The language of the Pharaohs lives on!

Coptic is the descendant of Ancient Egyptian (Medu neter, divine words) which survived up to the 17nth century as a spoken language.


Nevertheless it still survives as a liturgical language of the Christian Coptic Church in Egypt.It is estimated that there are about six and a half million Coptic Christians today.

Compare Ancient Egyptian medu (words) with Coptic Ⲙⲉⲧ (met). 


The liturgical language is based on the Bohairic dialect which was spoken in Lower Egypt in the Nile Delta.

It eventually fell out of use and was fully replaced by Egyptian Arabic in eveyday life.

Coptic cross

Coptic dialects

Coptic was divided in six major dialects the most prominent Bohairic and Sahidic. The differences are in phonology, morphology and some grammar but they are not significant enough to set them far apart.

Coptic dialects
Coptic dialects

Coptic belongs to the Afro-Asiatic macro family along with Arabic and Hebrew.It evolved from Demotic Egyptian during late antiquity.

Egypt in Coptic 

Coptic 
ⲭⲏⲙⲓ Khēmi
ⲕⲏⲙⲉ Kēme

Arabic 
قبط‎
Qibt

Ancient Egyptian
Kmt
Kemet
Kemet- the black land- Egypt

Coptic and Greek

There is widespread misconception that the Greek alphabet was adopted for Coptic by Christians. But this is not the case.

Greek presence in Egypt started in the 7nth century BCE when Greeks founded the trade colony of Naucratis in the Nile Delta. Then numerous cities were established in Cyrenaica. Alexander the Great founded the city of Alexandria after conquering Egypt naming it after him. 
 


After the death of Alexander ,during the Ptolemaic rule of Egypt, Greek became the common language. Next came the Roman Empire which didn't change the linguistic status quo in the East and then followed by the Greek speaking Byzantine Empire. 

As a consequence, the Greek alphabet started being used to write Ancient Egyptian then Coptic early before Christian times. Some additional letters were used from Demotic Egyptian to represent sounds not found in Greek.


The alphabet wasn't the only thing Coptic adopted from  Greek- a lot of Greek words and phrases were introduced,too. All previous Egyptian religious terms were replaced by Greek after the adoption of Christianity.

Some phrases in Coptic

ⲭⲉⲣⲉ
khārā
Hello (from Greek χαίρε)

ⲛⲟϥⲣⲓ
Nofri
Hi,hello.

ⲛⲁⲛⲉ ⲧⲟⲟⲩⲓ.
nanā to-oui 
Good morning

ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ
oujai
Bye

ⲥⲉⲡϩⲙⲟⲧ
sephmot
Thanx 


Ⲡⲓⲭⲣⲓⲥⲧⲟⲥⲁϥⲧⲱⲛϥ !
Pikhristos Aftōnf
Christ is risen!


ⲁⲕⲉⲣ ⲟⲩ? 
aker ou?(m.)
How are you?


ⲁⲣⲉⲉⲣ ⲟⲩ? 
areer ou? (f.)
How are you?

ⲁⲣⲉⲧⲉⲛⲉⲣ ⲟⲩ? 
aretener ou? (pl.) 
How are you?

Ⲙⲉⲧ
Met
Words, language

ⲘⲉⲧⲢⲉⲙ̀ⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ 
Met Remenkēmi
Coptic language

ϯⲘⲉⲧⲢⲉⲙ̀ⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ
TiMetRemenkēmi
the Coptic language.

ϯ
Ti
the 
definite article

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Sample text

John 1:1 in Coptic

ϩⲛ̅ ⲧⲉϩⲟⲩⲉⲓⲧⲉ ⲛⲉϥϣⲟⲟⲡ ⲛ̅ϭⲓ ⲡϣⲁϫⲉ. ⲁⲩⲱ ⲡϣⲁϫⲉ ⲛⲉϥϣⲟⲟⲡ ⲛ̅ⲛⲁϩⲣⲙ̅ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ. ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲉⲩⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲡⲉ ⲡϣⲁϫⲉ. 

hn̅ tehoueite nefšoop n̅ci pšaje. auô pšaje nefšoop n̅nahrm̅ pnoute. auô neunoute pe pšaje. 

In the beginning was the word, and the word was in the presence of the god, and the word was a god.

ⲡϣⲁϫⲉ
Pshaje 
Word

ⲁⲩⲱ
Auo
And

ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ
Pnoute
The god

ⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ
Noute
God
Ancient Egyptian neter (divine).

 


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