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Language Information


Coptic represents the final stage of the ancient Egyptian language, whose familiar hieroglyphic writing dates as far back as 3000 B.C. The word "Copt" is derived from the Greek, and later the Arabic, word for "Egyptian." Coptic is a Hamitic language, constituting one of the branches of the Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic) family.

The transition from Egyptian to Coptic in Egypt may be said to have coincided with the introduction of Christianity. The language was profoundly affected by the translation of the Bible. By the 3rd century A.D. Coptic was the prevailing language of Christian Egypt, though the upper classes generally preferred speaking Greek. In the 5th century a schism occurred in the Egyptian Christian church, with the branch known as the Monophysites coming to be known as the Coptic Church. After the Moslem conquest of Egypt in 642 Coptic began to give way slowly to Arabic, but it was another thousand years before it died out completely as a spoken language. Today it remains the liturgical language of the Coptic Church, whose headquarters are in Cairo. Its present membership is over six million.

The Coptic alphabet consists of thirty-two letters, twenty-five borrowed from the Greek, and seven from Demotic, a later simplified form of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The latter signs were adopted to represent sounds lacking in Greek, such as sh and f.


Coptic is spoken/used in Egypt

Language Family
Family: Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic)
Subgroup: Egyptian


Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.


Writing Sample


Writing Sample

Translation


I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills are moved. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by his fierce anger.

—Jeremiah iv. 23-26