Coptic, in which the vowels are written. Recordings of Egyptian words in other languages provide an additional source of evidence. Scribal errors provide evidence of changes in pronunciation over time. The actual pronunciations reconstructed by such means are used only by a few specialists in the language. For all other purposes the Egyptological pronunciation is used, which is, of course, artificial and often bears little resemblance to what is known of how Egyptian was spoken.
The following consonant system is posited for Archaic (before 2600 BC) and Old Egyptian (2686 BC – 2181 BC):
*possibly unvoiced ejectives
The phoneme /l/ did not have an independent representation in the hieroglyphic orthography, and was frequently written with the sign for /n/ or /r/. The probable explanation is that the standard for written Egyptian was based on a dialect in which former /l/ had merged with other sonorants. /ʔ/ was rare and also not indicated orthographically. The phoneme /j/ was written as <j> in initial position (<jt> = */'ja:tvj/ 'father') and immediately after a stressed vowel (<bjn> = */'ba:jin/ 'bad'), as <jj> word-medially immediately before a stressed vowel (<ḫꜥjjk> = */χaʕ'jak/ 'you will appear'), and as null word-finally (<jt> = */'ja:tvj/ 'father').
In Middle Egyptian (2055 BC – 1650 BC), a number of consonantal shifts took place. By the beginning of the Middle Kingdom period, /z/ and /s/ had merged, and the graphemes <s> and <z> were used interchangeably. In addition, /j/ had become /ʔ/ word-initially in an unstressed syllable (e.g. <jwn> */ja'win/ > */ʔa'win/ 'color) and following a stressed vowel (e.g. <ḥjpw> */'ħujpvw/ > /'ħeʔp(vw)/ '[the god] Apis').
In Late Egyptian (1069 BC – 700 BC), the following changes are present: the phonemes /d ḏ g/ gradually merge with their counterparts /t ṯ k/ (<dbn> */'di:ban/ > Akkadian transcription ti-ba-an 'dbn-weight'); /ṯ ḏ/ often become /t d/, though they are retained in many lexemes; /ꜣ/ becomes /ʔ/; and /t r j w/ become /ʔ/ at the end of a stressed syllable and eventually null word-finally (e.g. <pḏ.t> */'pi:ɟat/ > Akk. transcription -pi-ta 'bow').
More consonantal changes occurred in the first millennium BCE and the first centuries CE, leading to the Coptic language (1st century AD – 17th century AD). In Sahidic /ẖ ḫ ḥ/ merged into ϣ /š/ (most often from /ḫ/) and ϩ /h/ (most often /ẖ ḥ/). Bohairic and Akhmimic are more conservative, having also a velar fricative /x/ (ϧ in Bohairic, ⳉ in Akhmimic). Pharyngeal */ꜥ/ merged into glottal /ʔ/, after having affected the quality of surrounding vowels. /ʔ/ is only indicated orthographically when following a stressed vowel, in which case it is marked by doubling the vowel letter (except in Bohairic), e.g. Akhmimic ⳉⲟⲟⲡ /xoʔp/ Sahidic & Lycopolitan ϣⲟⲟⲡ /šoʔp/, Bohairic ϣⲟⲡ /šoʔp/ 'to be' < ḫpr.w */'χapraw/ 'has become'. The phoneme ⲃ /b/ probably was pronounced as a fricative [β], and became ⲡ /p/ after a stressed vowel in syllables which were closed in earlier Egyptian (compare ⲛⲟⲩⲃ < */'na:baw/ 'gold' and ⲧⲁⲡ < */dib/ 'horn'). The phonemes /d g z/ are only found in Greek borrowings, with rare exceptions triggered by a proximate /n/ (e.g. ⲁⲛⲍⲏⲃⲉ/ⲁⲛⲥⲏⲃⲉ < ꜥ.t n.t sbꜣ.w 'school').
Earlier */d ḏ g q/ were preserved as ejective /t' c' k' k'/ in prevocalic position in Coptic. Despite the fact that these were written using the same graphemes as for the pulmonic stops (ⲧ ϫ ⲕ), their existence may be inferred based on the following evidence: The stops ⲡ ⲧ ϫ ⲕ /p t c k/ were allophonically aspirated ([pʰ tʰ cʰ kʰ]) before stressed vowels and sonorant consonants. In Bohairic these allophones were written with the special graphemes <ⲫ ⲑ ϭ ⲭ>, while other dialects did not mark aspiration, thus Sahidic ⲡⲣⲏ vs. Bohairic ⲫⲣⲏ 'the sun'. It then may be observed that Bohairic does not mark aspiration for reflexes of older */d ḏ g q/, e.g. Sahidic & Bohairic ⲧⲁⲡ */dib/ 'horn'. Similarly, the definite article ⲡ is unaspirated when a word beginning with a glottal stop follows, e.g. Bohairic ⲡ + ⲱⲡ > ⲡⲱⲡ 'the account'.
The consonant system of Coptic is as follows:
*various orthographic representations; see above
The following is the vowel system posited for earlier Egyptian:
Vowels were always short in unstressed syllables (e.g. tpj = */taˈpij/ 'first'), long in open stressed syllables (e.g. rmṯ = */ˈraːmac/ 'man'), and either short or long in closed stressed syllables (e.g. jnn = */jaˈnan/ 'we' vs. mn = */maːn/ 'to stay').
Late New Kingdom, after Ramses II i.e. c. 1200 BCE: */ˈaː/ > */ˈoː/ (parallel to Canaanite vowel shift), e.g. ḥrw '(the god) Horus' */ħaːruw/ > */ħoːrə/ (Akkadian transcription: -ḫuru). This provoked */uː/ > */eː/, e.g. šnj 'tree' */ʃuːn?j/ > */ʃeːnə/ (Akkadian transcription: -sini).
Early New Kingdom: short stressed */ˈi/ > */ˈe/, e.g. mnj 'Menes' */maˈnij/ > */maˈneʔ/ (Akkadian transcription: ma-né-e). Later, probably circa 1000–800 BCE, short stressed */ˈu/ > */ˈe/, e.g. ḏꜥn.t 'Tanis' */ˈɟuʕnat/ was borrowed into Hebrew as *ṣuʕn but later transcribed as ṣe-e'-nu/ṣa-a'-nu in the Neo-Assyrian period.
Unstressed vowels, especially after the stress, became */ə/, e.g. nfr 'good' */ˈnaːfir/ > */ˈnaːfə/ (Akkadian transcription -na-a-pa). */iː/ > */eː/ next to /ʕ/ and /j/, e.g. wꜥw 'soldier' */wiːʕiw/ > */weːʕə/ (earlier Akkadian transcription: ú-i-ú, later: ú-e-eḫ).
In Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic, Late Egyptian stressed */ˈa/ becomes */ˈo/ and */ˈe/ becomes /ˈa/, while in the other dialects these are preserved, e.g. sn */san/ 'brother' > SB <son>, ALF <san>; rn 'name' */rin/ > */ren/ > SB <ran>, ALF <ren>. However, SB preserve */ˈa/ and Fayyumic renders it as < e > in the presence of guttural fricatives, e.g. ḏbꜥ '10000' */ˈbaʕ/ > SAL <tba> B <tʰba> F <tbe>. In Akhmimic and Lycopolitan, */ˈa/ becomes /ˈo/ before etymological /ʕ ʔ/, e.g. jtrw 'river' */ˈjatraw/ > */jaʔr(ə)/ > S <eioor(e)> B <ior> A <ioore, iôôre> F <iaal, iaar>. Similarly the diphthongs */ˈaj/, */ˈaw/, which normally have reflexes /ˈoj/, /ˈow/ in Sahidic and are preserved in other dialects, in Bohairic are written <ôi> (in non-final position) and <ôou> respectively, e.g. "to me, to them" S <eroi, eroou> AL <arai, arau>, F <elai, elau>, B <eroi, erôou>. Sahidic and Bohairic preserve */ˈe/ before /ʔ/ (either etymological or from lenited /t r j/ or tonic-syllable coda /w/), e.g. SB <ne> /neʔ/ 'to you (fem.)' < */ˈnet/ < */ˈnic/. */e/ may also have different reflexes before sonants, in proximity of sibilants, and in diphthongs.
Old */aː/ surfaces as /uː/ after nasals and occasionally other consonants, e.g. nṯr 'god' */ˈnaːcar/ > /ˈnuːte/ <noute> /uː/ has acquired phonemic status, as evidenced by minimal pairs like 'to approach' <hôn> /hoːn/ < */ˈçaːnan/ ẖnn vs. 'inside' <houn> /huːn/ < */ˈçaːnaw/ ẖnw. Etymological */uː/ > */eː/ often surfaces as /iː/ next to /r/ and after etymological pharyngeals, e.g. SL <hir> < */χuːr/ 'street' (Semitic loan).
Most Coptic dialects have two phonemic vowels in unstressed position. Unstressed vowels generally became /ə/, written as <e> or null (<i> in Bohairic and Fayyumic word-finally), but pretonic unstressed /a/ occurs as a reflex of earlier unstressed */e/ in proximity to an etymological pharyngeal, velar, or sonant (e.g. 'to become many' <ašai> < ꜥšꜣ */ʕiˈʃiʀ/), or unstressed */a/. Pretonic [i] is underlyingly /əj/, e.g. S 'ibis' <hibôi> < h(j)bj.w */hijˈbaːj?w/.
Thus the following is the Sahidic vowel system c. 400 CE:
Earlier Egyptian had syllable structure CV(:)(C), where V was long in open, stressed syllables and short elsewhere. In addition, syllables of the type CV:C or CVCC could occur in word-final, stressed position. However CV:C only occurred in the infinitive of biconsonantal verbal roots, and CVCC only in some plurals. In later Egyptian stressed CV:C, CVCC, and CV became much more common because of the loss of final dentals and glides.
Earlier Egyptian: penultimate or ultimate. According to some scholars this is a development from a stage in proto-Egyptian where the antepenult could be stressed; this was lost as open posttonic syllables lost their vowels, e.g. **/'χupiraw/ > */'χupraw/ 'transformation'.
As a convention, Egyptologists make use of an "Egyptological pronunciation" in English, in which the consonants are given fixed values and vowels are inserted in accordance with essentially arbitrary rules. Two consonants, alef and the ayin, are generally pronounced . The yodh is pronounced , and w . Between other consonants, is then inserted. Thus, for example, the Egyptian king whose name is most accurately transliterated as Rꜥ-ms-sw is transcribed as "Ramesses", meaning "Ra has Fashioned (lit., "Borne") Him". In transcription, ⟨a⟩, ⟨i⟩, and ⟨u⟩ all represent consonants; for example, the name Tutankhamen (1341 BC – 1323 BC) was written in Egyptian . Experts have assigned generic sounds to these values as a matter of convenience, but this artificial pronunciation should not be mistaken for how Egyptian was actually pronounced at any point in time. For example, is conventionally pronounced in English, but in his time was likely realized as something like .
Egyptian is a fairly typical Afroasiatic language. At the heart of Egyptian vocabulary is a root of three consonants. Sometimes there were only two, for example "sun" (where the is thought to have been something like a voiced pharyngeal fricative), but larger roots are also common some being as large as five "be upside-down". Vowels and other consonants were then inserted into the consonantal skeleton in order to derive different meanings, in the same way as Arabic, Hebrew, and other Afroasiatic languages do today. However, because vowels (and sometimes glides) were not written in any Egyptian script except Coptic, it can be difficult to reconstruct the actual forms of words; hence orthographic "to choose", for example, could represent the stative (as the stative endings can be left unexpressed) or imperfective verb forms or even a verbal noun (i. e., "a choosing").
Egyptian nouns can be either masculine or feminine (indicated as with other Afroasiatic languages by adding a -t), and singular, plural (-w / -wt), or dual (-wy / -ty).
Articles (both definite and indefinite) did not develop until Late Egyptian, but are used widely thereafter.
Egyptian has three different types of personal pronouns: suffix, enclitic (called "dependent" by Egyptologists) and independent pronouns. It also has a number of verbal endings added to the infinitive to form the stative, which are regarded by some linguists as a "fourth" set of personal pronouns. They bear close resemblance to their Semitic and Berber counterparts. The three main sets of personal pronouns are as follows:
It also has demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these and those), in masculine, feminine, and common plural:
Finally there are interrogative pronouns (what, who, etc.).They also bear close resemblance to their Semitic and Berber counterparts
The verbal morphology Egyptian can be divided into finite and non-finite forms. Finite verbs convey person, tense/aspect, mood, and voice. Each is indicated by a set of affixal morphemes attached to the verb — the basic conjugation is 'he hears'. The non-finite forms occur without a subject and they are the infinitive, the participles and the negative infinitive, which Gardiner calls "negatival complement". There are two main tenses/aspects in Egyptian: past and temporally unmarked imperfective and aorist forms. The latter are determined from their syntactic context.
Adjectives agree in gender and number with their nouns, for example: s nfr "(the) good man" and st nfrt "(the) good woman".
Attributive adjectives used in phrases fall after the noun they are modifying, such as in "(the) great god" (). However, when used independently as a predicate in an adjectival phrase, such "(the) god (is) great" ( ) (lit., "great (is the) god"), the adjective precedes the noun.
Egyptian adpositions come before the noun.
Adverbs are words such as "here" or "where?". In Egyptian, they come at the end of a sentence, e.g., zı͗.n nṯr ı͗m "the god went there", "there" (ı͗m) is the adverb.
Some common Egyptian adverbs:
Classical Egyptian's basic word order is verb–subject–object; this pattern holds true for Old Egyptian and Middle Egyptian. However, this is not true for the later stages of the language's development, including Late Egyptian, Demotic and Coptic. The equivalent to "the man opens the door", would be a sentence corresponding to "opens the man the door" (). It uses the so-called status constructus to combine two or more nouns to express the genitive, similar to Semitic and Berber languages. The early stages of Egyptian possessed no articles, no words for "the" or "a"; later forms used the words , and for this purpose. Like other Afroasiatic languages, Egyptian uses two grammatical genders, masculine and feminine, similarly to Arabic, Tamasheq and Somali. It also uses three grammatical numbers, contrasting singular, dual, and plural forms, although there is a tendency for the loss of the dual as a productive form in later Egyptian.
While Egyptian culture is one of the influences of Western civilization, few words of Egyptian origin are found in English. Even those associated with ancient Egypt were usually transmitted in Greek forms. Some examples of Egyptian words that have survived in English include ebony (Egyptian , via Greek and then Latin), ivory (Egyptian abw / abu, literally 'ivory; elephant'), pharaoh (Egyptian , literally "great house"; transmitted through Greek), as well as the proper names Phinehas (Egyptian, , used as a generic term for Nubian foreigners) and Susan (Egyptian, , literally "lily flower"; probably transmitted first from Egyptian into Hebrew Shoshanah).
Important Note: the old grammars and dictionaries of E. A. Wallis Budge have long been considered obsolete by Egyptologists, even though these books are still available for purchase.
More book information is available at Glyphs and Grammars
There are a number of languages spoken in Egypt, but Egyptian Arabic is by far the most widely spoken in the country.
The official language in Egypt is literary Arabic, used in most written media
Egyptian Arabic is the commonly spoken language, and is occasionally written in Arabic script, or in Arabic chat alphabet mostly on new communication services.
English is the most commonly used foreign language and most of the street plates are bilingual in Literary Arabic and English. There are a few street plates with French instead of English. French and German][ are also widely spoken and used in business and educated circles.
Arabic came to Egypt in the 7th century, and Egyptian Arabic has become the modern spoken language of the Egyptians. Of the many varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Arabic is the most widely understood first dialect in the Middle East-North Africa, probably due to the influence of Egyptian cinema throughout the Arabic-speaking world.
A Bedouin Arab minority speaks a variety of Bedouin Arabic mostly in the Sinai Peninsula. Sudanese Arabic is also spoken by the Sudanese minority.
In the Upper Nile Valley, around Kom Ombo and Aswan, there are about 300,000 speakers of Nubian languages, mainly Nobiin, but also Kenuzi-Dongola.
Approximately 77,000 speakers of Beja live in the Eastern Desert and along the coast of the Red Sea.
Some 234,000 (2004) Dom speak the Domari language (an Indo-Aryan language related to Romany) and are concentrated north of Cairo and in Luxor.
About 15,000 Egyptian Berbers living in the Siwa oasis and its surroundings speak Siwi Berber, which is a variety of the Berber language of North Africa. Siwi Berber is well mutually intelligible with Libyan Berber dialects. In ancient times, the population of western Egypt was probably made of Berber-speaking tribes.
Other Egyptian languages (also known as Copto-Egyptian) consist of ancient Egyptian and Coptic, and form a separate branch among the family of Afro-Asiatic languages. The Egyptian language is among the first written languages, and is known from hieroglyphic inscriptions preserved on monuments and sheets of papyrus. The Coptic language, the only extant descendant of Egyptian, is today the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The "Koiné" dialect of the Greek language was important in Hellenistic Alexandria, and was used in the philosophy and science of that culture, and was also studied by later Arabic scholars.
The Islamization of Egypt occurred as a result of the Islamic conquest of Egypt by the Arabs led by Amr ibn al-Aas the military governor of Palestine. The indigenous Coptic population of Egypt underwent a large scale gradual conversion from Coptic Christianity to Islam. This process of Islamization was accompanied by a simultaneous wave of Arabization. These factors resulted in Muslims becoming a majority in Egypt by the mid-10th century][, the Egyptians acculturation into Arab identity and the replacement of their native Coptic and Greek languages with Arabic as their sole vernacular.
Islamic links to Coptic Egypt predates Arab conquests. Prophet Mohammed received a Coptic slave Maria al-Qibtiyya as a gift from the Byzantine official Muqawqis. In 641 A.D., Egypt was invaded by the Arabs who faced off with the Byzantine army, but found little to no resistance from the native Egyptian population. Local resistance by the Egyptians however began to materialize shortly thereafter and would last until at least the ninth century.
The Arabs imposed a special tax, known as Jizya, on the Christians who acquired the protected status of dhimmis,the taxation was justified on protection grounds since local Christians were never drafted to serve in an army. Arab conquerors generally preferred not to cohabit with native Copts in their towns and established new colonies, like Cairo. Heavy taxation at times of state hardships was a reason behind Coptic Christians organizing resistance against the new rulers. This resistance mounted to armed rebellions against the Arabs in a number of instances, such as that of the Beshumurians][ in the Delta were successful.
The Arabs in the 7th century seldom used the term Egyptian, and used instead the term Copt to describe the people of Egypt. Thus, Egyptians became known as Copts, and the non-Chalcedonian Egyptian Church became known as the Coptic Church. The Chalcedonian Church remained known as the Melkite Church. In their own native language, Egyptians referred to themselves as rem-en-kimi, which translates into those of Egypt. Religious life remained largely undisturbed following the Arab occupation, as evidence by the rich output of Coptic arts in monastic centers in Old Cairo (Fustat) and throughout Egypt. Conditions, however, worsened shortly after that, and in the eighth and ninth centuries, during the period of the great national resistance against the Arabs, Muslim rulers banned the use of human forms in art (taking advantage of an iconoclastic conflict in Byzantium) and consequently destroyed many Coptic paintings and frescoes in churches.
The Fatimid period of Islamic rule in Egypt was tolerant with the exception of the violent persecutions of caliph Al-Hakim. The Fatimid rulers employed Copts in the government and participated in Coptic and local Egyptian feasts. Major renovation and reconstruction of churches and monasteries were also undertaken. Coptic arts flourished, reaching new heights in Middle and Upper Egypt. Persecution of Egyptian Christians, however, reached a peak in the early Mamluk period following the Crusader wars. Some forced conversions of Christians were reported. Monasteries were occasionally raided and destroyed by marauding Bedouin, but were rebuilt and reopened.
Egyptians (Egyptian Arabic: IPA: ; Arabic: ) are the inhabitants and citizens of Egypt sharing a common culture and Egyptian Arabic language.
Egyptians emigrated from Egypt was rare until Nasser came to power after overthrowing the monarchy .In the 1980s many emigrated mainly to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq to work , this happened under different circumstances but mainly for economic reasons. A sizable Egyptian diaspora did not begin to form until well into the 1980s and today it is estimated that about 6.5 million Egyptians live abroad.
According to studies conducted by the International Organization for Migration, migration is an important phenomenon for the development of Egypt. An estimated 8 million (2012) Egyptians abroad contribute actively to the development of their country through remittances (US$ 12.6 in 2011), circulation of human and social capital, as well as investment. Approximately 70% of Egyptian migrants live in Arab countries (1.7 million in Saudi Arabia, about 550,000 in Jordan, 2 million in Libya, and 500,000 in Kuwait with the rest elsewhere in the region) and the remaining 30% are living mostly in Europe and North America (780,000 in the US, and Canada and 200,000 in Italy). There is also a large Egyptian population in Australia.
Generally, those who emigrate to the United States and western European countries tend to do so permanently, while Egyptians migrating to Arab countries go there with the intention of returning to Egypt.
Prior to 1974, few Egyptian professionals had left the country in search for employment. Political, demographic and economic pressures led to the first wave of emigration after 1952. Later more Egyptians left their homeland first after the 1973 boom in oil prices and again in 1979, but it was only in the second half of the 1980s that Egyptian migration became prominent.
Egyptian emigration today is motivated by even higher rates of unemployment, population growth and increasing prices. Political repression and human rights violations by Egypt's ruling régime are other contributing factors (see Egypt - Human rights). Egyptians have also been impacted by the wars between Egypt and Israel, particularly after the Six-Day War in 1967, when migration rates began to rise. In August 2006, Egyptians made headlines when 11 students from Mansoura University failed to show up at their American host institutions for a cultural exchange program in the hope of finding employment.
Egyptians in neighbouring countries face additional challenges. Over the years, abuse, exploitation and/or ill-treatment of Egyptian workers and professionals in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Libya have been reported by the Egyptian Human Rights Organization and different media outlets. Arab nationals have in the past expressed fear over an "'Egyptianization' of the local dialects and culture that were believed to have resulted from the predominance of Egyptians in the field of education" (see also Egyptian Arabic - Geographics).
A study by the International Organization for Migration on Egyptian diaspora in the US, UK and Kuwait found that 69% of Egyptians abroad interviewed visit Egypt at least once a year; more than 80% of them are informed about the current affairs in Egypt and approximately a quarter participate in some sort of Egyptian, Arabic, Islamic or Coptic organizations. The same study found that the major concerns of the Egyptian diaspora involved access to consular services for 51% of respondents, assimilation of second generation into the host country’s culture (46%), need for more cultural cooperation with Egypt (24%), inability to vote abroad (20%) and military service obligations (6%).
The Egyptians for their part object to what they call the "Saudization" of their culture due to Saudi Arabian petrodollar-flush investment in the Egyptian entertainment industry. Twice Libya was on the brink of war with Egypt due to mistreatment of Egyptian workers and after the signing of the peace treaty with Israel. When the Gulf War ended, Egyptian workers in Iraq were subjected to harsh measures and expulsion by the Iraqi government and to violent attacks by Iraqis returning from the war to fill the workforce.
The Egyptian Revolution of 1952 (Arabic: ), also known as the 23 July Revolution, began on 23 July 1952, with a military coup d'état by the Free Officers Movement, a group of army officers led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser. The revolution was initially aimed at overthrowing King Farouk. However, the movement had more political ambitions, and soon moved to abolish the constitutional monarchy and aristocracy of Egypt and Sudan, establish a republic, end the British occupation of the country, and secure the independence of Sudan (hitherto governed as an Anglo-Egyptian condominium). The revolutionary government adopted a staunchly nationalist, anti-imperialist agenda, which came to be expressed chiefly through Arab nationalism, and international non-alignment.
The revolution was faced with immediate threats from Western imperial powers, particularly the United Kingdom, which had occupied Egypt since 1882, and France, both of whom were wary of rising nationalist sentiment in territories under their control throughout the Arab world, and Africa. The ongoing state of war with Israel also posed a serious challenge, as the Free Officers increased Egypt's already strong support of the Palestinians. These two issues conflated four years after the revolution when Egypt was invaded by Britain, France, and Israel in the Tripartite Aggression of 1956. Despite enormous military losses, the war was seen as a political victory for Egypt, especially as it left the Suez Canal in uncontested Egyptian control for the first time since 1875, erasing what was seen as a mark of national humiliation. This strengthened the appeal of the revolution in other Arab and African countries.
Wholesale agrarian reform, and huge industrialisation programmes were initiated in the first decade and half of the revolution, leading to an unprecedented period of infrastructure building, and urbanisation. By the 1960s, Arab socialism had become a dominant theme, transforming Egypt into a centrally planned economy. Official fear of a Western-sponsored counter-revolution, domestic religious extremism, potential communist infiltration, and the conflict with Israel were all cited as reasons compelling severe and longstanding restrictions on political opposition, and the prohibition of a multi-party system. These restrictions on political activity would remain in place until the presidency of Anwar Sadat from 1970 onwards, during which many of the policies of the revolution were scaled back or reversed.
The early successes of the revolution encouraged numerous other nationalist movements in other Arab, and African countries, such as Algeria, and Kenya, which were engaged in anti-colonial struggles against European empires. It also inspired the toppling of existing pro-Western monarchies and governments in the region and the continent.
The Revolution is commemorated each year on Egypt's national day, Revolution Day, on 23 July.
The Free Officers Movement' was formed by a group of reform minded officers which, backed by the Soviet Union and the United States, coalesced around a young officer named Gamal Abdel Nasser. They used an army general, Muhammad Naguib, as its head to show their seriousness and attract more army followers.
In the warning that General Naguib conveyed to King Farouk on 26 July upon the king's abdication, he provided a summary of the reasons for the revolution:
In view of what the country has suffered in the recent past, the complete vacuity prevailing in all corners as a result of your bad behavior, your toying with the constitution, and your disdain for the wants of the people, no one rests assured of life, livelihood, and honor. Egypt's reputation among the peoples of the world has been debased as a result of your excesses in these areas to the extent that traitors and bribe-takers find protection beneath your shadow in addition to security, excessive wealth, and many extravagances at the expense of the hungry and impoverished people. You manifested this during and after the Palestine War in the corrupt arms scandals and your open interference in the courts to try to falsify the facts of the case, thus shaking faith in justice. Therefore, the army, representing the power of the people, has empowered me to demand that Your Majesty abdicate the throne to His Highness Crown Prince Ahmed Fuad, provided that this is accomplished at the fixed time of 12 o'clock noon today (Saturday, 26 July 1952, the 4th of Zul Qa'ada, 1371), and that you depart the country before 6 o'clock in the evening of the same day. The army places upon Your Majesty the burden of everything that may result from your failure to abdicate according to the wishes of the people.
During the winter of 1951–1952 nationalist police officers began protecting and promoting fedayeen (the Egyptian resistance) attacks on British authorities in Cairo, Alexandria, and the Suez Canal. After repelling a particularly devastating attack on British shipping and facilities near Ismailia which resulted in the death of several British soldiers. British troops tracked the fedayeen into the city. On January 25, 1952, British troops discovered the fedayeen had retreated into the local police barracks. When the police refused to surrender the fedayeen, the British officer attempted to negotiate the surrender of the police and the fedayeen. When their negotiator was killed in the parley by the fedayeen, the British force attacked the Egyptian police barracks in[Ismailia. Fifty Egyptian police officers were killed and one hundred were wounded. Egypt erupted in fury.
Subsequently, Free Officer Movement cells initiated riots in Cairo which led to arsons. Without suppression from local fire brigades, these arson attacks further inflamed more rioting. American and Soviet newspapers promoted the incident on global wire outlets as the "Cairo Fires" and suggested they were seen as further evidence of the beginning of the end of the monarchy.
The next day, January 26, 1952 ("Black Saturday"), what many Egyptians call "the second revolution" broke out (the first being the Egyptian Revolution of 1919).
King Farouk dismissed Mustafa el-Nahhas's government, and in the months that followed, three different politicians were instructed to form governments, each proving short-lived: Ali Maher (27 January – 1 March), Ahmed Naguib El-Hilali (2 March – 29 June, and 22–23 July) and Hussein Sirri (2–20 July). These "salvation ministries", as they were called, failed to halt the country's downward spiral. Corruption remained ubiquitous despite attempts by successive prime ministers to put their political houses in order.
Stirrings of discontent were felt in the army, and in January 1952 opposition officers supported by the Free Officers gained control of the governing board of the Officers Club. On 16 July, the King annulled these elections, appointing his own supporters instead in an attempt to regain control of the army.
A coup d'état was planned for 5 August, but when General Naguib, one of the Free Officers, informed the group on 19 July that the Egyptian Royal Army high command had a list of their names, the coup leaders acted on the night of 22 July.
On Wednesday morning, 23 July 1952, a military coup occurred in Egypt, carried out by The "Free Officers" and led by General Naguib, but the real power behind the military coup was Gamal Abdel Nasser. Aided by intelligence provided by the two super-powers and their own network, the Free Officers Movement targeted command, control, and communications posts of the Army and Internal Ministry. Several police sections that had been successfully penetrated aided in rounding up key personnel of the royal government.
At 7:30 a.m., the Egyptian populace heard a broadcast station issue the first communiqué of the revolution in the name of Gen. Naguib to the Egyptian people that stated the justification for the revolution or the "Blessed Movement". The voice everyone heard reading the message belonged to Free Officer and future president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat: The coup was conducted by less than a hundred officers - almost all drawn from junior ranks — and prompted scenes of celebration in the streets by cheering mobs.
Egypt has passed through a critical period in her recent history characterized by bribery, mischief, and the absence of governmental stability. All of these were factors that had a large influence on the army. Those who accepted bribes and were thus influenced caused our defeat in the Palestine War . As for the period following the war, the mischief-making elements have been assisting one another, and traitors have been commanding the army. They appointed a commander who is either ignorant or corrupt. Egypt has reached the point, therefore, of having no army to defend it. Accordingly, we have undertaken to clean ourselves up and have appointed to command us men from within the army whom we trust in their ability, their character, and their patriotism. It is certain that all Egypt will meet this news with enthusiasm and will welcome it. As for those whose arrest we saw fit from among men formerly associated with the army, we will not deal harshly with them, but will release them at the appropriate time. I assure the Egyptian people that the entire army today has become capable of operating in the national interest and under the rule of the constitution apart from any interests of its own. I take this opportunity to request that the people never permit any traitors to take refuge in deeds of destruction or violence because these are not in the interest of Egypt. Should anyone behave in such ways, he will be dealt with forcefully in a manner such as has not been seen before and his deeds will meet immediately the reward for treason. The army will take charge with the assistance of the police. I assure our foreign brothers that their interests, their personal safety [lit. "their souls"], and their property are safe, and that the army considers itself responsible for them. May God grant us success [lit. "God is the guardian of success"].
With his British support network now neutralized, King Farouk sought the intervention of the United States, which unsurprisingly would not respond. By the 25th, the army had occupied Alexandria, where the king was in residence at the Montaza Palace. Now plainly terrified, Farouk abandoned Montaza, and moved to Ras Al-Teen Palace on the waterfront. Naguib ordered the captain of Farouk's yacht, al-Mahrusa, not to sail without orders from the army.
Debate broke out among the Free Officers concerning the fate of the deposed king. While some (including Gen. Naguib and Nasser) viewed the best solution as to send him into exile, others argued the urge to put him on trial and even execute him for the "crimes he committed to the Egyptian people". Finally, the order came for Farouk to abdicate in favour of his son, Crown Prince Ahmed Fuad - who was acceded to the throne as King Fuad II - and a Regency Council was appointed. Departure into exile finally came on Saturday, July 26, 1952 and at 6 o'clock that evening, the king set sail for Italy with protection from the Egyptian army. On July 28, 1953, Muhammad Naguib became the first President of Egypt, which marked the beginning of modern Egyptian governance.
The Revolution Command Council (RCC), made up of the previous 9-member command committee of the Free Officers in addition to five more members, including Mohamed Naguib, was formed. Ali Maher was asked to form a civilian government. When the Free Officers started isolating elements sympathizing with the Soviet Union, communist cadres led workers riots in Kafr Dawar on August 12, 1952, which resulted in two death sentences. Ali Maher who still sympathized with the British resigned on 7 September following differences with the officers, principally over proposed land reform. Mohamed Naguib became prime minister. On 9 September, the Agrarian Reform Law was passed, which immediately seized any white owned, especially British owned property in Egypt. This was followed by signaling a major land redistribution programme among peasant farmers which gained most of the seized land. However, royal land as well as those of Jews, Greeks, and Copts, were in turn distributed amongst the Free Officers as well as common supporters of the regime. In a bid to stop concentration of land ownership, the regime placed a ceiling of 200 feddans on land ownership. On 9 December, the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) without proper due process decreed that the 1923 Constitution of Egypt was abrogated "in the name of the people."
On 16 January 1953 the officers of the RCC dissolved and banned all political parties, declaring a three-year transitional period during which the RCC would rule. A provisional Constitutional Charter, written by the close circle of usurpers, was written with the intention of giving a veneer of legitimacy to the RCC. This new Constitution was proclaimed on 10 February, and the Liberation Rally—the first of three political organisations linked to the July regime—was launched soon afterwards with the aim of mobilising popular support. The Rally was headed by Gamal Abdel Nasser and included other Free Officers as secretaries-general. On 18 June, the RCC declared Egypt a republic] abolishing the monarchy (the infant son of Farouk had been reigning as King Fuad II) and appointing General Naguib, aged 52, as first president and prime minister. Gamal Abdel Nasser, 35, was appointed deputy premier and minister of the interior. A Revolutionary Tribunal consisting of RCC members Abdel Latif Boghdadi, Anwar Sadat and Hassan Ibrahim, was set up to try politicians of the ancien régime.
In opposition to the Constitution with its overt secularism was the Muslim Brotherhood. Additionally, contrary to orders issued by the Council, members of the Liberation Rally accumulated much of the seized non-Muslim property and distributed amongst their closed networks. Angered at being left out of the political and economic spoils and seeing a continuation of secularism and modernity within the Free Officers Movement such as had existed under the King, the Muslim Brotherhood organized its street elements. From June 1953 into the following year, Egypt was wracked by street riots, clashes, arson, and civil tumolt as the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood battled for popular support.
In January, the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed. It remained an illegal political organization until the Revolution of 2011][. The move came in the wake of clashes between members of the Brotherhood and Liberation Rally student demonstrators on 12 January 1954. March witnessed clashes within the RCC, symbolised in the attempt, ultimately successful, to oust Naguib. The move faced opposition from within the army, and some members of the RCC, especially Khaled Mohieddin, favoured a return to constitutional government. On 26 October, an assassination attempt suspected by the Brotherhood was directed at Nasser during a rally in Alexandria. This led to the regime acting against the Brotherhood, executing Brotherhood leaders on 9 December. Subsequently, Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who had maneuvered himself into the commanding heights of power, finally cemented his power, first becoming chairman of the RCC, and finally as prime minister, with Naguib's constitutional position remaining vague until 14 November, when he was dismissed from office and placed under house arrest.
Meanwhile, the RCC, morally backed by both the Soviet Union and the United States, managed to remain united in its opposition to the British and French, specifically in regard to the Suez Canal. Despite continued calls from the RCC, in debates in the United Nations, and pressure from both the US and USSR, the British refused to transfer control of the Canal to the new regime. The RCC began funding and coordinating ever greater attacks on the British and French in the Suez Canal Zone, and Damietta. Finally, on 19 October, Nasser signed a treaty for the evacuation of British troops from Egypt, to be completed over the following 20 months. Two years later, on 18 June 1956, Nasser raised the Egyptian flag over the Canal Zone, announcing the complete evacuation of British troops.
President Nasser announced a new Constitution on 16 January at a popular rally, setting up a presidential system of government in which the president has the power to appoint and dismiss ministers. An elections law was passed on 3 March granting women the right to vote for the first time in Egyptian history. Nasser was elected as the second president of the Republic on 23 June. In 1957, Nasser announced the formation of the National Union (Al-Ittihad Al-Qawmi), paving the way to July elections for the National Assembly, the first parliament since 1952.
The anniversary of the Revolution is commemorated on Revolution Day, an annual public holiday in Egypt, on 23 July.
Egyptian Arabic is the language spoken by contemporary Egyptians. It is more commonly known locally as the Egyptian colloquial language or Egyptian dialect. Look below for local namings.
Egyptian Arabic is a variety of the Arabic languages of the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. It originated in the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt around the capital Cairo. Descended from the spoken Arabic brought to Egypt during the seventh-century AD Muslim conquest, its development was influenced by the indigenous Coptic of pre-Islamic Egypt, and later by other languages such as Turkish/Ottoman Turkish, Italian, French and English. The 80 million Egyptians speak a continuum of dialects, among which Cairene is the most prominent. It is also understood across most of the Arab World due to the predominance of Egyptian media, making it the most widely spoken and one of the most widely studied varieties of Arabic.][
While it is essentially a spoken language, it is encountered in written form in novels, plays, poems (vernacular literature), as well as in comics, advertising, some newspapers, and transcriptions of popular songs. In most other written media and in television news reporting, Literary Arabic is used. Literary Arabic is a standardized language based on the language of the Quran, i.e. Classical Arabic. The Egyptian vernacular is almost universally written in the Arabic alphabet for local consumption, although it is commonly transcribed into Latin letters or in the International Phonetic Alphabet in linguistics text and textbooks aimed at teaching non-native learners. Also, it is written in ASCII Latin alphabet mainly online and in SMSs.
Egyptians know the dialect as the Egyptian colloquial language ( [note B]) or Egyptian dialect ( [note C]; abbreviated: "Egyptian"). However, it is also named the Modern Egyptian Language (, IPA: [note A])
The terms Egyptian Arabic and Masri are usually used synonymously with Cairene Arabic, the dialect of the Egyptian capital. The country's native name, , is used locally to refer to the capital Cairo itself. Similar to the role played by Parisian French, Egyptian Arabic is by far the most dominant in all areas of national life.
Egyptian Arabic is spoken natively by more than 52 million Egyptians and as a second language by most of the remaining 24 million Egyptians in several regional dialects, as well as by immigrant Egyptian communities in the Middle East, Europe, North America, Australia and South East Asia. Among the spoken varieties of Arabic, standard Egyptian Arabic (based on the dialect of the Egyptian capital) is the only one to have become a lingua franca in other parts of the Arabic-speaking world for two main reasons: the proliferation and popularity of Egyptian films and other media in the region since the early 20th century; and the great number of Egyptian teachers and professors who were instrumental in setting up the education systems of various countries in the Arabian Peninsula and who also taught there and in other countries such as Algeria and Libya. Also many Lebanese artists choose to sing in Egyptian as well as Lebanese.
The Egyptians slowly adopted the Arabic language as a written language following the Arab-Muslim conquest of Egypt in the 7th century AD. Up until then, they were speaking either Greek or Egyptian in its Coptic form. For more than three centuries, there existed a period of Coptic-Arabic bilingualism in Lower Egypt. This trend would last for many more centuries in the south. Arabic may have been already familiar to Egyptians through pre-Islamic trade with Bedouin Arab tribes in the Sinai Peninsula, and the easternmost part of the Nile Delta. Egyptian Arabic seems to have begun taking shape in Fustat, the first Islamic capital of Egypt, and now part of modern-day Cairo.
One of the earliest linguistic sketches of Egyptian Arabic is a 16th century document entitled (, "The Removal of the Burden from the Language of the People of Egypt") by (). It contains key information on early Egyptian Arabic and the language situation in medieval Egypt. The main purpose of the document was to show that while the Egyptians' vernacular contained many critical "errors" vis-à-vis Classical Arabic, according to Maġribi, it was also related to Arabic in other respects. With the ongoing Islamization, and Arabization of the country, Egyptian Arabic slowly supplanted spoken Egyptian. Local chroniclers mention the continued use of Coptic Egyptian as a spoken language until the 17th century AD by peasant women in Upper Egypt. Coptic is still the liturgical language of the Egyptian Coptic Church.
Egyptian Arabic has no official status, and is not officially recognized as a language. Standard Arabic, a modernized form of Classical Arabic (Koranic Arabic), is the official language of Egypt (see diglossia). Interest in the local vernacular began in the 1800s, as the Egyptian national movement for self-determination was taking shape. Questions about the reform and modernization of Arabic came to the fore, and for many decades to follow they were hotly debated in Egyptian intellectual circles. Proposals ranged from developing neologisms to replace archaic terminology in Standard Arabic; to the simplification of syntactical and morphological rules and the introduction of colloquialisms; to complete "Egyptianization" () by abandoning the so-called Standard Arabic in favor of Masri or Egyptian Arabic.
Proponents of language reform in Egypt included Qasim Amin, who also wrote the first Egyptian feminist treatise, former President of the Egyptian University, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, and noted intellectual Salama Moussa. They adopted a modernist, secular approach and disagreed with the assumption that Arabic was an immutable language because of its association with the Quran. The first modern Egyptian novel in which the dialogue was written in the vernacular was Muhammad Husayn Haykal's Zaynab in 1913; it wasn't until 1966 that Mustafa Musharafa's Kantara Who Disbelieved was released - the first novel to be written entirely in Egyptian Arabic. Other notable novelists such as Ihsan Abdel Quddous and Yusuf Idris, and poets such as Salah Jaheen, Abnudi and Fagoumi, helped solidify vernacular literature as a distinct literary genre.
Amongst certain groups within Egypt's elite, Egyptian Arabic enjoyed a brief period of rich literary output. This dwindled with the rise of Egyptian Arab nationalism, which had gained wide popularity in Egypt by the final years of the Egyptian and Sudanese monarchy, as demonstrated vividly by Egypt's involvement in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 under King Farouk. The Egyptian Revolution of 1952, led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, further enhanced the significance of Arab nationalism, making it a central element of Egyptian state policy. The importance of Standard Arabic was re-emphasised in the public sphere by the revolutionary government, and efforts to accord any formal language status to the Egyptian vernacular were ignored. Egyptian Arabic was identified as a mere dialect, and one that was not even spoken universally in Egypt itself, with almost all of Upper Egypt speaking the Saidi dialect of Arabic. Though the revolutionary government heavily sponsored the use of the Egyptian vernacular in films, plays, television programmes, and music, the pre-revolution use of Standard Arabic in official publications was retained.
Linguistic commentators have noted the multi-faceted approach of the Egyptian revolutionaries towards the Arabic language. Whereas Egypt's first President Muhammad Naguib exhibited a preference for using Standard Arabic in his public speeches, his successor Gamal Abdel Nasser was renowned for using the vernacular, and punctuating his speeches with traditional Egyptian words, and expressions. Conversely, Standard Arabic was the norm for state news outlets, including newspapers, magazines, television, and radio. This was especially true of Egypt's national broadcasting company, the Arab Radio and Television Union, which was established with the intent of providing content for the entire Arab World, not merely Egypt, hence the need to broadcast in the standard rather than vernacular. The Voice of the Arabs radio station in particular had an audience from across the region, and the use of anything other than Standard Arabic was viewed as eminently incongruous.
As the status of Egyptian Arabic vis-à-vis Classical Arabic can have such political and religious implications in Egypt, the question of whether Egyptian Arabic should be considered a "dialect" or "language" can be a source of debate. In sociolinguistics, Egyptian Arabic can be seen as one of many distinct varieties which, despite arguably being languages on abstand grounds, are united by a common dachsprache in Literary Arabic (MSA).
Saidi Arabic (Upper Egyptian) is a separate variety in Ethnologue.com and ISO 639-3 as well as in other sources. It carries little prestige nationally though it continues to be widely spoken (19,000,000 speakers) including in the north by rural migrants who have adapted partially to Egyptian Arabic. For example, the Saidi genitive exponent is usually replaced with Egyptian , but the realization of as is retained.][ Second and third-generation migrants are monolingual in the Cairene variety, but maintain cultural and familial ties to the south.][
The traditional division between Lower and Upper Egypt and their respective differences go back to ancient times. Egyptians today commonly refer to the people of the north as () and to those of the south as (). The differences throughout Egypt, however, are more wide ranging and do not neatly correspond to this simple division. There is a linguistic shift from the eastern to the western parts of the delta, and the varieties spoken from Gizah to el Minya are further grouped into a Middle Egypt cluster. Despite these differences, there are features distinguishing all the Egyptian Arabic varieties of the Nile Valley from any other Arabic variety. Such features include reduction of long vowels in open and unstressed syllables, the postposition of demonstratives and interrogatives, the modal meaning of the imperfect, and the integration of the participle.
The Western Egyptian Bedawi Arabic variety of the western desert is different from all other Arabic varieties in Egypt as linguistically it forms part of the Maghrebi group of varieties. The same was formerly true of the Egyptian form of Judaeo-Arabic.][ Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic is also distinct from Egyptian Arabic.
The phonology of Egyptian Arabic (or Cairene) differs slightly from that of other varieties of the Arabic languages and possesses its own unique consonant and vowel inventories. For a more in-depth look at Egyptian Arabic phonology, see the Egyptian Arabic phonology page.
In contrast to CA and MSA, nouns are not inflected for case and lack nunation (with the exception of certain fixed phrases in the accusative case, such as , "thank you"). As all nouns take their pausal forms, singular words and broken plurals simply lose their case endings. In sound plurals and dual forms, where, in MSA, difference in case is present even in pausal forms, the genitive/accusative form is the one preserved. Fixed expressions in the construct state beginning in abu, often geographic names, retain their -u in all cases.
A common set of nouns referring to colors, as well as a number of nouns referring to physical defects of various sorts (ʔaṣlaʕ "bald"; ʔaṭṛaʃ "deaf"; ʔaxṛas "dumb"), take a special inflectional pattern, as shown in the table. Note that only a small number of common colors inflect this way: ʔaḥmaṛ "red"; ʔazraʔ "blue"; ʔaxḍaṛ "green"; ʔaṣfaṛ "yellow"; ʔabyaḍ "white"; ʔiswid "black"; ʔasmaṛ "brown-skinned, brunette"; ʔaʃʔaṛ "blond(e)". The remaining colors are invariable, and mostly so-called nisba adjectives derived from colored objects: bunni "brown" (< bunn "coffee powder"); ṛamaadi "gray" (< ṛamaad "ashes"); banafsigi "purple" (< banafsig "violet"); burtuʔaani "orange" (< burtuʔaan "oranges"); zibiibi "maroon" (< zibiib "raisins"); etc., or of foreign origin: beeʒ "beige" from the French; bamba "pink" from Turkish pembe.
Egyptian Arabic object pronouns are clitics, in that they attach to the end of a noun, verb or preposition, with the result forming a single phonological word rather than separate words. Clitics can be attached to the following types of words:
With verbs, indirect object clitic pronouns can be formed using the preposition li- plus a clitic. Both direct and indirect object clitic pronouns can be attached to a single verb: agíib "I bring", agíb-hu "I bring it", agib-húu-lik "I bring it to you", m-agib-hu-lkíi-ʃ "I do not bring it to you".
Verbs in Arabic are based on a stem made up of three or four consonants. The set of consonants communicates the basic meaning of a verb. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes and/or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as tense, person and number, in addition to changes in the meaning of the verb that embody grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive.
Each particular lexical verb is specified by two stems, one used for the past tense and one used for non-past tenses along with as subjunctive and imperative moods. To the former stem, suffixes are added to mark the verb for person, number and gender, while to the latter stem, a combination of prefixes and suffixes are added. (Very approximately, the prefixes specify the person and the suffixes indicate number and gender.) The third person masculine singular past tense form serves as the "dictionary form" used to identify a verb, similar to the infinitive in English. (Arabic has no infinitive.) For example, the verb meaning "write" is often specified as kátab, which actually means "he wrote". In the paradigms below, a verb will be specified as kátab/yíktib (where kátab means "he wrote" and yíktib means "he writes"), indicating the past stem (katab-) and non-past stem (-ktib-, obtained by removing the prefix yi-).
The verb classes in Arabic are formed along two axes. One axis (described as "form I", "form II", etc.) is used to specify grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive, and involves varying the stem form. For example, from the root K-T-B "write" is derived form I kátab/yíktib "write", form II káttib/yikáttib "cause to write", form III ká:tib/yiká:tib "correspond", etc. The other axis is determined by the particular consonants making up the root. For example, defective verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant, which is often reflected in paradigms with an extra final vowel in the stem (e.g. ráma/yírmi "throw" from R-M-Y); meanwhile, hollow verbs have a W or Y as the middle root consonant, and the stems of such verbs appear to have only two consonants (e.g. gá:b/yigí:b "bring" from G-Y-B).
Strong verbs are those that have no "weakness" (e.g. W or Y) in the root consonants. Each verb has a given vowel pattern for Past (a or i) and Present (a or i or u). Combinations of each exist.
Form I verbs have a given vowel pattern for past (a or i) and present (a, i or u). Combinations of each exist:
Example: kátab/yíktib "write"
Note that, in general, the present indicative is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of bi- (bi-a- is elided to ba-). Similarly, the future is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of ḥa- (ḥa-a- is elided to ḥa-). The i in bi- or in the following prefix will be deleted according to the regular rules of vowel syncope:
Example: kátab/yíktib "write": non-finite forms
Example: fíhim/yífham "understand"
Boldfaced forms fíhm-it and fíhm-u differ from the corresponding forms of katab (kátab-it and kátab-u due to vowel syncope). Note also the syncope in ána fhím-t "I understood".
Example: dárris/yidárris "teach"
Boldfaced forms indicate the primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab:
Example: sá:fir/yisá:fir "travel"
The primary differences from the corresponding forms of darris (shown in boldface) are:
Defective verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant.
Example: ráma/yírmi "throw"
The primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab (shown in boldface) are:
Example: nísi/yínsa "forget"
This verb type is quite similar to the defective verb type ráma/yírmi. The primary differences are:
Note that some other verbs have different stem variations, e.g. míʃi/yímʃi "walk" (with i in both stems) and báʔa/yíbʔa "become, remain" (with a in both stems). The verb láʔa/yilá:ʔi "find" is unusual in having a mixture of a form I past and form III present (note also the variations líʔi/yílʔa and láʔa/yílʔa).
Verbs other than form I have consistent stem vowels. All such verbs have a in the past (hence form stems with -é:-, not -í:-). Forms V, VI, X and IIq have a in the present (indicated by boldface below); others have i; forms VII, VIIt, and VIII have i in both vowels of the stem (indicated by italics below); form IX verbs, including "defective" verbs, behave as regular doubled verbs:
Hollow have a W or Y as the middle root consonant. Note that for some forms (e.g. form II and form III), hollow verbs are conjugated as strong verbs (e.g. form II ʕáyyin/yiʕáyyin "appoint" from ʕ-Y-N, form III gá:wib/yigá:wib "answer" from G-W-B).
Example: gá:b/yigí:b "bring"
This verb works much like dárris/yidárris "teach". Like all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant, the prefixes differ in the following way from those of regular and defective form I verbs:
In addition, the past tense has two stems: gíb- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and gá:b- elsewhere (third person).
Example: ʃá:f/yiʃú:f "see"
This verb class is identical to verbs such as gá:b/yigí:b except in having stem vowel u in place of i.
Doubled verbs have the same consonant as middle and last root consonant, e.g. ḥább/yiḥíbb "love" from Ḥ-B-B.
Example: ḥább/yiḥíbb "love"
This verb works much like gá:b/yigí:b "bring". Like that class, it has two stems in the past, which are ḥabbé:- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and ḥább- elsewhere (third person). Note that é:- was borrowed from the defective verbs; the Classical Arabic equivalent form would be *ḥabáb-, e.g. *ḥabáb-t.
Other verbs have u or a in the present stem: baṣṣ/yibúṣṣ "to look", ṣaḥḥ/yiṣáḥḥ "be right, be proper".
As for the other forms:
Assimilated verbs have W or Y as the first root consonant. Most of these verbs have been regularized in Egyptian Arabic, e.g. wázan/yíwzin "to weigh" or wíṣíl/yíwṣal "to arrive". Only a couple of irregular verbs remain, e.g. wíʔif/yúʔaf "stop" and wíʔiʕ/yúʔaʕ "fall" (see below).
"Doubly weak" verbs have more than one "weakness", typically a W or Y as both the second and third consonants. This term is in fact a misnomer, as such verbs actually behave as normal defective verbs (e.g. káwa/yíkwi "iron (clothes)" from K-W-Y, ʔáwwa/yiʔáwwi "strengthen" from ʔ-W-Y, dá:wa/yidá:wi "treat, cure" from D-W-Y).
The irregular verbs are as follows:
Example: gé/yí:gi "come": non-finite forms
In this section all verb classes and their corresponding stems are listed, excluding the small number of irregular verbs described above. Verb roots are indicated schematically using capital letters to stand for consonants in the root:
Hence, the root F-M-L stands for all three-consonant roots, and F-S-T-L stands for all four-consonant roots. (Traditional Arabic grammar uses F-ʕ-L and F-ʕ-L-L, respectively, but the system used here appears in a number of grammars of spoken Arabic dialects and is probably less confusing for English speakers, since the forms are easier to pronounce than those involving ʕ.)
The following table lists the prefixes and suffixes to be added to mark tense, person, number and gender, and the stem form to which they are added. The forms involving a vowel-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAv or NPv, are highlighted in silver. The forms involving a consonant-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAc, are highlighted in gold. The forms involving a no suffix, and corresponding stem PA0 or NP0, are unhighlighted.
The following table lists the verb classes along with the form of the past and non-past stems, active and passive participles, and verbal noun, in addition to an example verb for each class.
One characteristic of Egyptian syntax which it shares with other North African varieties as well as some southern Levantine dialect areas is in the two-part negative verbal circumfix
comes from the Classical Arabic negator . is a development of Classical "thing". This negating circumfix is similar in function to the French circumfix ne ... pas.
The structure can end in a consonant or in a vowel , varying according to the individual or region. The fuller ending is considered rural, and nowadays Cairene speakers usually use the shorter . However, was more common in the past, as attested in old films.
The negative circumfix often surrounds the entire verbal composite including direct and indirect object pronouns:
However, verbs in the future tense typically instead use the prefix /miʃ/:
Interrogative sentences can be formed by adding the negation clitic "()" before the verb:
Addition of the circumfix can cause complex changes to the verbal cluster, due to the application of the rules of vowel syncope, shortening, lengthening, insertion and elision described above:
In addition, certain other morphological changes occur:
In contrast with Classical Arabic, but much like the other varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Arabic prefers subject–verb–object (SVO) word order; CA and to a lesser extent MSA prefer verb–subject–object (VSO). For example, in MSA "Adel read the book" would be IPA: whereas EA would say IPA: .
Also in common with other Arabic varieties is the loss of unique agreement in the dual form: while the dual remains productive to some degree in nouns, dual nouns are analyzed as plural for the purpose of agreement with verbs, demonstratives, and adjectives. Thus "These two Syrian professors are walking to the university" in MSA (in an SVO sentence for ease of comparison) would be "" IPA: , which becomes in EA "" , IPA: .
Unlike most other forms of Arabic, however, Egyptian prefers final placement of question words in interrogative sentences. This is a feature characteristic of the Coptic substratum of Egyptian Arabic.
Egyptian Arabic appears to have retained a significant Coptic substratum in its lexicon, phonology, and syntax. Coptic was the latest stage of the indigenous Egyptian language spoken until the mid-17th century when it was finally completely supplanted by Egyptian Arabic. Some features that Egyptian Arabic shares with the original ancient Egyptian language include certain prefix and suffix verbal conjugations, certain emphatic and glottalized consonants, as well as a large number of biliteral and triliteral lexical correspondences.
Two syntactic features that are particular][ to Egyptian Arabic inherited from Coptic are:
Also since Coptic, like other North African languages, lacked interdental consonants it could possibly have influenced the manifestation of their occurrences in Classical Arabic as their dental counterparts and the emphatic dental respectively. (see consonants)
Egyptian Arabic is used in most social situations, with Modern Standard and Classical Arabic generally only being used in writing and in highly religious and/or formal situations. However, within Egyptian Arabic, there is a wide range of variation. El-Said Badawi identifies three distinct levels of Egyptian Arabic based chiefly on the quantity of non-Arabic lexical items in the vocabulary: `Āmmiyyat al-Musaqqafīn (Cultured Colloquial or Formal Spoken Arabic), `Āmmiyyat al-Mutanawwirīn (Enlightened Colloquial), and `Āmmiyyat al-'Ummiyīn (Illiterate Colloquial). Cultured Colloquial/Formal Spoken Arabic is characteristic of the educated classes and is the language of discussion of high-level subjects, but it is nevertheless Egyptian Arabic; it is characterized by use of technical terms imported from foreign languages and MSA, as well as closer attention to the pronunciation of certain letters (particularly qāf). It is relatively standardized and, being closer to the standard, is understood fairly well across the Arab world. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Illiterate Colloquial, common to rural areas and to working-class neighborhoods in the cities, has an almost exclusively Arabic vocabulary; loanwords are generally either very old borrowings (e.g. , "shrimp," from Italian gambari, "shrimp" (pl.)) or refer to technological items that find no or poor equivalents in Arabic (e.g. , television). Enlightened Colloquial (`Āmmiyyat al-Mutanawwirīn) is the language of those who have had some schooling and are relatively affluent; loanwords tend to refer to pop-cultural items, consumer products, and fashions. It is also understood widely in the Arab world, as it is the lingua franca of Egyptian film and television.
In contrast to MSA and most other varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Arabic has a form of the T-V distinction. In the singular, inta/inti is acceptable in most situations, but when addressing clear social superiors (e.g. persons older than oneself, superiors at work, certain government officials), the form , meaning "Your Grace" is preferred (c.f. Spanish usted).
This use of is linked to the system of honorifics in daily Egyptian speech. The honorific taken by a given person is determined by their relationship to the speaker and their occupation.
Other honorifics also exist.
In usage, honorifics are used in the second and third person.
Egyptian Arabic varies regionally across its sprachraum, with certain characteristics being noted as typical of the speech of certain regions.
Alexandria's dialect is noted for certain shibboleths separating its speech from that of Cairo. The ones most frequently commented on in popular discourse are the use of the word falafel as opposed to ṭa`meyya for the fava-bean fritters common across the country, and the pronunciation of the word for the Egyptian pound as , rather than the Cairene (closer to the pronunciation of the origin of the term, the British guinea). The speech of the older Alexandrian families is also noted for use of the plural in the first person even when speaking in the singular.
Port Said's dialect is noted for a "heavier," more guttural sound than other regions of the country.
Egyptian Arabic has been a subject of study by scholars and laypersons in the past and the present for many reasons, including personal interest, egyptomania, business, news reporting, and diplomatic and political interactions. Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA) is now a field of study in both graduate and undergraduate levels in many higher education institutions and universities in the world. When added to academic instruction, Arabic language schools and university programs provide Egyptian Arabic courses in a classroom fashion, while others facilitate classes for online study.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Egyptian/Masri (Arabic script; spelling isn't unified):
Franco/Arabic Chat Alphabet (has no strict standard):
el e3lan el 3alami le 72u2 el ensan, el band el awalani
el bani2admin kollohom mawlodin 7orrin we metsawyin fel karama wel 7o2u2. Etwahablohom el 3a2l wel damir, wel mafrud ye3amlo ba3dihom be ro7 el akhaweya.
IPA Phonemic transcription (for comparison with Literary Arabic):
IPA Phonemic transcription (for a general demonstration of Egyptian phonology):
IPA Phonetic transcription morphologically (in fast speech, long vowels are half-long or without distinctive length):
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.
Pharaonism is an ideology that rose to prominence in Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s. It looked to Egypt's pre-Islamic past and argued that Egypt was part of a larger Mediterranean civilization. This ideology stressed the role of the Nile River and the Mediterranean Sea. Pharaonism's most notable advocate was Taha Hussein.
Egyptian identity since the Iron Age Egyptian Empire evolved for the longest period under the influence of native Egyptian culture, religion and identity (see Ancient Egypt). The Egyptians came subsequently under the influence of brief successions of foreign rulers including Berbers, Nubians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks, French and British. Under these foreign rulers, the Egyptians accommodated two new religions, Christianity and Islam, and a new language, Egyptian Arabic.
Questions of identity came to the fore in the 20th century as Egyptians sought to free themselves from British occupation, leading to the rise of ethno-territorial secular Egyptian nationalism (also known as "Pharaonism"). Pharaonism became the dominant mode of expression of Egyptian anti-colonial activists of the pre- and inter-war periods:
In 1931, following a visit to Egypt, Syrian Arab nationalist Sati' al-Husri remarked that "[Egyptians] did not possess an Arab nationalist sentiment; did not accept that Egypt was a part of the Arab lands, and would not acknowledge that the Egyptian people were part of the Arab nation." The later 1930s would become a formative period for Arab nationalism in Egypt, in large part due to efforts by Syrian/Palestinian/Lebanese intellectuals. Nevertheless, a year after the establishment of the League of Arab States in 1945, to be headquartered in Cairo, Oxford University historian H. S. Deighton was still writing:
One of the most prominent Egyptian nationalists and anti-Arabists was Egypt's most notable writer of the 20th century, Taha Hussein. He expressed his disagreement with Arab unity and his beliefs in Egyptian nationalism on multiple occasions. In one of his most well known articles, written in 1933 in the magazine "Kawkab el Sharq", he wrote saying:
It has been argued that until the 1940s, Egypt was more in favor of territorial, Egyptian nationalism and distant from the pan-Arab ideology. Egyptians generally did not identify themselves as Arabs, and it is revealing that when the Egyptian nationalist leader Saad Zaghlul met the Arab delegates at Versailles in 1918, he insisted that their struggles for statehood were not connected, claiming that the problem of Egypt was an Egyptian problem and not an Arab one.
However, Egypt under King Farouk was a founding member of the Arab League in 1945, and the first Arab state to declare war in support of the Palestinians in the Palestine War of 1948. This Arab nationalist sentiment increased exponentially after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. The primary leaders of the Revolution, Muhammad Naguib, and Gamal Abdel Nasser, were staunch Arab nationalists who stressed that pride in Egypt's individual indigenous identity was entirely consistent with pride in an overarching Arab cultural identity. It was during Naguib's tenure as leader that Egypt adopted the Arab Liberation Flag to symbolise the country's links to the rest of the Arab World.
For a while Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic. When the union was dissolved, Egypt continued to be known as the UAR until 1971, when Egypt adopted the current official name, the Arab Republic of Egypt. The Egyptians' attachment to Arabism, however, was particularly questioned after the 1967 Six-Day War. Thousands of Egyptians had lost their lives and the country became disillusioned with Pan-Arab politics. Nasser's successor Anwar Al Sadat, both through public policy and his peace initiative with Israel, revived an uncontested Egyptian orientation, unequivocally asserting that only Egypt and Egyptians were his responsibility. The terms "Arab," "Arabism," and "Arab unity," save for the new official name, became conspicuously absent. (See also Liberal age and Republic sections.)
Although the overwhelming majority of Egyptians today continue to self-identify as Arabs in a cultural sense, a minority reject this, pointing to the failures of Arab and pan-Arab nationalist policies, and even publicly voicing objection to the present official name of the country.
In late 2007, el-Masri el-Yom daily newspaper conducted an interview at a bus stop in the working-class district of Imbaba to ask citizens what Arab nationalism (el-qawmeyya el-'arabeyya) represented for them. One Egyptian Muslim youth responded, "Arab nationalism means that the Egyptian Foreign Minister in Jerusalem gets humiliated by the Palestinians, that Arab leaders dance upon hearing of Sadat's death, that Egyptians get humiliated in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, and of course that Arab countries get to fight Israel until the last Egyptian soldier." Another felt that,"Arab countries hate Egyptians", and that unity with Israel may even be more of a possibility than Arab nationalism, because he believes that Israelis would at least respect Egyptians.
Some contemporary prominent Egyptians who oppose Arab nationalism or the idea that Egyptians are Arabs include Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass, popular writer Osama Anwar Okasha, Egyptian-born Harvard University Professor Leila Ahmed, Member of Parliament Suzie Greiss, in addition to different local groups and intellectuals. This understanding is also expressed in other contexts, such as Neil DeRosa's novel Joseph's Seed in his depiction of an Egyptian character "who declares that Egyptians are not Arabs and never will be."
Egyptian critics of Arab nationalism contend that it has worked to erode and/or relegate native Egyptian identity by superimposing only one aspect of Egypt's culture. These views and sources for collective identification in the Egyptian state are captured in the words of a linguistic anthropologist who conducted fieldwork in Cairo:
Many Coptic intellectuals hold to a version of Pharaonism which states that Coptic culture is largely derived from pre-Christian, Pharaonic culture, and is not indebted to Greece. It gives the Copts a claim to a deep heritage in Egyptian history and culture. Pharaonism was widely held by Coptic and Muslim scholars in the early 20th century, and it helped bridge the divide between those groups. Most scholars today see Pharaonism as a late development shaped primarily by western Orientalism, and they doubt its validity.
Ethnic groups in Egypt
Ethnic groups in the Middle East
Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
Culture of Egypt