Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lexemes/Graphemes and Monograms: An Introduction to the Concept of Compound Egyptian Characters and their "Dissection" into Components

If you factor a number, or if you factor code in a computer program, you break it down into its components.  This dissection that we are talking about here, is somewhat similar to those concepts.  It is the factoring of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, into either their strokes, or their component pieces if they are composite characters.

In Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, the character Ki-Abra-oam Zub Zool Oan (or in the mechanical Egyptian, Wsir-Wr), we read that "this character is shown dissected."  In other words,  Joseph Smith demonstrates how each stroke is made for the character, and how each stroke or section of each character  has its own meaning aside from the meaning of the whole character itself.  Each character is treated as a compound, or composite, or conjunct or ligature—whichever word you please.  Another word that has been used to describe this type of thing (compound characters), that we still use in our culture that we can relate to, is a "monogram", or a "cypher" like a "royal cypher":

A monogram is a motif made by overlapping or combining two or more letters or other graphemes to form one symbol. Monograms are often made by combining the initials of an individual or a company, used as recognizable symbols or logos. A series of uncombined initials is properly referred to as a cypher (e.g. a royal cypher) and is not a monogram. (
In modern heraldry, a royal cypher is a monogram-like device of a country's reigning sovereign, typically consisting of the initials of the monarch's name and title, sometimes interwoven and often surmounted by a crown. In the case where such a cypher is used by an emperor or empress, it is called an imperial cypher. In the system used by various Commonwealth realms, the title is abbreviated as R for rex or regina (Latin for king and queen). Previously, I stood for imperator or imperatrix (Latin words for emperor and empress).[2][3] The cypher is displayed on some government buildings, impressed upon royal and state documents, and is used by government departments. (

Here is an example of a monogram for the letters I, H and S, or perhaps for someone with initials of I H S:


Here is an example of a royal cypher:

The Royal Cypher of King Edward VIII

To dissect monograms or cyphers, one would take it apart and treat each piece individually.  In the IHS monogram, one would separate out I from the IHS compound and use it on its own.  Or one would separate out the crown from the King Edward VIII cypher compound and use it on its own, disconnected from the others.

Of this type of concept in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar where one "dissects" a compound character, Richley Crapo, a credentialed LDS anthropologist, writes:

"In addition to the column of hieroglyphics from the Book of Breathings, it contains studies of the individual strokes that form complete hieroglyphic figures or words. Each stroke has been associated with a collection of semantically related English words or phrases . . . If one then turns to the section in which individual hieroglyphics (each composed of numerous strokes) that are associated with the Book of Abraham verses, the meanings associated with the strokes in each hieroglyphic *are* found in the corresponding verses. That is, there is a consistent set of meaningful relationships between what is said in a particular verse and the strokes that happen to be present in its associated hieroglyphic. This gives us some insight into what Joseph Smith seems to have been doing as he searched for meaning in the hieroglyphics." (

Chris Smith and Ed Ashment refer to these strokes of characters that have their own meaning in the Sensen System of Interpretation of the papyrus by the term "lexeme."  The dictionary definition of the word lexeme is a unit of lexical meaning.  Others have used the term "grapheme" (for example, as we saw in the quote above about monograms).  Grapheme means essentially the same thing: the smallest semantically distinguishing unit of a written language.

This concept is definitely not an alien one to mechanical Egyptian.  For example, in the hieroglyph for the god Osiris, there are three separate parts, each that can have its own meaning separately.


There is a picture of a god (the figure that is seated), a picture of an eye, and a picture of a throne.  Osiris is a god, a seer (as the eye denotes), and a king (as the throne denotes).  Each one on its own, if separated from this context, would mean something different.  A throne by itself would be a picture of a throne, an eye a picture of an eye, and a picture of a god.  Each one of these has a separate meaning if they are used separately.  But together they are used for a hieroglyph that means something different than the pieces individually.

Another example is the magical dissection of the wedjat-eye ideogram, which is the classic precedent for this very thing.  This demonstrates that these concepts are definitely not alien to Egyptian characters.  Hugh Nibley notes how the ancient Egyptians would practice the magical ritual of the wedjat Eye:

Wedjat means “the unharmed one.”  The moon is “unharmed” or complete when it is full, and any observer can note the degrees by which it achieves fulness.  By degrees means “steps,” and the Egyptians often represent the waxing moon by fourteen steps, and the full moon by the conventional wedjat-eye . . . The strange seminal power symbolized by the wedjat-eye is strikingly brought forth in its significance in Egyptian mathematics.  The basic fractions from  1/2 to 1/64 used in grain and land measurement are represented by various parts of the wedjat as the “eye of the Falcon-god Horus . . . (which) was torn to fragments by the wicked god Seth . . . Later, the ibis-god, Thoth, miraculously 'filled' or 'completed' . . . the eye, joining together the parts . . .”  When these fractions are all added up, the total is 63/64; “the missing 1/64 was supplied magically by Thoth.”  (Hugh Nibley, One Eternal Round, pp. 272-273)


Nibley shows a diagram in his book of the parts of the wedjat eye that the scribes use “as symbols of fractions.”  Each piece of the symbol has its own meaning.  Below is a diagram similar to Nibley's showing the fractional values that each section of the wedjat eye represents that can be separated out from the original drawing:


As Joseph Smith would say, here is "this character shown dissected":


It is unlikely that the original usage of the wedjat eye started out this way.  It is more likely that it started out as just stylized picture of an eye.  The first person that drew an eye this way didn't have the idea in mind to tear the character apart in sections.  Later on, certain Egyptians invented the mythology and the SYSTEM OF INTERPRETATION (rules) of how to dissect the pieces of the eye and what the interpretation was for each section of the eye.  This is precisely what I am suggesting for the Sensen Papyrus class of documents as a whole, that people started using their characters in derived compositions.  If someone creates a collage of pictures that are used differently from the way the pictures were intended in the beginning, and put them together in a new way, in their collage, this is they type of thing that I am referring to.