The questions that ought to come to mind, should be for example, as follows:
- Did pre-dynastic Lower Egyptians "originally" speak the same languages as their pre-dynastic Upper Egyptian counterparts?
- Did the pre-dynastic Lower Egyptian polities amongst themselves speak a single language, or was there only a single pre-dynastic Lower Egyptian polity [which would seem very unlikely, given the different archaeological complexes of the so-designated regions] with a single language? As for predynastic Upper Egypt, it is well known that not a single polity existed therein at the time; so, did these polities speak the same language, or did they adopt a sub-regional lingua franca in Upper Egypt, all the way to parts of northern Sudan?
- Did Egypt, upon unification, take the language of the dominant ruling elites as the regional lingua franca, which would become Egyptic, or was this simply developed by the merging of language elements from all the regions brought under unity? The same scenario can be played in Kush, where Kushitic/Meroetic language would serve as the regional lingua franca. This was a polity, as can be seen from artistic impressions, to be quite diverse. Could something like what happened in Ethiopia, and elsewhere in Africa, i.e. West Africa and South Africa, have happened in these regions, with Amarinya becoming a sort of lingua franca for the various groups with their distinctive tongues?
Consider for example, the following recap on at least one observation made about predynastic developments in lower and upper Egyptian regions:
With some emphasis placed on language…
Relevant reading from Keita and Boyce, Genetics, Egypt, And History: Interpreting Geographical Patterns Of Y Chromosome Variation, 2005:
“Later there is some movement into Africa after the domestication of plants and Ovacaprines, which happened in the Near East nearly 2000 years before it occurred in Egypt (Hassan 1988, Wetterstrom 1993). Early Neolithic levels in northern Egypt contain the Levantine domesticates, and show some influence in material culture as well (Kobusiewicz 1992). Ovacaprines appear in the western desert before the Nile valley proper (Wendorf and Schild 2001). However, it is significant that ancient Egyptian words for the major Near Eastern domesticates - Sheep, goat, barley, and wheat - are not loans from either Semitic, Sumerian, or Indo-European. This argues against a mass settler colonization (at replacement levels) of the Nile valley from the Near East at this time. This is in contrast with some words for domesticates in some early Semitic languages, which are likely Sumerian loan words (Diakonoff 1981).
This evidence indicates that northern Nile valley peoples apparently incorporated the Near Eastern domesticates into a Nilotic foraging subsistence tradition **on their own terms** (Wetterstrom 1993). There was apparently no “Neolithic revolution” brought by settler colonization, but a gradual process of neolithicization (Midant-Reynes 2000).
(Also some of those emigrating may have been carrying Haplotype V, descendents of earlier migrants from the Nile valley, given the postulated “Mesolithic” time of the M35 lineage emigration). It is more probable that the current VII and VIII frequencies, greatest in northern Egypt, reflect in the main (but not solely) movements during the Islamic period (Nebel et al. 2002), when some deliberate settlement of Arab tribes was done in Africa, and the effects of polygamy. There must also have been some impact of Near Easterners who settled in the delta at various times in ancient Egypt (Gardiner 1961). More recent movements, in the last two centuries, must not be forgotten in this assessment.
And Continued! Keita and Boyce, on the peopling of the Nile Valley…
“Archeological data, or the absence of it, have been interpreted as suggesting a population hiatus in the settlement of the Nile Valley between Epipaleolithic and the Neolithic/predynastic, but this apparent lack could be due to material now being covered over by the Nile (see Connor and Marks 1986, Midant-Reynes 2000, for a discussion). Analogous to events in the Atacama Desert in Chile (Nunez et al. 2002), a moister more inhabitable eastern Sahara gained more human population in the late Pleistocene-early Holocene (Wendorf and Schild 1980, Hassan 1988, Wndorf and Schild 2001). If the hiatus was real then perhaps many Nile populations became Saharan.
Later, stimulated by mid-Holocene droughts, migration from the Sahara contributed population to the Nile Valley (Hassan 1988, Kobusiewicz 1992, Wendorf and Schild 1980, 2001); the predynastic of upper Egypt and later Neolithic in lower Egypt show clear Saharan affinities. A striking increase e of pastoralists’ hearths are found in the Nile valley dating to between 5000-4000 BCE (Hassan 1988). Saharan Nilo-Saharan speakers may have been initial domesticators of African cattle found in the Sahara (see Ehret 2000, Wendorf et. Al. 1987). Hence there was a Saharan “Neolithic” with evidence for domesticated cattle before they appear in the Nile valley (Wendorf et al. 2001). If modern data can be used, there is no reason to think that the peoples drawn into the Sahara in the earlier periods were likely to have been biologically or linguistically uniform.
…A dynamic diachronic interaction consisting of the fusion, fissioning, and perhaps “extinction” of populations, with a decrease in overall numbers as the environment eroded, can easily be envisioned in the heterogenous landscape of the eastern Saharan expanse, with its oases and Wadis, that formed a reticulated pattern of habitats. This fragile and changing region with the Nile Valley in the early to mid-Holocene can be further envisioned as holding a population whose subdivisions maintained some distinctiveness, but did exchange genes. Groups would have been distributed in settlements based on resources, but likely had contacts based on artifact variation (Wendorf and Schild 2001). Similar pottery can be found over extensive areas. Transhumance between the Nile valley and the Sahara would have provided east-west contact, even before the later migration largely emptied parts of the eastern Sahara.
Early speakers of Nilo-Saharan and Afroasiatic apparently interacted based on the evidence of loan words (Ehret, personal communication). Nilo-Saharan’s current range is roughly congruent with the so-called Saharo-Sudanese or Aqualithic culture associated with the less arid period (Wendorf and Schild 1980), and therefore cannot be seen as intrusive. Its speakers are found from the Nile to the Niger rivers in the Sahara and Sahel, and south into Kenya. The eastern Sahara was likely a micro--evolutionary processor and pump of populations, who may have developed various specific sociocultural (and linguistic) identities, but were genealogically “mixed” in terms of origins.
These identities may have further crystallized on the Nile, or fused with those of resident populations that were already differentiated. The genetic profile of the Nile Valley via the fusion of the Saharans and the indigenous peoples were likely established in the main long before the Middle Kingdom…
…Hoffman (1982) noted cattle burials in Hierakonpolis, the most important of predynastic upper Egyptian cities in the later predynastic. This custom might reflect Nubian cultural impact, a common cultural background, or the presence of Nubians...
Apparently, all these different groups would have found a way to communicate with each other.
Considering that there was an inter-trade network along the Nile Valley long before unification, another possibility is the idea of a 'trade language' being developed, and then developing into what would become Egyptic of Pharaonic Egypt.
Clyde Winters chimes in with this interesting note:
You are on to something.
It will be difficult to really elaborate this theme given our knowledge about Egyptian language. But the use of two different "cursive" scripts: Hieratic and Demotic, by two different ruling groups, may indicate that different languages and traditions of writing may have existed in Egypt in ancient times.