Category Archives: Resource – Introduction

Greek loan words in Coptic

In 1955 WA Girgis (later Bishop Gregorius) presented a thesis entitled Greek words in Coptic usage to the University of Manchester for a PhD. He later published his work in a series of eight articles in the Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte (BSAC) named Greek loan words in Coptic from 1964-2001. The first article in the series (BSAC 17) is a general introduction, but the following three (BSAC 18-20) deal with what Greek loan words, and in particular their spelling in Coptic, can tell us about Coptic phonology. The article published in BASC 18 deals with stressed and unstressed Coptic vowels, BSAC 19 deals broadly with Coptic consanants, and BASC 20 deals with aspiration.

  • Girgis WA; in religion, Abba Pachomius Al-Muharraki (1964). Greek loan words in Coptic (Part I). Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 17:63-73. View
  • Girgis WA; in religion, Abba Pachomius Al-Muharraki (1966). Greek loan words in Coptic (Part II). Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 18:71-96. View
  • Girgis WA; in religion, Bishop Gregorius (1970). Greek loan words in Coptic (Part III). Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 19:57-87. View
  • Girgis WA; in religion, Bishop Gregorius (1971). Greek loan words in Coptic (Part IV). Bulletin de la Société d’archéologie copte 20:53-67. View
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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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The sounds of Old Bohairic – a short phonological outline

Szelog, Michael (2004). The sounds of Old Bohairic – a short phonological outline.

This work is the result of a personal study carried out by Mike Szelog, who is an active member of the Remenkimi Yahoo Group. His study focusses in particular on the phonemic inventory of the Old Bohairic (OB) pronunciation in opposition to the Graeco-Bohairic (GB) pronunciation, which is most widely used in the liturgical worship of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The approach he has taken is to make the conclusions of the study accessible to lay people by avoiding unnecessary technical language and explaining technical terms where they do occur.

Also of interest is a short document produced by Mike Szelog giving the Lord’s Prayer in Bohairic, Sahidic and Fayumic along which its dialectic pronunciation at different times.

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Egyptian phonology: an introduction to the phonology of a dead language

Puest, Carsten (1999). Egyptian phonology: an introduction to the phonology of a dead language. Monographien zur ägyptischen Sprache; 2. Göttingen: Peust & Gutschmidt.

This monograph which describes the history of Egyptian phonology is invaluable to the field of Coptic phonology. It includes discussion of the phonological changes that occured in Coptic and the effects the Greek and Arabic languages have had on this. It has fortunately been digitised and made freely available by Heidelberg University here. I suggest you consult section 2.2 (pp 30-32) in the first instance as an introduction to Late Coptic phonology and Bohairic in particular, although the whole work is of importance.

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