Ham and Wry.
Linguists formerly used the term “Hamitic languages” to refer to ancient Egyptian and the Berber, Chadic and Cushitic languages of North Africa. The Hamitic languages are closely related to each other and distantly related to the Semitic languages. The common ancestor of both groups, formerly called “Semito-Hamitc,” is now called “Afro-Asiatic” to avoid naming a language group after Ham, the disgraced son of Noah.
Several interesting sound correspondences exist between ancient Egyptian and the Semitic languages. First, Egyptian never developed an “L” sound. Therefore, the “L” of Semitic words corresponds to “N,” “R” or even “T” in Egyptian words. Second, the “H” sound in the Semito-Hamitic ancestor language became “Sh” in Semitic languages while remaining “H” in Egyptian. Finally, sounds made with the lips (labial sounds) such as “P,” “B,” and “M,” often seem to interchange across these related languages.
Knowing these sound correspondences, the relationships among Egyptian and Hebrew words become clear. The Biblical Hebrew word hashmal (a shiny metal) corresponds to Egyptian hesmen (bronze). Hebrew qinah and Egyptian qenuwy, both mean a lament. Hebrew hisheb and Egyptian hesheb both mean to count. Hebrew yaqar (precious) and Egyptian yeqer (excellent) are nearly identical in meaning and spelling. Finally, recalling that Hebrew “SH” interchanges with Egyptian “H,” Hebrew “T” interchanges with Egyptian “N,” and Hebrew “M” can interchange with Egyptian “P,” we see that Hebrew shalom corresponds to Egyptian hotep, with both words meaning “peace.”
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