Egyptian is the oldest known language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. The earliest known complete sentence in the Egyptian language has been dated to about 2690 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known, along with 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.〔The language may have survived in isolated pockets in Upper Egypt into the 19th century according to James Edward Quibell, "When did Coptic become extinct?" in ''Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde'', 39 (1901), p. 87.〕
Coptic is still used as the liturgical language of the Coptic Church. It has several hundred fluent speakers today.〔("Coptic language’s last survivors". ''Daily Star Egypt'', December 10, 2005 (archived) )〕
The Egyptian language belongs to the Afroasiatic language family. 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 (unicode:/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, and to a lesser extent Cushitic.
In Egyptian, the Proto-Afroasiatic voiced consonants
*(unicode:/d z ð/) developed into pharyngeal (unicode:/ʕ/), e.g. ''(unicode:ꜥr.t)'' ‘portal’, Sem.
*''dalt'' ‘door’. Afroasiatic
*(unicode:/l/) merged with Egyptian , , , and in the dialect on which the written language was based, while being preserved in other Egyptian varieties.〔 Original
*(unicode:/k g ḳ/) palatalize to in some environments and are preserved as 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 family 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.)
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