The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele (stone slab) inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek.
Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts (with some minor differences between them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Rosetta Stone is proprietary computer-assisted language learning (CALL) software developed by Rosetta Stone Inc. Both its title and logo refer to the Rosetta Stone, an artifact inscribed in multiple languages that helped Jean-François Champollion to decipher Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The company is headquartered in Arlington County, Virginia.
The Rosetta Stone software uses a combination of images, text, and sound, with difficulty levels increasing as the student progresses, in order to teach various vocabulary terms and grammatical functions intuitively, without drills or translation. They call this the “Dynamic Immersion method”. According to the company, the software is designed to teach languages the way first languages are learned.
> Rosetta Stone | Computer Learning Demo
Originally displayed within a temple, the stele was probably moved during the early Christian or medieval period and eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was rediscovered there in 1799 by a soldier, Pierre-Francois Bouchard, of the French expedition to Egypt.
As the first ancient bilingual text recovered in modern times, the Rosetta Stone aroused widespread public interest with its potential to decipher the hitherto untranslated Ancient Egyptian language. Lithographic copies and plaster casts began circulating amongst European museums and scholars. Meanwhile, British troops defeated the French in Egypt in 1801, and the original stone came into British possession under the Capitulation of Alexandria. Transported to London, it has been on public display at the British Museum since 1802. It is the most-visited object in the British Museum.
Ever since its rediscovery, the stone has been the focus of nationalist rivalries, including its transfer from French to British possession during the Napoleonic Wars, a long-running dispute over the relative value of Young’s and Champollion’s contributions to the decipherment, and since 2003, demands for the stone’s return to Egypt.
In the reign of the young one—who has received the royalty from his father—lord of crowns, glorious, who has established Egypt, and is pious towards the gods, superior to his foes, who has restored the civilized life of men, lord of the Thirty Years’ Feasts, even as Hephaistos the Great; a king, like the Sun, the great king of the upper and lower regions; offspring of the Gods Philopatores, one whom Hephaistos has approved, to whom the Sun has given the victory, the living image of Zeus, son of the Sun, Ptolemy living-for‑ever beloved of Ptah; in the ninth year, when Aëtus, son of Aëtus, was priest of Alexander …;
The chief priests and prophets and those that enter the inner shrine for the robing of the gods, and the feather-bearers and the sacred scribes, and all the other priests … being assembled in the temple in Memphis on this day, declared:
Since king Ptolemy, the everliving, the beloved of Ptah, the God Epiphanes Eucharistos, the son of king Ptolemy and queen Arsinoe, Gods Philopatores, has much benefited both the temples and those that dwell in them, as well as all those that are his subjects, being a god sprung from a god and goddess (like Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, who avenged his father Osiris), and being benevolently disposed towards the gods, has dedicated to the temples revenues in money and corn, and has undertaken much outlay to bring Egypt into prosperity, and to establish the temples, and has been generous with all his own means, and of the revenues and taxes which he receives from Egypt some has wholly remitted and others has lightened, in order that the people and all the rest might be in prosperity during his reign …;
It seemed good to the priests of all the temples in the land to increase greatly the existing honours of king Ptolemy, the everliving, the beloved of Ptah … And a feast shall be kept for king Ptolemy, the everliving, the beloved of Ptah, the God Epiphanes Eucharistos, yearly in all the temples of the land from the first of Thoth for five days; in which they shall wear garlands, and perform sacrifices, and the other usual honours; and the priests shall be called priests of the God Epiphanes Eucharistos in addition to the names of the other gods whom they serve; and his priesthood shall be entered upon all formal documents and private individuals shall also be allowed to keep the feast and set up the aforementioned shrine, and have it in their houses, performing the customary honours at the feasts, both monthly and yearly, in order that it may be known to all that the men of Egypt magnify and honour the God Epiphanes Eucharistos the king, according to the law.
The Rosetta Project
The Rosetta Project is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to develop a contemporary version of the historic Rosetta Stone to last from 2000 to 12,000 AD; it is run by the Long Now Foundation. Its goal is a meaningful survey and near permanent archive of 1,500 languages. Some of these languages have fewer than one thousand speakers left in the world. Others are considered to be dying out because government centralization and globalization are increasing the prevalence of English and other major languages. The intention is to create a unique platform for comparative linguistic research and education, as well as a functional linguistic tool that might help in the recovery or revitalisation of lost languages in the future.