Coptic Language

Coptic Language

a mixture of ancient Egyptian with Greek and Arabic words, spoken in Egypt after the introduction of Christianity. It is not now a spoken language, having been everywhere supplanted by the Arabic. It has not been spoken in Lower Egypt since the tenth century, but lingered for some centuries longer in Upper Egypt. It is, however, still used by the Copts in their religious services, but the lessons, after being read in Coptic, are explained in Arabic. The Coptic literature consists in great part of lives of saints and homilies, with a few Gnostic works (Chambers, s.v.). It is especially interesting as giving us a clew to the meaning of the hieroglyphics (q.v.) after they have been phonetically deciphered. It is divided into three dialects, the Memphitic, or Lower Egyptian, which is the most polished, and is sometimes exclusively called Coptic; the Sahidic, or Upper Egyptian; and the Bashmuric, which was spoken in the Delta, and of which only a few remains exist (Penny Cyclopaedia, s.v.). SEE EGYPT. A full list of works on the subject is given by Jolowicz, Bibliotheca AEgyptiaca, p. 101 sq., 229; also the Supplem. p. 29 sq. SEE COPTS.

The gender of nouns is indicated by the forms of the article, namely, pi, p, f, for the masc.; t, th, ti, for the fem.; n; nen, for the common plur. The simple article is, sing. u, plur. hau. The plur. of nouns is expressed partly by the termination, as -i, -u, -y, -x; partly by an internal change. The cases are supplied by the enclitic additions: nom. -enje, gen. -ente, dat. and accus. -e. The adjectives are indeclinable, but are compared by means of huo =more, emasho =very. The numerals are:

1, uai; 2, snau; 3, shomb; 4, ftou; 5, tiu 6, sou; 7, shashf; 8, shmen; 9, psib; 10, meb, etc.

The ordinals are formed from these by the addition of -mak. The personal pronouns are anok=I, enthok (masc.) and entho (fem.)=thou, enthof =he, enthos= she, anon=we, enthoten=ye, enthou=they. Abbreviated forms of these are used, some as possessives, etc., others as suffixes to nouns, verbs, and particles. But instead of them the words ro (i.e. "mouth"), tot (i.e. "hand"), etc., are commonly employed, with their various inflections. The tenses are formed partly by additional syllables, and partly by means of auxiliaries. There are grammars of the language by Kircher (Rome, 1636), Blumberg (Leipzig, 1716), Tuli (Rome, 1778), Scholz (Oxford, 1778), Valperga (Parma, 1783), Tattam (Lond. 1830, 2d ed. 1863), Rosellini (Rome, 1837), Peyron (T-urin, 1841), Schwartze (Berl. 1850), Uhlemann (Lpz. 1853); and dictionaries by La Croze (Oxford, 1775), Tattam (ib. 1835), Peyron (Turin, 1835), and Parthey (Berl. 1840). See Neve, Monuments de la langue Copte (in the Revue Catholique, Louvain, 1853). For a reading-book the learner may use the so-called Pistis Sophia, published by Petermann (Latin version by Schwartze, Berlin, 1851). — Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, 9:712.

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