Egyptian may be the oldest attested language in the world. The earliest primitive writing dates to a little before 3000 B.C.E. and is possibly older than the earliest form of Sumerian. Egyptian is also the longest attested in writing of all languages, being both written and spoken for more than 3,500 years, down to 1000 C.E. and a little beyond. Over this long period, the spoken language evolved through five main stages. The first three are (1) Old Egyptian, (2) Middle Egyptian and (3) Late Egyptian and date roughly to, respectively, the (1) Old Kingdom (2600–2100 B.C.E.), (2) First Intermediate Period, Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period (2100–1500 B.C.E.) and (3) New Kingdom (1500–1000 B.C.E.). All three are written either in hieroglyphic writing, which consists of pictures denoting meanings or sounds, or in hieratic, a cursive form of hieroglyphic writing.

Middle Egyptian remained in use as a kind of written-only classical language alongside later written stages after spoken Middle Egyptian evolved into Late Egyptian. An example is the image above, from a Book of the Dead manuscript dated to about 1250 B.C.E. and kept at the British Museum. In the vignette, Re is shown in his solar barge. The text is written in cursivized hieroglyphs.

The fourth phase of Egyptian is Demotic, written in a highly cursive form of hieroglyphs also called Demotic and attested from about 650 B.C.E. onward. The Demotic manuscript above is a contract for a metayage system of farming (a form of sharecropping). Coming from Thebes, it dates to 533 B.C.E. and is kept at the Louvre.

The fifth and final phase of the Egyptian language is Coptic, which is written with the Greek alphabet augmented by a handful of signs borrowed from Demotic. Full-fledged written Coptic emerged around 300 C.E. Coptic ceased being spoken sometime between 1000 C.E. and 1500 C.E., but the clergy has remained able to read it (more or less) down to the present day. The Coptic manuscript above is a fragment of the Gospel of Luke from the Louvre.