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Christian Casey

Christian Casey

PhD: Egyptology
Master's: Applied Math

"The Open Graduate Education program lends legitimacy to the math parts of my project and it gives me confidence that I will be prepared to undertake a project that genuinely depends on knowledge of both fields."

Project/Dissertation Title: New Methods for Reconstructing Ancient Egyptian Phonology

Project Description: I want to use computers to create models of universal features of the sounds of human languages, and then use those models, along with the data available to us from written materials, to describe the sounds of the ancient Egyptian language as accurately as possible, and to measure the accuracy of these reconstructions. 

Why I chose the program: I've always known that I want to incorporate math and computer science into the study of ancient Egyptian language, but I had no idea how I was going to study both in only five years. This program provides the extra time I need to devote individual attention to each subject before bringing them together for my dissertation.

Soon after I started studying Egyptian, I realized that Egyptologists have been ignoring a lot of data. To cite my favorite example, about 10% of every Egyptian text is composed of signs that seem to have no purpose whatsoever (they're believed to simply reiterate the phonetic values of other signs). They stand out at first, but after studying the language for a while they seem to fade from our perception because we feel that we don't need to take note of them. I realized that we need a way to analyze the value of features such as these without letting our own perceptions influence the result. So creating transparent, replicable experiments using statistical models might be a way to do this.