The pronunciation of Coptic in the Church of Egypt

Sobhy, Georgy PG (1915). The pronunciation of Coptic in the Church of Egypt. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 2(1):15-19.

Georgy Sobhy Bey was an Egyptian physician who made important contributions to the fields of Egyptology and Coptology in the early 20th century. He wrote  his first article on Coptic phonology in 1915, before the modified Graeco-Bohairic pronunciation had become popular among the Copts. He writes:

All modern books written on Coptic by native authors adopt more or less a mutilated form of Greek pronunciation and apply it entirely to their language. Unfortunately none of our native authors here knows sufficient Greek to realise the outstanding mistakes he is trying to form into rules applicable to the Coptic language. I believe that an ordinary uneducated priest in reciting any Coptic prayer in Church, pronounces the language much more correctly, and naturally too, than if he followed those erroneous rules set down in the modern Coptic books – for he has the inherent power of forming the sounds of the different characters in the language of his forefathers.

The article goes on to discuss and summarise the pronunciation of Coptic in the Egyptian Church, particularly in Upper Egypt, at the beginning of the twentieth century. It ends with a parallel transcription of the Lord’s prayer as dictated to Georgy Sobhy by Pope Cyril V.

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