Monday, April 7, 2008

Kem (Kam)/Kem.t (Kam.t/Kemet)/Kemmau (Kammau): Open to interpretation?

The goal of the present posting is precisely that, to find out if the assumptive premise of the question at hand can withstand linguistic scrutiny. Ancient Egyptian, like any other language, has grammatic rules that have to be adhered to; there is no reason to assume that this underlying logic doesn't take hold in Egyptian, and hence, warrants dropping all commonsense when it comes to treating Ancient Egyptian (Mdu Ntr) as a language.

Many of the examples that follow will largely draw from personal accounts of exchanges with various proponents of different interpretations of this singular term and its derivatives—>

First the basics...

Originally posted by Supercar:

Without determinatives:

Km [masculine] =

Km.t[feminine] =

Applying Egyptian grammar,

Km is 'black', in masculine singular.

Km.t is also 'black', in feminine singular. The "t" is simply added to connote the feminine context of the term. It does
n't mean "the".

In hieroglyphics the context of an adjective like "km" (kem) is usually modified with the assistance of a determinative, which has its own hieroglyph. In some cases, these determinatives are not meant to be audible; their presence is merely to put an otherwise common and indiscriminate term into a more specified context. It therefore goes without saying, that such "silent" determinatives are only expressed in writing. In such cases, it's generally the verbal cotext of the term wherein it is applied, that verbally determines its context. Various applications of "kem" provide a perfect and basic model to demonstrate this feature, as we shall see in the following extract from C.A. Diop's work, The African Origin of Civilization, referencing Worterbuch, and hence, ultimately Jean Fran├žois Champollion:
The extract undoubtedly reiterates the simple demonstration made above, concerning the masculine and feminine grammatic orientations of "km" (kem/kam), but it also provides us with examples of determinatives that modify the basic term [in this case, "kem/kam"]. In the first instance, we come across "kem/kam", denoted by sign (sometimes read as either the "charcoal" figure or "crocodile skin" figure), accompanied by the 'owl' glyph, which again is verbally 'silent', and if it [the owl glyph] has to be looked at in the context of being a determinative here, then it is simply there to connote that this term should simply be understood as it is, which is to say, the neuter term [which in this case is virtually the term "km"without the "t" (or the sign) accompanying it; the "masculine" version is essentially the same thing]. The issue of the "owl" figure will be looked at further in the ensuing posts. In the meantime, we come across the determinative sporting the figures of a male, female followed by a vertical setup of three dotted figures (indicator of "plurality"). The next example sports a determinative with the figure of a circle enclosing a cross; this is the determinative for a "city" or "town". In each of these examples just mentioned, the determinatives are verbally 'silent', and so, this means that term retains its phonological trait without a tonal change or additional consonant. So, while the term is still read as "kem/kam" despite the distinctive accompanying determinatives, strictly from a verbal standpoint, it is the cotext at hand that clues the listener in on the context at hand. For example, "km" can also be understood as "finish" or "complete". So in this instance, while the basic meaning of "kem" doesn't change—with respect to designating "black", the cotext of its application informs the audience or listener that it should be understood as "to be complete" or "finish".

It is worth noting that all the different contexts of "km" ultimately derive from the basic meaning of the term, which is "black". For instance, in a context wherein "km" implies "sacred", it stems from the fact that black is sacred by Kemetic standards...which seems to be the reversed perception to that of "black" and "white" or "dark" and "light", and their correlation to "bad" and "good" respectively in "Western" spiritual thought. Similarly, the contextualization of "km" as "complete" should ultimately be rooted in the term "black"; for instance, it could possibly relate to the notion that the state of complete darkness is the ultimate "frontier" of "state", which is also eternal by nature. This harkens back to "creation" theories or cosomological concepts [e.g. that involving the primeval water of "complete darkness"] of the Kemetou, developed in remote predynastic era, about matter and ultimately life on earth stemming out of "nothingness", which by nature, is "complete darkness".

Then there are other derivatives of "kem" (kam) wherein the determinatives are not verbally 'silent', and so are literally expressed in both the written and spoken language. Examples that come to mind, for instance, include, Kememou ~ "black people", which could well also imply "sacred people"; Kemkem ~ "to vanish", "to pass away", "to disappear" or "decay" [1]; Kemetou ~ "citizens" or "people (those) from the black land (country)"; and so forth.

On that note....

Originally posted by Supercar

Contextualization of Km.t...with determinatives: just
applying determinatives like...

Km.t[nw.t] > equivalent to 'black community' or 'black nation' ~ "sacred nation"

Km.t[yw] > equivalent to
citizens/those from the black nation

Kememou > again black people ["sacred
" ones or people is implicit in the term], an alternative to the above

[rm.t].km.t > again citizens/black people/people of the black nation

^...just a few examples amongst many, showing how the determinative can contextualize Km.t [feminine]

We've just seen a few but some examples of rules in Mdu Ntr grammar, yet there are proponents who insist that the term "land" is to be found in "km.t" (Kem.t). When questioned about the whereabouts of the Mdu Ntr equivalent for "land", implicit in "Kem.t" (Kemet), no viable explanation is given either from the grammatic standpoint or word-wise. Others of this ilk reckon that "et" is suppose to be the component within the word that represents the English equivalent of "land" or "soil", and hence the "black land" or "black soil" argument. The proponents of these "black soil" arguments usually convince themselves, i.e. whenever relentlessly pressed for linguistic substantiation for their "argument", that the way around not having the capacity to produce linguistic support, is to simply ask a question from the standpoint that the ancient Egyptians could not have been "color conscious" in the same way that "western" societies or the "western-influenced" world do today, particularly when it comes to socio-economic hierarchy with regards to "racialist" social constructs codified with "skin color" typification, and so, would not have seen any need for emphasizing their "skin color"...especially, if they happen to be surrounded by other "black" folks.

Never mind the total lack of linguistic support for starters, no attention is paid to the fact that the Kemetou had their own socio-ethnic dichotomies typified by color designations of "black" and "red" ~ "kem" and "deshr" respectively. The effects of determinatives with respect to "deshr" is similar to that exemplified above for "Kem". This dichotomy finds expression through to "spiritual" embodiments of these typifications, wherein "black" is perceived to be "sacred", whereas "red" is perceived to be "evil", "unsavory" or as a pejorative. Artistically, the color convention often applied to foreigners like the "Aamu" from the Levant and immigrants from parts of Eurasia is the lighter yellowish or orange-like hue, while that applied to the Kemetou themselves is the dark brownish hue [the exception being that, females are at times given lighter hues than their male counterparts]. These said foreigners are also generally associated with "deshr", i.e. the "deshretou" or "red" people; so there was obviously a strong correlation between lighter hue and "deshr", and between dark hue and "kem". Southern neighbours of the Kemetou, i.e. the Nehesou (Nehesu), for whom the conventional skin color hues were varying levels of dark paint [from dark brownish to pitch black], were never placed into the deshretou camp.

The gist: Anyone of average intelligence, who simply takes the time to reference the basic grammatical rules of Mdu Ntr, will instantly recognize that "Km" and "Km.t" mean one and the same thing, and the minor "letter" differentiation by way of a gender affix, is nothing more than a common theme in Mdu Ntr grammar. Thus "t" in the feminine version of "km" is not some grammatical anomaly.

That sums up the so-called "argument" of most "black soil" proponents; however, there are proponents of another "argument". This "argument" relies on the notion that the answer lies in the relationship or links between Ancient Egyptian and Niger-Congo subphylums. One such case brought to my attention, was that of the concept of "KaaUma.Ti" ( as the alternative to "Kemet") and "KaaUma" (as the alternative to "Kem" or "Kam").

As is the case with the "black soil" proponents, although the proponents here are quite aware that there is no such thing as "land" or "soil" in the term "Kem.t" (Kemet) itself, the basic grammar rules of Mdu Ntr is placed on the back burner, all in the name of forming a thesis around a preconceived notion—i.e. coming up with a notion first, and then cherry-picking what one perceives to be plausible "supportive" material from here and there, so as to build a story around that, no matter what other incriminating evidence may suggest otherwise, rather than forming a thesis around evidence. In other words, a thesis should be built around evidential material and not the other way around.

In this case, the proponent ignores the simple fact that "Kem" (Kam) is a standalone biliteral term, whose application in Mdu Ntr had been simplified by using a single glyph, which happens to be '' sign. Hence, no other glyph is needed here really, to represent "Kem", not even the 'owl' figure which the proponent above heavily relies on, so as to make the case that the owl represents the "Uma" in "KaaUma" (as the presumed alternative to "Kem"). This fact is clear in the Diop extract posted earlier, wherein the "" sign is said to denote "kem"...WITHOUT...the assistance of the 'owl' glyph. This will be made clear yet again in some Budge extracts that will follow shortly.

To recollect an encounter in a debate, a supporter of this proponent while acknowledging the apparent biliteral nature of "km" (Kem) , goes onto to argue for the fusion of "kaa" and "uma" and hence forth, the biliteral value of "kem" (kam), which he reads as "KaaUma" . To support this, he references Budge on the term "Bakaa" [Budge 981b] as an alternative name for the nation of Kemet, and proclaims it to be related to the alleged "Kaa" latent in "Kem" (Kam). It is contempt for grammatic rule in Mdu Ntr in order to satisfy a preconceived uncorroborated notion, just as is the case of the "black soil" proponents, that led to crumbling of the "Niger-Congo - Mdu Ntr link" and "KaaUma" thesis; the proponent for example, at first acknowledges the "de-neutering" value of "t" in "kem.t", only to then dismiss it anyway as such and instead, propose some other linguistic source as the likely explanation for its presence. This results in the hunt for the plausible explanation for the feminine "t", conveniently turned into "Ti" by the proponent, to suit the occasion. A factor behind the said dismissal was to reconcile the fact that "kem" as a term for "black", shares the same consonants with "Km.t" and is obviously unaffected by the absence of the feminine affix [in this case, the 't' suffix].

Additionally, the proponent inevitably runs into a case wherein the 'owl' glyph is not at all factored into a "kem"-derived term (namely "Kem.t[nw.t]", or as the proponent calls it, "Kauma.ti"). To be precise, here only the glyph appears, followed by seated figures of a male, female and three dotted lines [as presented in the Diop extract]...SANS the 'owl' glyph. How to explain the lack of the 'owl' glyph, which according to the proponent, was supposed to account for the "Uma" in "KaaUma"?

The argument starts to fall apart due to inconsistencies, because it is starting to turn out that the owl glyph has no bearing on the consonantal and biliteral integrity of the term "kem", or "KaaUma" as the proponent would like to call it. So what does the proponent do? He decides to refer to some group in Kenya, whom according to him, are called the Kauma community. By doing this, the proponent was hoping to be excused about the fact that the 'owl' glyph doesn't appear in this case, so as to account for the "uma" in "KaaUma"; if the Kemetou felt the need to make use of the owl glyph in either "kem" or "kem.t" [or for the purpose of the ongoing examination—say "kaaUma"/"kaaUma.Ti"] as a relic of the term's evolution from the fusion of two uniliteral terms, namely "kaa" and "uma", then why would this not have been retained in "KaaUma.Ti", which is contextualized by the determinative sporting the male, female and dotted lines? Makes no sense.

And so, If the present author didn't know better, it would appear that the proponent of the matter at hand, is therefore arguing for what amounts to "independent" evolutions respective to the "Km.t" sporting the "owl" glyph and the "Km.t" without the "owl" glyph, from common ancestry(?).

This leads us to the long-awaited Budge extracts, which the aforementioned supporter for the proponent in question had used to buttress his argument:

The aforementioned Budge reference, i.e. "Budge 981b"...
The so-called "Bakaa", was actually a reference to "beq", the fifth entry from the top.

The following exchanges between the present author and the said supporter of the proponent of the "kaaUma" theory pretty much showcase the seal of the tragic fate of the theory:

Originally posted by Asar Imhotep:

It is clear that the consonants K & M are separate consonants agglutinated to create one word. If they were not separated consonants, then you would have a LABIAL-VELAR CONSONANT.

My response was:

That is
not clear; just wishful thinking, which even your own Budge citation shreds to pieces. See "kamKam", denoted by two charcoals, and other instances where the charcoal figure appears alone.

There is no rule in Egyptic that says "k" as a dorsal cannot be proceeded by "m" as a labial.

Originally posted by Asar Im

Also in Budges dictionary, you have Km stressed with two M's. Does this mean they are super Black?

My response was:

Nope, but it does mean that the first "silent" m, as denoted by the owl, may well be interpreted as: [of] "black" or [as] "black", which simply put, is the equivalent of stating that the word is quite simply what it is, which in this cas
e, is "black".

Don't kno
w where such a word is attested to in primary Egyptic texts, with regards to the occasion where two owls appear after "km" (charcoal fig.), but it seems that when the usual singular owl is followed by another one, it suggests that the second owl is a *non-silent* uniliteral—and hence "kam.m" as opposed to "kam"+m+m, if we went by your logic. Budge quite clearly shows this to mean "to be black", where "m" is the equivalent of "to be". Whereas a singular silent "m" following "Kam" or "Kem" [charcoal] is an unspoken "implicator": so, [of] "black" — without a determinative — would inform the reader that the term should simply be read as "black", pure and simple. The silent 'of' is the implicator of this. Budge is telling things, but it seems that you're not listening to what he's communicating. In fact, if you carefully look at that instance where we have "kam, kami", you'll see that the charcoal sign reappears in alternative expressions time again without the owl figure, as is the case where it says "Kam.t", below "kamm".

Last but not least, in a twisted effort to argue by setting up strawman, the supporter of the proponent in question writes:

Originally posted by Asar Hotep:

What you have po
sted is what I've been arguing. That the root represented by the consonants KM is "Ka" or "kaa." It's even in the Egyptian language and means "fire."

My response:

Incessant arguing for some imagined joining of two words or two disparate unliteral terms in "km", does not ch
ange the fact of the matter that 'km' is single *word* denoted by a single glyph, and at basic, is simply the equivalent to "black" in English.

The glyph(s) for "kaa" is not the same as THE glyph for "Kam" or "kem".

does not =


does not =

Also applies to this, as another potential combination for 'kaa'...

...or whatever other ways you wish to present "kaa" in glyphs.

^Gist: The idea that 'kaa' and 'uma' [as two words] are brought together to produce 'km', or that separate glyphs for "kaa" and 'm' are conjoined to produce "km", is simply a figment of imagination.

Anyone of average intelligence, who simply takes the time to reference the basic grammatical rules of Mdu Ntr, will instantly recognize that there is *no real consonantal distinction* between the "Km.t" term sporting the owl glyph and the "Km.t" term *without* the owl glyph.

The END!

C.A. Diop, The African Origin of Civilization, referencing Worterbuch.

*[1] Budge extracts cited above.