For years I’ve lugged around the massive, reassuring bulk of Gardiner‘s Egyptian Grammar, occasionally looking up the odd hieroglyph but never getting serious about the language. I think the main reason is my discomfort at not knowing how to pronounce the words; Egyptological practise is to insert e when a vowel is called for (except next to the consonants corresponding to Arabic alif and ‘ayin, when a is used), but this is pure convention, and we have no idea how the words actually sounded. (It’s as if we wrote English without vowels, and later generations read this sentence “Tese se fe we werete negeleshe…”)
But my resistance has been overcome. The other day at the Strand I saw a copy of How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A Step-By-Step Guide to Teach Yourself by Mark Collier and Bill Manley and was smitten. Compact, attractively produced, with quite a few photographs of texts alongside the typeset ones, it makes you want to pick it up and start studying. And that’s just what I did.
However, I’m still bothered by the pronunciation problem. I know it’s basically insoluble, but I’ve found some intriguing information here, and if anybody out there can recommend useful reading on the topic, or indeed on anything having to do with the Egyptian language (anything recent and rigorous, I mean—I’m not interested in the thoroughly outmoded work of E.A. Wallis Budge), I will be most grateful.