Today I have the great pleasure of publishing one of the most important works on Coptic phonology, which sadly for many years has been unavailable but to a few. In 1975, Emile Maher Ishak (now Fr. Shenouda Maher Ishak of Rochester, New York) completed his D.Phil thesis at the University of Oxford entitled ‘The phonetics and phonology of the Bohairic dialect of Coptic and the survival of Coptic words in the colloquial and Classical Arabic of Egypt and of Coptic grammatical constructions in colloquial Egyptian Arabic’. The thesis, running to 2,130 pages and divided in four volumes, is to date the most exhaustive study of Bohairic phonology.
The thesis is in fact two works. The first (volumes I and II) is a staunch defence of the traditional pronunciation of Bohairic, which the author considers to be genuine in opposition to the modern reformed pronunciation introduced in AD 1858 by Iryan Girgis Muftah. It draws on a wide array of evidence to establish the validity of Old Bohairic; from Arabic manuscripts rendered in Coptic script, to the ancient names of towns of villages, to hieroglyphic and demotic texts. The phonetic values of the Coptic letters in the traditional and in the reformed pronunciation are discussed individually and in detail, utilising many of the sources digitised on this website. Also explored are aspects of Coptic phonology and grammar in comparison with that of Egyptian Arabic.
The second (volumes III and IV) is essentially a dictionary of Coptic survivals in the colloquial and Classical Arabic of Egypt. The author draws from a wealth of valuable lexical evidence gathered from remote towns and villages throughout Egypt. Included at the end of volume IV is an index of cross-references to the Egyptian etymologies of Coptic words discussed.
I hope that Emile Maher Ishak’s thesis, which I know many interested in Coptic phonology have sought after, will prove a valuable addition to the library of Coptic resources now online. I am publishing all four volumes in PDF format, with bookmarks and (mostly) searchable text.
I have prepared a contents of the thesis here (97kB) for ease of reference.
The thesis is available for download in its four volumes here:
Volume I (72MB)
Volume II (51MB)
Volume III (88MB)
Volume IV (111MB)