On Typology, Syntax and Aspect in Egyptian: a Question of Method (review article on J. Winand, Temps et aspect en égyptien)


Published in: Chronique d’Egypte, 84, pp. 136–152.

This work of Jean Winand’s aims at providing an account of Tense and Aspect (or rather Aspect and Tense) systems in Egyptian: this (notwithstanding the focus on Old and Middle Egyptian, with Late Egyptian rather thinly treated, and Demotic and Coptic virtually absent) is a staggeringly ambitious undertaking. It implies a confidence in our comprehension of Egyptian, synchronic and diachronic, which this reviewer must admire, but cannot share. And yet, it is almost a blessing that the Later Egyptian systems are only lightly touched upon, for this renders the in-depth treatment of OE and ME virtually monographic, which would be hardly feasible for the whole of Egyptian history — all the more so, since the joints or seams between “successive” phases are fictive and indeed fallacious. On the other hand, one would wish for an extended application of the author’s hypotheses to LE (and Demotic), for the cryptic nature of the earlier phases of Egyptian renders any judgement made regarding their imponderables both subjective and irrefutable. It is easy to pass speculation on O/ME as descriptive statement, which would never do in the more “transparent” later phases. Be that as it may, the reader gets occasionally the eerie, unsettling feeling that it is a transcendental, panchronic (or panoramic) Egyptian that is here under typological scrutiny. (I cannot see, for instance, the soundness of a combined statement [p. 197] on the Stative and sḏm.n.f forms on the basis of Sinuhe and the Late Ramesside Letters).

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Last updated on 01/18/2018