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You Will Soon Be Able to Text Using Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Who needs modern day letters and images when you can upside down bird and pointy hat stick?

Drop whatever it is you’re holding unless it’s a (decent) baby and feast your senses on the greatest thing to happen to instant messaging since the eggplant emoji; thanks to a bunch of eggheads at the Unicode Consortium – perhaps the best name for a late 90’s techno ensemble – folks are a hair’s length closer to being able to use upwards of 2,000 Hieroglyphs to text each other about the same stupid shit they’d usually talk about in any other non-extinct language. Bird Rectangle Snake indeed.

“Humour” aside, this isn’t as simple an undertaking as you’d expect; this initiative can provide a wealth of linguistic knowhow to future Egyptologists, thanks to the joint efforts of the Unicode Consortium, font designers, ancient linguists and the US federal government, all in the name of preserving bits of the world’s linguistic history via the use of code. Though not the first ever iteration of Egyptian Hieroglyphs into computer code, this is a significant step up from the severely limited 5.2 version of the Unicode; 2,000 symbols out of about 7,000 historically known ones is progress nonetheless. How does it all work? Well it’s not really simple at all, but it’s simple enough to give an overview on; computers, in silicone essence, understand numbers only. So, by assigning each character a unique set of numbers, computers can effectively understand and pull up any other form of linguistics and indeed media. Hieroglyphs pose a significant challenge because they’re composed of logograms, phonograms and determinatives; signs representing language, sounds and the junctions that join them.

Image via the Unicode Consortium

Thanks to the inventive efforts of the Unicode Consortium – the same folks behind modern day emojis – as well as linguistics preservation organisations like the Script Encoding Initiative (SEI), Ancient Egypt’s endangered lingua franca can still live on in our monolithic little phones. So bird rectangle crown, Unicode Consortium, and a feather cone circle to boot.

Main image via Wikimedia by Ad Meskens.


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