1. Basic characteristics of the script

Unlike the research by the Oriental Institute in Chicago, in our research of the demotic script we start from the fact: that it the syllabic script and we consider it sign by sign, i.e. syllable by syllable.

These are the basic characteristics of the script:

-  the direction of writing is form right to left;

-  there are no punctuation marks in today's sense;

-  there are no capital letters;

-  there is no division of words and use of blank space, it is written in an unbroken string;

-  the script used is the syllabic from the type consonant-vowel, with a minimal use of determined signs from pictographic writing.

The relatively wide range of the available text, of about 4500 signs, gives us an opportunity to identify the forms of the signs which are the basis of the script used. The most frequent ones are denoted: signs for isolated writing of consonants and signs for isolated writing of vowels.We also defined signs which are most probably the remains of some old pictographic script, and as such they represent a whole notion.

Especially intriguing is the method of writing the so-called ligatures, which according to us is a characteristic of the ancient Macedonian variation of this widely-used script in the given period of the Mediterranean - Asian civilization.

1.1. Identification of the syllabic signs

Unlike the research by the Oriental Institute in Chicago, in our research of the demotic script we start from the fact: that it the syllabic script and we consider it sign by sign, i.e. syllable by syllable.

These are the basic characteristics of the script:

  • the direction of writing is form right to left;
  • there are no punctuation marks in today's sense;
  • there are no capital letters;
  • there is no division of words and use of blank space, it is written in an unbroken string;
  • the script used is the syllabic from the type consonant-vowel, with a minimal use of determined signs from pictographic writing.

The relatively wide range of the available text, of about 4500 signs, gives us an opportunity to identify the forms of the signs which are the basis of the script used. The most frequent ones are denoted

asymmetrical syllabic signs
symmetrical syllabic signs
inclined syllabic signs
specific syllabic sign
signs for isolated writing of consonants
signs for isolated writing of vowels

We also defined signs which are most probably the remains of some old pictographic script, and as such they represent a whole notion. Click here to proceed to the pictographic signs.

Especially intriguing is the method of writing the so-called ligatures, which according to us is a characteristic of the ancient Macedonian variation of this widely-used script in the given period of the Mediterranean - Asian civilization.

1.1.1. Asymmetrical syllabic signs

The characteristic of the asymmetrical syllabic signs is it they can be written using 8 different dispositions on the writing surface to denote syllables using one consonant with 8 vowels in a monosemic (unambiguous) way.

We identified 13 asymmetrical signs in the analyzed text. They are the following:

as the signs for 13 consonants.

As mentioned above, each of these 13 signs in the writing surface, can be written in using 8 dispositions, as follows:

In this way, with only 13 different asymmetrical signs 13x8=104 syllables of the consonant-vowel type can be written in an unambiguous way.

The asymmetrical signs noted under the numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9, in the positions written under the numbers 1, 3, 5 and 7 were used in the 16th century as signs for writing numbers by the well-known mathematician Cardan, in his work Systems for Writing Numbers.

As in the analyzed text, where the consonant was determined by the form of the sign, and the vowel in the syllable was determined by the position of the sign, in his work Cardan determined the numbers with the form of the sign, and determined weights with their disposition (ones, tens, hundreds and thousands) in the number, as shown below.

If we recall that the Rosetta text dates from the second century B.C. and was written on the territory of Egypt, while Cardan was working in the 16th century A.D. in Italy, we can conclude that after 1800 years there was still a knowledge in the Mediterranean area about the signs in the Rosetta text.

1.1.2. Symmetrical syllabic signs

The characteristic of the symmetrical syllabic signs is that 4 different dispositions can be written on the writing surface to denote syllables of one consonant with four vowels in an unambiguous way. in the analyzed 6 signs were identified. They are the following:

as marks for 6 consonants.

Each of these 6 marks in the writing surface, can be written in with 4 dispositions, as follows:

In this way, using 6 different signs 6 x 4 = 24 different syllables of the consonant - vowel type can be written in a monosemic way.

1.1.3. Inclined syllabic signs

The inclined syllabic signs, like the symmetrical syllabic signs, can be written on the writing surface with 4 different dispositions to denote syllables of one consonant with four vowels in a monosemic way. They are the following:

Each of these 6 marks in the writing surface, can be written using 4 dispositions, as in the following example:

In this way, using 6 different signs 6 x 4 = 24 different syllables of the type consonant - vowel can be written in a monosemic way.

1.1.4. Specific syllabic sign

It should be specially emphasized that a specific sign occurs in the text, which we identified in four forms. They are:

The last form, two slanting lines brought nearer in the upper part of this syllabic sign, we find even today in many syllabic scripts of the Asian continent.

1.2. Signs for isolated writing

1.2.1. Signs for isolated writing of consonants

Some of the consonants in the text are found to be written separately, in the following form:

The slanting line in the composition of the basic sign in the first two is used with the function of virama, i.e. it eliminates the vowel of the corresponding syllable.

1.2.2. Signs for isolated writing of vowels

While writing, there was a need to write down an isolated vowel. Signs in only one position were used for writing down an isolated vowel. The following signs, which reflect to represent vowels, were identified in the text:

1.3. Pictographic signs

As a remnant of some older script in the analyzed text several signs occur which do not adapt to the syllabic concept. This refers mainly to the very frequently occurring three vertical lines and three slant lines:

which means an occurrence (that has been) already studied in the corresponding literature in this field.

Two other signs occur, but not very frequently, which cannot be syllabically explained either. They are the following:

The first sign represents a stylized form of the Egyptian god of the dead, and the second sign is a stylized form of a snake.

1.4. Writing of ligatures

It is obvious that in the text syllabic signs have not only been written next to each other, but they have also been written one above the other, as in the example:

We call these forms ligatures and we think that they reflect a specific characteristic of the language which was being expressed through the script.

In most cases there are 2 to 3 signs in the ligatures. As a rule, the beginning of a word was written with a ligature, whereas the end of the word whose beginning was written in a form of ligature was realized with one and very rarely with 2 to 3 syllables (signs).