The wonderful folk at Per Reshut clothing have come up with the perfect design for today: ancient Egypt + Valentine's Day + Star Wars.
These hieroglyphs recall that famous moment in "The Empire Strikes Back" where Han is about be frozen in Carbonite by Jabba the Hut. Leia rushes over to declare her feelings to Han for the first time, ("I love you"), and Han replies simply, "I know".
To order your own T-shirt, the links you need are at the bottom of the page.
Many people are surprised at how pictures of birds and people standing sideways can represent a real language. It can be difficult to think in terms of letters, grammar and sentences when it seems we are looking at mere pictures. But don't be fooled: Egyptian hieroglyphs represent a well-developed, written and spoken language that is every bit as complex as English. It has nouns, verbs, prepositions, all kinds of grammatical features; it just also happens to be artfully arranged and beautiful to look at.
The first thing to learn about Egyptian hieroglyphs is which end to start reading? It's usually pretty simple: you read "into the faces" of the signs. In our example, Leia's "I love you" reads left to right, while Han's reply reads right to left, which is the usual orientation for hieroglyphs.
There are basically two types of hieroglyphic signs: the type you read and pronounce, such as the letter 'k', and sense-signs called determinatives that you use for its picture value. Many words in Egyptian use both types of signs, first 'spelling' out the word with sound signs, and then adding a determinative to help clarify the meaning.
An example above is the rolled-up papyrus which tells us that the signs spelling out 'rekh' (know) is an abstract notion that needs to be visualised.
The Egyptians never included vowels in their writing. It made for a much more efficient system. Of course to be able to read it today, we usually add an 'e' between many of the letters. For example, the word 'rkh' (know) is much easier to pronounce as 'rekh'. There are no guarantees that this is actually how the words sounded.
For those of us whose grammar is a little rusty, the particle at the beginning of Han's line, ('iu'), indicates that the statement is undoubtedly true. Some people translate it as 'truly'.
What about the sound complement, I hear you ask? These were often added to the ends of words containing signs that represent two or more consonants. This clarifies the last letter of the preceding sign.
And the verb stative, 'ku'? This tells us that that the verb 'know' is something that continues over a period of time, i.e. Han knows for sure.
Finally, you probably noticed that Leia's declaration of love, "Love, I you", reads a little Yoda-esque. This is because the word order in a basic sentence is Verb (love), Subject (I), Object (You).
Are you surprised that even these two simple hieroglyphic sentences involve so much grammar? Most people are.
Many thanks to Per-Reshut for their kind permission to share their artwork for this special Valentines Day article. If you'd love your own romantic Star Wars hieroglyphic T-shirt, here are the links depending on where you live:
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