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LINGUA AEGYPTIA

JOURNAL OF EGYPTIAN LANGUAGE STUDIES

21
2013

Widmaier Verlag ∙ Hamburg 2014


LINGUA AEGYPTIA – Journal of Egyptian Language Studies (LingAeg)

EDITORS
Heike Behlmer Friedrich Junge Frank Kammerzell Antonio Loprieno
(Göttingen) (Göttingen) (Berlin) (Basel)

MANAGING EDITOR REVIEW EDITORS


Kai Widmaier Eliese-Sophia Lincke Daniel Werning
(Hamburg) (Berlin) (Berlin)

IN COLLABORATION WITH
Tilmann Kunze
(Berlin)

ADVISORY BOARD
James P. Allen, Providence Sebastian Richter, Leipzig Thomas Schneider, Vancouver
Joris F. Borghouts, Leiden Kim Ryholt, Copenhagen Ariel Shisha-Halevy, Jerusalem
Christopher J. Eyre, Liverpool Helmut Satzinger, Wien Deborah Sweeney, Tel Aviv
Janet H. Johnson, Chicago Wolfgang Schenkel, Tübingen Pascal Vernus, Paris
Richard B. Parkinson, London Jean Winand, Liège

LINGUA AEGYPTIA (recommended abbreviation: LingAeg) publishes articles and book reviews on all
aspects of Egyptian and Coptic language and literature in the narrower sense:
(a) grammar, including graphemics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, lexicography;
(b) Egyptian language history, including norms, diachrony, dialectology, typology; (c) comparative
linguistics, including Afroasiatic contacts, loanwords; (d) theory and history of Egyptian literature and
literary discourse; (e) history of Egyptological linguistics. We also welcome contributions on other aspects
of Egyptology and neighbouring disciplines, in so far as they relate to the journal’s scope. Authors of
articles or reviews will receive electronic off-prints.
Periodically, we would also like to put the journal at the colleagues’ disposal for a forum in which an
important or neglected topic of Egyptian linguistics is treated at some length: in this case, a scholar who is
active in this particular area will be invited to write a conceptual paper, and others will be asked to comment
on it. The main author will then receive five, the other contributors two copies of the special issue of
LingAeg. Short articles on grammar and lexicon (max. four pages) will be published in the section
“Miscellanies”.
Authors should submit papers electronically to the managing editor (lingaeg@uni-goettingen.de). Please
send contributions in both doc/docx and pdf format. Further information (incl. guidelines and a template) is
available from www.uni-goettingen.de/lingaeg. The decision whether to publish a manuscript is taken by
the editors in agreement with the advisory board. For reviews see page 341.

Addresses
Seminar für Ägyptologie und Institut für Archäologie: Ägyptologisches Seminar
Koptologie Ägyptologie und Archäologie der Universität Basel
Kulturwissenschaftliches Nordostafrikas Petersgraben 51
Zentrum Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 4051 Basel
Heinrich-Düker-Weg 14 Unter den Linden 6 Switzerland
37073 Göttingen 10099 Berlin Tel: +41(0)61/267-3060
Germany Germany Fax: +41(0)61/267-2341
Tel: +49(0)551/39-2-4400 Tel: +49(0)30/2093-4750
The annual subscription rates are 49 € for individual and 59 € for institutional subscribers while
single issues are available for 99 €. Orders should be sent to the publisher: Widmaier Verlag,
Kai Widmaier, Witthof 23f, 22305 Hamburg, Germany (orders@widmaier-verlag.de).

ISSN 0942-5659
CONTENTS

EDITORIAL .................................................................................................... v

ARTICLES

James P. Allen
Emphatic Sentences and Nominal/Relative Forms in Earlier Egyptian .... 1–7

James P. Allen
The Name of Osiris (and Isis) .................................................................... 9–14

Åke Engsheden
Under the spell of Horapollo’s Hieroglyphika.
Guided mistakes in the decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs ........... 15–34

Roman Gundacker
Die Eigennamen der Könige der IV. Dynastie. Ihre Struktur
und Bedeutung gemäß ägyptischen und griechischen Graphien ............... 35–130

Ruth Kramer
The Position of Numerals in Middle Egyptian.
Evidence from Universals of Word Order ................................................. 131–137

Laurence Neven
Remarques sur les variations de genre
de certains substantifs en néo-égyptien ..................................................... 139–157

Carsten Peust
Bemerkungen zur berberischen Etymologie
des spätägyptischen Verbs swn / sooun „wissen“ ................................... 159–165

Lutz Popko
Von der mittelägyptischen Rang-V-Erweiterung zum
demotischen konditionalen 2. Tempus. Belege des Neuägyptischen ........ 167–179

Kim Ridealgh
Yes Sir! An Analysis of the Superior/Subordinate Relationship
in the Late Ramesside Letters .................................................................... 181–206
iv Contents

Wolfgang Schenkel
Kontingenter Hintergrund.
Beobachtungen zum Gebrauch des È@m.|n=f in erzählenden Texten ......... 207–264

David A. Warburton
Studying the Earliest Development
and Transformation of Written Expression................................................ 265–276

BOOK REVIEWS

Roland Enmarch & Verena M. Lepper (eds.), Ancient Egyptian Literature:


Theory and Practice
(Camilla Di Biase-Dyson).......................................................................... 277–288

Richard B. Parkinson & Lisa Baylis, Four 12th Dynasty Literary Papyri
(Pap. Berlin P. 3022–5): A Photographic Record
(Camilla Di Biase-Dyson).......................................................................... 289–292

Nikolaus Tacke, Das Opferritual des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches


(Matthias Müller) ....................................................................................... 293–301

Wolfgang Schenkel, Tübinger Einführung in die klassisch-ägyptische


Sprache und Schrift (2012)
(Helmut Satzinger) ..................................................................................... 303–309

James P. Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Language. An Historical Study


(Wolfgang Schenkel) ................................................................................. 311–328

Daniel A. Werning, Das Höhlenbuch.


Textkritische Edition und Textgrammatik
(Jean Winand) ............................................................................................ 329–339

BOOKS RECEIVED ....................................................................................... 341

ADDRESSES OF THE AUTHORS ................................................................ 343

ADVERTISEMENTS
Lingua Aegyptia – Studia Monographica
LingAeg 21 (2013), 9–14

The Name of Osiris (and Isis)

James P. Allen, Providence

Abstract
Ancient and modern explanations of the structure, vocalization, and meaning of the name of Osiris are examined.
The weight of evidence supports the reading js-jrj, meaning “engendering (male) principle,” vocalized *usúri.
Isis’s cognate name, *úsit, means “female principle.”

The name of the god Osiris has been a matter of speculation and interpretation since
the time of the ancient Egyptians themselves. Explanations of its meaning are as old
as the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts:

[1] jry PJPJ NFR-K#-Ro jst.f js (PT 684.10)1


Pepi Neferkare makes his place as Osiris.

[2] ḏd.n.f / m rn.k n (PT *718.3 P/Nt)


He said, “It is against me,” about your name of Osiris.

[3] ḏd.n.f m rn.k pw n / (CT I, 178d)2


He said, “He is longer than me,” about this your name of Osiris.

The analogy in Ex. 1 is also reflected in CT V, 259b B2Bo jnk m (jw)nw “I


am the one who made his place in Heliopolis.”3 Much later, Plutarch reports that
“some … explain the meaning of the name as ‘many-eyed’ on the theory that os in the
Egyptian language means ‘many’ and iri ‘eye’.”4 Based on the Ptolemaic spelling
, he also observes that the Egyptians “depict Osiris by means of an eye and a
sceptre, the one of which indicates forethought and the other power.”5
Modern interpretations have been as speculative and as varied, proposing foreign
as well as native etymologies.6 The former involve the Mesopotamian gods
Assur/Ashur, the epithet dAsar– of the Mesopotamian god Marduk, the totem ’ašērāh
7
of the Hebrew Bible, Berber wsr “old,” and Afro-Asiatic (Hausa) šūrè ́ “die” – none

1 Pyramid Texts are cited after Allen (2013b).


2 Noted by Kákosy (1998: 244).
3 The four signs are stacked vertically. Other copies have (B1Y; B4Bo, mostly lost, was
probably similar but with determinative before the suffix pronoun), (S2Ca), and ḥrt-
jst.f (fem.).
4 Περὶ Ἴσιδος καὶ Ὀσίριδος (De Iside et Osiride), 354F–355A. For this interpretation (oširi < oS#-
jrt), see Kuhlmann (1975: 136).
5 Περὶ Ἴσιδος καὶ Ὀσίριδος (De Iside et Osiride), 371E.
6 For summaries, see Griffith (1980: 87–99), and Shalomi-Hen (2006: 97–103).
7 Devéria (1872: V n. 7); de Cara (1889); Mercer (1952: IV, 24–25); Ember (1917); Bates (1915);
Takács (1998). Petrie (1900–1901: I, 36) and Shalomi-Hen (2006: 113) also propose a foreign
origin for the god but without offering an etymology of his name.
10 James P. Allen

of which is more than a groundless hypothesis, devoid of compelling evidence.


Proposed native etymologies are more well informed, though not all equally well
considered. In chronological order, these include “demeure … de l’oeil” (Lefébure
1875: 140–146), “Die Macht, die Kraft des Augapfels” or “kräftig ist der Augapfel”
(Brugsch 1891: 81), “der … den Sitz … einnahm” (Erman 1909: 95), “seat maker”
(Budge 1911: I, 24–27), “Sitz des Auges” in the sense of “Augenfreude” (Sethe 1930:
§ 94), “Sitz des Auges” (Scharff 1948: 44. n. 99; Fecht 1960: 151 n. 427 and 223 at
§ 108 A. 188; Westendorf 1977), #jsrj (and #jsrjt for Isis) “der (die) mit der
Haarlocke” (Kaplony 1966: 69–70), “Sitz des (Sonnen-) Auges” (Westendorf 1966:
2–3), #st-jrt “die/das, die/was Herrschaftsmacht hat (o.ä.) und (als soche/solches)
handelt, aktiv ist (o.ä.)” (Osing 1974), “Ort des Tuns/ Schöpfens” (Kuhlmann 1975),
“der die Krone trägt” (Barta 1973: 106), #st-jrt “die der Innerei gehört … die, die zur
Gebärmutter gohört und als solche handelt” (Barta 1978), wsr “the Mighty One”
(Griffiths 1980: 94–95), st-jrt “condition of being made” (referring to mummification:
Lorton 1985), w#s.t-jr.t “Die das Auge trägt” (Westendorf 1987), “Place of Eye” in
the sense of “Sight” (Bolshakov 1997: 183–186), *wasūr˘w “the Mighty One”
(Zeidler 2000), and an abbreviation of jrj st jrt “Einer, der zum gemachten Bett
gehört” (Altenmüller 2000). Helck also proposed a native etymology, from the
“Sprache der Ostdeltaleute vor der ‘Reichseingung’,” but concluded that “was er …
bedeutet haben mag, wissen wir ebensowenig wie die Ägypter” (1976: 123).
One can sympathize with Helck’s skepticism, given the range of modern interpre-
tations; and those of the Egyptians themselves indicate that whatever meaning the
name originally had, it was subject to re-analysis as early as the reign of Pepy I
(Ex. 1). Misgivings notwithstanding, however, some facts are more certain than
others.
From its first appearance in the reign of Izezi until the end of the Old Kingdom,
the name is regularly written (horizontally) or (vertically), in the Pyramid
Texts and sporadically elsewhere, and outside the Pyramid Texts (both horizon-
tally and vertically).8 Give the consistent order of signs in the writing without deter-
minative, the order in most likely reflects the factor of spatial arrangement (to
avoid horizontally and the same order stacked vertically). Nevertheless, that
writing is probably the origin of the later order / , with or without deter-
minative, already attested in the Old Kingdom.9 Interestingly, once the sign is
replaced by in the late Middle Kingdom, allowing for a more compact grouping,
the older order is used first, later replaced by .10
Variant writings based on phonology begin in the Coffin Texts, where (jsr)
and its analogue (jst) in place of the usual writing of the name of the
goddess Isis, are common.11 Ptolemaic texts show spellings such as (w-s-sr)
and (ws-jr), subsequently the etymology of a variant spelling wsr

8 Erman (1909: 93); Shalomi-Hen (2006: 71–84). For the dating of the earliest inscriptions
mentioning Osiris, see Bolshakov (1992 & 2002), and Shalomi-Hen (2006: 71–72).
9 Erman (1909: 93); Mariette (1889: 118).
10 Erman (1909: 94).
11 E.g., CT I, 112c–d B1P vs. B3Bo. The value of the first sign is discussed below.
The Name of Osiris (and Isis) 11

“powerful” and of Plutarch’s observation cited above.12 Similar phonological variants


for Isis’s name are (’st) in the Coffin Texts and the Ramesside spelling
(’u-st).13
Vocalizations of the names of Osiris and Isis are preserved in Assyrian texts of the
eighth–seventh centuries BC, in Meroitic inscriptions of the second century BC and
later, and in Coptic and Greek: in the first case, as Meroitic Asori (*usuri), Coptic
ousiri/ousire, and Greek Ὀσίρις; and in the second as Assyrian ešu, Meroitic Wos
(*usa), Coptic hse, and Greek Ἶσις.14 Shifts have clearly occurred in the stressed
vowel of both names. That of Isis shows the well-attested from *ú- to *é- in an open
syllable: e.g., *múḏu > mht “ten.”15 Since this shift took place between the New
Kingdom (fifteenth to thirteenth centuries BC) and the Late Period (eighth to seventh
centuries BC),16 Meroitic has apparently preserved the older vocalization, despite the
fact that its *úsa had become *ésǝ five to six centuries earlier in Egypt. Its
vocalization of Osiris’s name is similar, *usúri preserving what had presumably
become *uséri by the eighth century on its way to the ousiri/ousire of Coptic. The
initial vowel of both names is reflected in the Coffin Texts spellings and ,
where the first sign derives from a word js–, meaning “testicle,”17 as in *úswǝ
(Demotic #sw#t) > Bohairic asoui “sack.”18
The name of Isis is generally interpreted as “seat” or “throne” on the basis of its
initial sign, which is graphically identical with that used in the word jst “place, seat.”
Osing has shown, however, that the latter word was pronounced differently, with no
stressed initial vowel.19 Since hieroglyphic usually makes no distinction between the
two, except by determinatives, it is conceivable that they share a common etymology,
jst, with the first syllable stressed in Isis’s name (*úsit) and the second one in the
common noun, leading to loss of the initial vowel (*usít > *sit).
The graphic parallels with the name of Isis have suggested the same feminine
element as the first part of Osiris’s name, but there is no firm evidence that this was
the case. The latter is not written as feminine (* ) and no evidence supports an
original female character of the god, despite numerous arguments in favor of it. In the
name of Osiris, therefore represents js, the masculine counterpart of , albeit
unattested as such elsewhere.
The second part of Osiris’s name has mostly been interpreted as either the word jrt
“eye” or a form of the verb jrj “make.” Evidence for the first of these is slight. A final

12 Erman (1909: 94); Devéria (1896); Kákosy (1998).


13 Osing (1974: 103 n. 90 and 104). Although still represented a liquid (l/r) in the Middle
Kingdom, there is evidence for its use as an equivalent of already in the Old Kingdom: Allen
(2013a: 41). There is no evidence for an original initial r/l in the name of Isis (or in that of Osiris).
14 Ranke (1910: 28) (Assyrian); Rilly & de Voogt (2012: 28 & 40) (Meroitic).
15 Peust (1999: 300); Allen (2013a: 25).
16 Allen (2013a: 24–26).
17 Allen (2002: 69–70). The sign is used as determinative of h̠ rwj “testicles” in the Coffin Texts: CT
V, 76b T2L; V, 120b G1–2T, A1C, T3L; VII, 139a G1T. A word jns appears as a variant of h̠ rwj in
CT I, 30b B4C jnswj and in the plural jsnw “testicles” in PT 502A.1. jswj “testicles” is attested in the
Ptolemaic Period (Wb. I, 131, 12).
18 Osing (1974: 102–107); Černý (1976: 13). Both #sw#t > asoui and Wb. I, 131, 12 jswj “testicles”
are probably cognate with Wb. I, 130, 15 js, which may mean “sack.”
19 Osing (1974: 94–102).
12 James P. Allen

is shown only in late writings, where it undoubtedly simply reflects the vocalic
ending of the name, as in feminine nouns.20 The stroke under the in some Middle
Kingdom spellings ( , )20 is as likely to be a space filler as it is a sign that the
was understand as an ideogram. The strongest evidence for a final t is the nisbe
jsjrtjw “Osirians” in some copies of BD 89,21 but this can derive from a
feminine nisbe jsjrt “Osirian,” as in the case of jmntjw “westerners” and j#btjw
“easterners.” The strongest evidence against jrt “eye” is the Meroitic vocalization
*usuri, where the second element, *uri, is not compatible with the vocalization *iírǝ
preserved in Akhmimic ieire “eye.”22 It is, of course, conceivable that jrt “eye” was
originally *iúrat and underwent the same vowel shift visible in jst *úsit > hse > Ἶσις.
Also, the phonology of Meroitic is not well enough known to rule out a vowel shift
from Egyptian *i to Meroitic *u in the name of Osiris, which could account for the
apparent anachronism noted above. Nonetheless, in the absence of firm evidence to the
contrary, the Meroitic data should be taken at face value, indicating the the second
element of Osiris’s name was not jrt “eye.”
Evidence for a form of the verb jrj “make” lies primarily in the Middle Kingdom
spellings and , since a complementary is unprecedented in writings
of jrt “eye.”23 The vocalization indicated by Meroitic suits only the pattern 1ú2i
attested in a few Coptic reflexes, including 3ae-inf. *súbi (sbj “rebel”) > shb “enemy”
and *múti (mtj) > mht “correct.”24 For jrj, the precise meaning of the form *úri can
only be a matter of speculation, but the analogues *súbi > shb and *múti > mht
suggest a noun of agent (“maker”) or an adjective such as “productive.”
The verb jrj has a wide range of meanings, encompassing both activity (“do, act
as, achieve, handle”) and creation (“make, engender, appoint”). Of these, the range
that best suits Osiris is that of creation – not in the initial production of the created
world but in the cyclical process of new life: plants from seeds and the inundation,
one generation from the previous one, the morning sun from the deceased one of the
evening before, and the reborn spirit from the dead body that once housed it. In this
process, Isis is the archetypal mother and Osiris, the archetypal father. The sense of jrj
in Osiris’s name is that of the verb in filiations, where a son is described as jr.n
“whom (his father) engendered” – thus, “engenderer, engendering.”25
The meaning of the first element in Osiris’s name, and of its feminine form in the
name of Isis, remains conjectural. On the basis of Osing’s study, noted above, it is not
likely to be the usual “place, seat.” One possibility, noted by Lorton, is the jst used in
compounds.26 While most of these clearly involve the usual meaning of jst “seat,

20 Erman (1909: 93).


21 Osing (1974: 109).
22 Osing (1974: 109–110).
23 Erman (1909: 93 & 95); Osing (1974: 107–108 & 110).
24 Osing (1974: 110–111) (though arguing for a feminine form jrt); Osing (1976: 147–155). The
same pattern is found in a few intransitive adjectives, such as *kúmat > khme “black.”
25 Wb. I, 111, 1–4. This meaning of jrj is attested in PT 685.6, where water is described as jr ḥnn šw
sḫpr k#t tfnt “which Shu’s penis made and Tefnut’s vulva brought into being.” PT *767.11,
addressing Osiris, refers to the four sons of Horus as “those four akhs of yours whose identity you
made.”
26 Lorton (1985: 118).
The Name of Osiris (and Isis) 13

place,” such as jst-rd “station” (foot-place), a few are less concrete, including jst-o
“activity” (Wb. I, 157, 5), jst-qbt “amusement” (Wb. V, 23, 18), and perhaps jst-ḥr
“oversight” (Wb. IV, 4, 13). In this case, the initial element has a more abstract
connotation, such as “condition” (suggested by Lorton) or, better, “principle.” In that
sense, Isis’s name signifies “female principle” and Osiris’s, the masculine counterpart,
“engendering principle.” The semantic association between jst “seat” and jst
“principle” is nicely paralleled in the Arabic verb qaoada “sit down,” root of both
maqoad “seat” and qāoida “base, principle.”

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