Graphetic Compounding in the First Intermediate Period
The Micro-history of [hiero] ḥtr.wy “span” and the Process of Sign Decomposition
Keywords:Composite signs, monograms, compound splitting, component merging, First Intermediate Period, 11th Dynasty, Dendera, ḥtr
This paper details the circumstances by which ‘composite hieroglyphs’ developed and the factors that may have influenced their subsequent evolution. It is organized into two complementary sections. In the first sec- tion, I offer a fine-grained contextual analysis of the sign ḥtr.wy “span (of one pair of oxen)” and its variants in the First Intermediate Period. This analysis suggests two possible scenarios for the development of this sign, an inductive local one (scenario a) and a deductive global one (scenario b). In the second section, I describe the process by which composite signs decomposed within the same period and propose distinguishing ‘compound splitting’ from ‘component merging.’ The results of this systemic approach are used to assess the probabilities of the two scenarios envisioned for the case-study and to plead in favour of the inductive local position.
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