CAIRO – 21 February 2021: On February 21 of every year, a large number of countries around the world celebrate what is known as the International Mother Language Day. It is the annual celebration that takes place worldwide to enhance awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
The International Mother Language Day was declared for the first time by UNESCO on November 17, 1999, and then it was officially approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations. It was decided to establish an International Year of Languages in 2008.
Perhaps the Egyptians are one of the peoples, who spoke more than one language throughout their history, and there were long eras in which certain languages prevailed until they disappeared and other languages took their place, the Arabic language being the last of those languages.
The Egyptian cultural scene has gone through a lot of discussions whether Egypt’s mother tongue is the ancient Egyptian language spoken by the Pharaos over thousands of years and recorded on the walls of temples and statues of kings, or the Arabic language that came with Islam, settled in the country and became the official language of writing and composition.
Other languages were or are still being used in a way in the country:
A number of researchers believe that the Egyptian spoken language is a mixture of classical Arabic and the popular vernacular language with slight changes in pronunciation from one governorate to another. This is the Egyptian spoken language that has not changed over the ages, even before the Egyptian dynasties began more than 12,000 years BC.
Researchers think that Egyptians now speak the same way their ancient Egyptian ancestors used to speak.
By reviewing one of the international hieroglyphic dictionaries, such as the comprehensive hieroglyphic dictionary of the genius Egyptologist Wallis Budge, it is clear that there are thousands of words written in hieroglyphic signs and have an Egyptian pronunciation similar to the Egyptian tongue today.
Ahmed Rushdi Saleh, a late researcher of folklore, says in his book “Popular Literature” that the Arabs' entry into Egypt witnessed the collision of Arabic with the Coptic language, where Arabic initially retreated and enjoyed limited use in camps and areas where Arab tribes settled.
Until 706 AD, Coptic was used as the official language of Egypt. It seems that it survived the first confrontation with Arabic, and it took centuries for the Coptic language to retreat.
Heritage researcher Sami Hark is one of the most vocal advocates of the Egyptian language as a special language and not just a dialect. He says that the Egyptian language has gone through four stages of change, from the ancient Egyptian language until now, with the same rules, while preserving thousands of words.
The first stage was hieroglyphics, then the Egyptian language with the demotic letters, then the Coptic letters influenced by the Greek, then the current stage, which is the stage of the Nabataean or Arabic letters.
He considers the present-day Egyptian a complete language with the proper terms and grammar. These terms are directly related to the stages of development of the ancient Egyptian language, so the current Egyptian sentence structure resembles the structure of the ancient Egyptian sentence.