Shisha-Halevy, A., 2009. A Note on Converbs in Egyptian and Coptic. In C. G. Häberl, ed. Afroasiatic Studies in Memory of Robert Hetzron. Newcastle upon Tyne. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, pp. 95–105.Abstract
The term and its diffusion. The converb, in its vaguest and least critical, also least specific resolution - cf. the notorious conceptual muddle involving -ing forms and constructions in English - is used as meaning “adverbial verb form”, or “verbal adverb”; see the subtitle of Haspelmath and König (eds.) 1995.; mostly and for long it has been known as “gerund”. Definitions reveal the underlying blurredness: Haspelmath (1995:3ff.): “Non-finite verb-form whole main function is to mark adverbial subordination”; Nedjalkov’s (in Nedialkov 1995) is more sophisticated: “a verb-form which depends syntactically on another verb-form but is not its syntactic actant, that is does not realize its semantic valences”: this is surely unsatisfactory, for the converb is arguably actantial in cases like “start walking”. Probably the worst is the definition in Himmelmann and Schultze-Berndt (eds.), 2005:60 “we use the term converb for ‘participles’ which are used primarily as adjuncts”. As Grønbech 1979:35 says of Turkic postpositions and gerundial forms, the converbs are “fluid and hard to hold on to”, which, for a “cross-linguistically valid category” (the title of Haspelmath and König (eds.) 1995, in which see Haspelmath’s and König’s own contributions), is not an ideal condition.
Shisha-Halevy, A., 2000. Stability in Clausal/Phrasal Pattern Constituent Sequencing: 4000 Years of Egyptian (With Some Theoretical Reflections, also on Celtic). In E. Poppe, A. Shisha-Halevy, & R. Sornicola, ed. Word Order - Stability and Change over Time. Amsterdam / Philadelphia. Amsterdam / Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, pp. 71–100.Abstract

The linguistic study of Egyptian, fully deciphered only about 150 years ago, is a young discipline: modern Egyptian linguistics, dating more or less from the work of Hans-Jakob Polotsky, is much younger still: no more than about half a century old. Coptic, the final stage of Egyptian, dead as a spoken language at some point after the XIIIth century AD, had been scientifically known in the West from around the XVIIth century. It is a curious and somehow sobering thought that Champollion le Jeune probably got the brainwave and forward push to the final decipherment of the hieroglyphic script by a wholly and deeply erroneous idea about diachronic word order correspondence. He believed (or took for granted) that Coptic f-sôtm “he is hearing” (roughly, “he + hear”) was the inversion of a ‘pan-Egyptian’ sdm.f (“hear-he”), which, he thought, had the same tense form, but which - we now know - is in fact a cluster of homographs, drastically differing, formally and functionally, in tense form and syntactical status from one phase of Egyptian to another and within one and the same phase. The idea was wholly misguided, yet the confidence it gave him, and his conviction that Coptic and Egyptian were two phases of the same language were not unjustified, and led him to eventual success. Today we have a reasonably good synchronic resolution - and, paradoxically, a sometimes seemingly sharper diachronic resolution - of nearly four millennia of uninterrupted evolution of a language (or rather an ensemble of dialects and language varieties), made visible to us in the written documentation of five or six distinct broad linguistic systems (in the sense of la langue as well as norme and usage). Roughly, with some arbitrariness and considerable overlapping, Old Egyptian (“OE”, 2800-2200 BC), Middle Egyptian (“ME”, 2200-1500 BC), Late Egyptian (or Neo-Egyptian) (“LE”, 1500-700 BC); Demotic, from the VIIth-VIIIth century BC to the Vth century AD, and finally Coptic, ‘Christian Egyptian’, written in customized graphemic systems based on the Greek graphemes and several Egyptian ones, from the IVth century AD on, until its death as a spoken language: Arabic entered Egypt in the VIIth century AD, but Coptic probably lingered on until the XVIIth century. (Incidentally, Coptic is formally differentiated as ‘Egypto-Coptic’ in the current International Linguistic Bibliography. Roughly since the Fifties, Coptic Studies have moved away from Egyptology, a separation unfortunate for both Egyptology and Coptic studies, which has all but wiped out Coptic linguistics as a discipline). Most phases, as we conveniently and simplistically delimit them (ignoring here the relationships, complicated in Egyptian, between language phase and script phase, as well as the religious-political implications of traditional archaizing use of earlier phases) have considerable overlapping or ‘mutual leaking’ with preceding ones, as well as transitory stages, and of course numerous diasystems of registers and other linguistic varieties which become clearer as detailed description progresses. Some phases extend up to a thousand years, which makes the need for a finer sub-periodization obvious (Junge 1985). Generally speaking, we witness the uninterrupted evolution of a language on one and the same terrain, in its first attestation cradled in a Neolithic culture, before the end of its life-span a para-classical language, part of a pious and totally Christian civilization: very little secular literature is attested in Coptic.

Shisha-Halevy, A., 1998. (review) A First Structural Grammar of Demotic. Bibliotheca Orientalis , 55 (5/6) , pp. 587–600.Abstract

0.1 The book under review is structured as follows: Presentation of the texts, previous work on them, features of the corpus; the structure of nominal phrases (bases, determiners and quantifiers, their lexical expansions; clausal expansions, the augens, number and gender, adjectives; partitive, genitival and appositive constructions). Special types of noun (PNs, numbers, verbal nouns). Verb phrases and verb clauses (bases and their expansions; the tenses; auxiliaries); the durative system (with discussion of subjects and predicates, negation, conversion, aspect and existential patterns). Predication and emphasis (esp. Nominal Predications and the Second Tenses). Appendices include Tables (demonstrative, determinators, quantifiers, pronominals, converters); the texts and their translation. Bibliographical references and Indexes (passages discussed, words discussed, other texts quoted). Individual section are structured as follows: Form (morphology, orthography, palaeography); “Function” (grammatical status and role, patterning and construction); “Content” (semantics).

0.2 This work is wondrously attractive in presentation, to a linguist, especially a ‘linguist of later Egyptian’. I must say, at the onset, that I find the book a splendid achievement. I must also personally and subjectively confess to an especially festive feeling, under the enticing sensation of Demotic as ‘Egyptian-encoded Coptic’, a sensation intensified and enhanced by carefully perusing the present work. Demotic, and especially early Demotic, is still the least familiar of all phases of Egyptian; and that not least due to this very same enigmatic balance between the Coptic-type and ‘pre-Coptic Egyptian’-type phenomena. In fact, Demotic has a special value for the typological diachrony of Egyptian: its conception as an in-between phase between the (analyzing) LE to the (agglutinating in resynthesizing) Coptic must stand or fall by precise structural information, such as is offered by this painstaking work. For instance, the Second Tenses and focalization; the perfect vs. preterite opposition; the Nominal Sentence; the aorist (atemporal) tense category; the future, the causative form-constructions — these are all features that pattern and inform the unbroken history of Egyptian, the longest unbroken evolution of any language in our experience.

This work is a non-generative, truly descriptive, methodologically impeccable grammar. It sets out to evaluate and criticize prior research as well as collect and consolidate new evidence. Its statements are clearly and convincingly expounded, offering coherent interpretations, firmly grounded in source material, and many mises en question, with a wealth of detailed information. Indeed, it is th the first Demotic grammar since Lexa’s work of 1940-1951 (Janet Johnson’s account of the verbal system in Roman Demotic [1976] comes nearest to being a comprehensive grammar, and of course covers much more extensive ground, corpus-wise).

0.3 The corpus at the base of Simpson’s work is of a textemic genre very much sui generis. The author himself is fully aware of the limited corpus and ensuing incomplete picture of grammatical systematization (58). We have here a case of Kanzleistil - archaic, formal, formulary; arguably not a style but a genre, even a texteme. (A blend of Leviticus with a ‘Vita Monachorum’ preceptive genre comes to a Coptologist’s mind). In this corpus, the documentation of the tenses is very partial (note esp. the absence of non-converted forms. The use of the future is restricted; no modal future is attested. The prospective form is almost exclusively grammaticalized as a causative exponent). In this sense, the work is an instance of corpus-based textemic grammar. It is however only fair to observe that Simpson offers as a rule documentation from a broad range of other corpuses (cf. pp. 60, 90, 91, 93, 128, 130f., 153ff. etc.), effectively giving his statements the validity of a comprehensive grammar. When the canvas is as large and varied as in Demotic (the differences between phases are complex and rich, often comparable to those between Old and Middle Egyptian), this has a real advantage.The Index Locorum is thus especially welcome; yet one misses a Subject Index.

The Bibliography (with the discussion of grammatical opinion in the text) constitutes no less than a full resumé of the Demotistic (and to a considerable extent Egyptian and Coptic linguistic) literature of the last century (from Griffith’s Stories of the High Priests [1900] onwards).

0.4 Non-attestation, ever an important problematic issue in dead-language linguistics, to be resolved only structurally, acquires an urgency still more acute in a Spezialgrammatik, and all the more so in a genre so special as the present one. In this context, the dilemma of the authenticity of the Demotic (in the sense of ‘linguistic validity as uninfluenced by a Vorlage text’) acquires a special meaning (22ff. - Relation of demotic and Greek texts’). On this question, I would suggest a parallel composition of the texts, with an ongoing accommodation of the Demotic to the Greek version. The validity of the Demotic as a testo di lingua is in any case beyond doubt.

Shisha-Halevy, A., 1995. Some Reflections on the Egyptian Conjunctive. In Divitiae Aegyptii (Krause Festschrift). Wiesbaden. Wiesbaden: Reichert, pp. 300–314.Abstract

The conjunctive is still the most mystifying clause-form in Egyptian, from LE through Demotic to Coptic. For several reasons, including its shadowy origins and puzzling morphology, but especially because of its elusive semantics and syntactic properties, and indeed, its syntactic essentials, it is still not clearly understood and probably often misinterpreted. […]

Shisha-Halevy, A., 1989. Papyrus Vandier recto: an Early Demotic Text in the Hieratic Script?. Journal of the American Oriental Society , 109 , pp. 421–435.Abstract

In a review article of the first edition of the Hieratic text in P. Vandier, an attempt is made to locate the linguistic usage of the story on the recto in Egyptian diachrony. Taken as a corpus consistently and coherently representative and état de langue, the text is systematically scanned for grammatical features and feature clusters as cumulative indications of affinity with Late Egyptian or alternatively Demotic. The Hieratic script notwithstanding, the linguistic picture observed — remarkably rich and varied — is that of an Early Demotic linguistic system, strikingly similar to that of P. Rylands IX. The evidence points insistently to Demotic (or post-LE) typology, while presenting virtually no unambiguous evidence of Late Egyptian grammar associations.

Shisha-Halevy, A., 1989. Work Notes on Demotic Syntax. Orientalia , 58 , pp. 28–60.Abstract

This series of notes is meant to suggest and define relevant issues and systemic implications, reflecting on certain not unimportant grammatical phenomena of Demotic. They constitute annotated documentation or record, combining the time-honoured categories of “Miszellen”, “Lesefrüchte”, and “Vermischte Beiträge” (In the spirit of A. Tobler’s [1886–1912], on Old French and Romance syntax. Often, they suggest diachronic “tie-ins” between comparable Demotic and Coptic facts, and almost always they have direct bearing on locus interpretation. The evidence adduced is predominantly local or incidental and lays no claim to exhaustiveness, the discussion suggestive and not definitive; its chief justification is in putting the discussed phenomena in systemic perspective and “opening pigeonholes” for further documentation and consideration.