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Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


Document written or inscribed in parallel versions of two different languages and often different scripts. Inscriptions of this sort have proved invaluable for the decipherment of unknown writings. Perhaps the most famous bilinguis is the Rosetta Stone which bears a decree passed by a council of Egyptian priests on the occasion of the first anniversary of the coronation of Ptolemy V Epiphanes, King of Egypt, in 196 bce ( figure 6 ). The text is provided in Egyptian and Greek because the rulers and high-ranking officers were Greeks rather than Egyptians. The Egyptian version of the text is given in two scripts, the formal hieroglyphic and the cursive demotic. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone by Napoleon's soldiers in 1799 greatly facilitated the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Just as treaties and other agreements are often bilingual nowadays when the parties concerned speak different languages, it was quite common in antiquity to redact international documents in two or more languages. Babylonian was often used side by side with other languages such as Aramaic, Elamite and Old Persian. In South and South East Asia many bilingual inscriptions combine Sanskrit with various local languages such as Vietnamese and Javanese; in China and Central Asia, Chinese, Mongolian, Manchurian, Uighur and several other languages appear on bilingual or multilingual inscriptions. Such documents ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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