This is the kind of reference book I love to spend hours poring over, opening it at random and absorbing the information.
The authors follow Manetho's...moreThis is the kind of reference book I love to spend hours poring over, opening it at random and absorbing the information.
The authors follow Manetho's ancient organization of Egyptian history into 31 dynasties - from Narmer (c. 3150 BC) to Darius III (332 BC) and also the Macedonian Dynasty that ruled until Rome conquered the Nile Valley in 30 BC. Despite the fact that this schema is very artificial and arbitrary, it remains the framework upon which modern Egyptology rests and just about the only organizing principle general readers are familiar with.
Each dynastic account is divided into three sections: Historical Background, which gives a brief overview of the period; Royal Family, which attempts to unravel the complex genealogies of the Pharaohs; and Brief Lives, which lists the known members of the dynasty and their probable relationships to the kings and their roles in society.
And - no - there are no space aliens or Atlantean engineers carving the Sphinx 10,000 years ago.
Some random impressions:
One, Egypt is old! When Solon, the Athenian lawgiver and poet, visited Egypt c. 600 BC, he was as far removed from the 1st Dynasty as we are from him (i.e., c. 2500 years). The so-called New Kingdom period began 800 years before Rome was founded in (traditionally) 753 BC.
Two, while I'm astonished at how much we know about Egypt's earliest history, there's still much to learn.* For example, we have a fairly complete list of 1st and 2nd dynasty kings but we have few clues as to what they did or even how long they reigned. There's an approximate date for Narmer at 3150 BC but the only reign dates the authors felt confidant enough to give were those of the last king of the second dynasty, Khasekhemwy, 2611-2584.
Many of the "Brief Lives" entries are little more than, for example, "Khenterka Depicted as a child in the tomb of his mother, Meresankh III" or "Nysuheqat (KSon)** Owner of tomb 964 H8 at Helwan."
I would love to have a copy of this for my very own but - sadly - I must return it soon to the library so that others might learn a little bit about this fascinating civilization.
* E.g., this recent news item about the discovery of 17 "lost" pyramids.
** There's an interesting chart listing the various titles used throughout Egyptian history. "KSon" refers to a sa-nesu, a King's Son, most often just what it implies - the biological offspring of the Pharaoh - but it could also be an honorific and has been found associated with royal granddaughters.(less)
I've enjoyed following his website for a couple or three years now - http://www.zompist.com/ - and I downloaded/printed the original (much shorter) ve...moreI've enjoyed following his website for a couple or three years now - http://www.zompist.com/ - and I downloaded/printed the original (much shorter) version of this to aid me in my own conlang forays. ___________________________________________________________
Review will follow as soon as I polish my conlang sufficiently. ___________________________________________________________
I may have mentioned in passing in other reviews that some of my favorite parts in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion are the appendices where Tolkien writes about the languages of Middle Earth. As a boy, I would pore over the notes on pronunciation and the index of names, making up words and names for my own use in my own imaginary worlds. Now, my older self has most of Christopher Tolkien’s volumes of his father’s notes, which include the only extensive essay Tolkien pere ever wrote on any of his invented tongues – “Lowdham’s Report on the Adunaic Language,” Sauron Defeated: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four. My older self is thrilled as well that Al Gore invented the Internet because I discovered there the hominin species homo sapiens geekus conlangis - the community of men and women who spend far too much of their free time making up imaginary languages comprising all the elements of the real things.
Mark Rosenfelder’s Language Construction Kit is an Idiot’s Guide to making those imaginary languages.
Part of the audience is the gaming community, particularly those gamemasters who want to create worlds that sound realistic. To that end, Rosenfelder gives some rough-and-ready guidelines for creating word lists and affixes that can be used to make names and short sentences for role-playing purposes. The second half of the book’s audience is the hardcore conlanger who may or may not be creating a language for any reason beyond the pure pleasure of the exercise. For those, he has chapters on sounds, vocabularies, grammar, semantics, pragmatics, language families and writing systems, and an appendix where he presents one of his own invented languages, Kebreni.
I wouldn’t recommend this book for the “casual” conlanger. Not because it wouldn’t be useful but because the author has had a shorter version on his website* for several years and that’s sufficient for someone who wants to avoid the dungeon-exploring party made up of “Boris,” “Bear Who Hates Honey,” “Wanda” and “Presto the Magician” adventuring in “Angland.”
Hardcore conlangers (especially those who are just beginning) should find a wealth of useful information and tips on making their languages more than just English with different words, however. Rosenfelder assumes the reader has a fair knowledge of linguistics but provides a useful bibliography for people who want to catch up. There is one thing that would have made the book better, IMO, and that is a CD with examples of pronunciations. It’s all well and good to describe tongue positions, breathing, and the difference between a high and a low vowel but I have trouble “hearing” them. After years of reading various grammars and linguistics texts, I still can’t easily identify alveolars from alveolar palatals or an affricative from a fricative.
For several years now, I’ve been putzing around with my own conlang, meleke, born as part of an imaginary world originally created for my Dungeons & Dragons buddies back in the day. I have a fairly extensive wordlist and grammar notes but I’ve always had trouble finding a verb system I like. However, under the pressure of writing this review, I have managed to create one that I mostly like and have used it to translate the quintessential translation text for all “serious” conlangers – the Babel Text from Genesis 11:1-9:
Lemmonas osura tanda mava set tulonas tamenna aidar maknar. Rhojir tar si ratha, dennonas khellen shada si han SHINAR, kepsonas tamenna not. Afentonas intar tamenna – Fenathat menna tarmen set sajathat forsai menna disa. Tulonas tamenna nar amnen tarmen set nar bratho tumo. Tisona LORD aprir eserva set ostoro set arthir khellen khoten. Afentona tamen – Sathas tamenna sot. Soterathas tamenna lammas mava sot tanda mava fir nanta. Noyen faffas tamenna shenta ursa. Afentona tamen – Ismaffat set allanaffat tandar taralle. Uprathas tamenna kel afentir intar tamenna. Gatrona LORD atarat alo tar. Duronas arthir tamenna esevra. Apellonas khellen esevra BABEL preset not kadhir LORD glavo tandave alove. Gatrona LORD kar not atarat alo tar.
It’s still pretty rough – I haven’t developed the language enough to fully capture subtle connotations – and I’m still not entirely happy with the verbs but overall I think it’s coming along nicely. My problem is that I don’t have the patience to stick with it for extended lengths of time; I fiddle around with it for an hour one day, come back a week later, and then let it lay fallow for a few weeks.
But back to the book – This is definitely a highly specialized niche read. If you are a conlanger, I say, “check it out”; if you’re not, shake your head in bemusement, if you must, but devote your reading time to something else.
* The website contains a whole bunch of fascinating articles and not solely anent conlangs. I have especially enjoyed his essays on Asimov's "psychohistory" and his reviews of the entire Foundation series, including the non-Asimovian, and best IMO, Psychohistorical Crisis.(less)
While none of the entries are terribly extensive, this is an interesting little reference book showing just how many ways humans have attempted to com...moreWhile none of the entries are terribly extensive, this is an interesting little reference book showing just how many ways humans have attempted to come to terms with their universe.(less)
Another reference book that I enjoy browsing on occasion. The authors are a bit credulous in my opinion but many of the entries make for interesting r...moreAnother reference book that I enjoy browsing on occasion. The authors are a bit credulous in my opinion but many of the entries make for interesting reading, and their definition of "angel" is broad enough to encompass not only Christianity but also Judaism, Islam and Eastern faiths like Hinduism and Buddhism.(less)
Like the Oxford Dictionary of Popes, Grant packs a lot of information into necessarily brief essays on every Roman emperor from Augustus Caesar to Rom...moreLike the Oxford Dictionary of Popes, Grant packs a lot of information into necessarily brief essays on every Roman emperor from Augustus Caesar to Romulus Augustus but if you need to know about Pertinax's senatorial career or the first Gordian's family background, this is the reference for you.(less)
Another reference book that I love to just browse through without any particular goal in mind. It has articles on stars, galaxies, astronomers, observ...moreAnother reference book that I love to just browse through without any particular goal in mind. It has articles on stars, galaxies, astronomers, observatories, planets, space missions and pretty much everything else that makes up the night sky (which is, unfortunately, not easily visible here in the middle of Los Angeles).(less)
I haven't actually "read" this tome. I picked it up today at one of my libraries for a dollar and already I've learned something:
molucca bean A kind o...moreI haven't actually "read" this tome. I picked it up today at one of my libraries for a dollar and already I've learned something:
molucca bean A kind of bean or nut, sometimes worn as an amulet in the Western Isles of Scotland....When witchcraft is threatened the beans turn black, warning of misfortune or death. They are particularly credited with assisting women in childbirth and with preventing death by drowning....
I look forward to acquiring many more superstitions in the months ahead.(less)
If you're at all interested in maps/cartography and/or how Western Europeans viewed their world this is an interesting reference (as well as a collect...moreIf you're at all interested in maps/cartography and/or how Western Europeans viewed their world this is an interesting reference (as well as a collection of beautiful artworks).(less)
An interesting, if quirky, volume. While many mainstays of fantasy are represented -- Tolkien, Baum, etc. -- many entries are of obscure 18th and 19th...moreAn interesting, if quirky, volume. While many mainstays of fantasy are represented -- Tolkien, Baum, etc. -- many entries are of obscure 18th and 19th century European authors who very few have heard of.(less)