Coptic Language (Sahidic, Mentkyptaion or Aspi en Kemi, language of Egypt; Ethiopian, Gbetze; Arabic, Keft, in which also the Coptic people are called Ghipt). Some writers, following the Moslems, derive the name Coptic from to cut, to circumcise; Wilkins and Pococke from Koptos, a Thebaic nome on the Nile; others from the Jacobites, a body of heretics who were called Coptes, under Hera-clius (A. D.. 610-641); this is the prevailing theory of Roman Catholic authorities. Others hold that Copt was the name of the son of Misraim, the founder of Egypt, and that it has descended from him to all the native race; this is the legend of the convents, and the boast of the Coptic people. But since Renaudot, the most eminent Egyptologists have agreed in deriving it from (according to Brugsch, in ancient Egyptian, Ha-Tca-ptah, house of the worship of Ptah), whose sacred language was the mother of the Coptic, by which alone we are now enabled to understand the Egyptian monuments. This ancient sacred language coexisted with a vernacular dialect, and out of the two, with a mixture of Greek and Arabic words, arose the Coptic, which may be dated from the time of the Ptolemies in Lower Egypt; the version of the Gospels in it having been read by St. Anthony, who did not know Greek, about the year 271. The language was used in Lower Egypt until the 10th century, and in Upper Egypt until the middle of the 17th, when it altogether gave way to the Arabic, except in the monasteries, where it was still preserved. With Christianity the Copts adopted not only the Greek religious nomenclature, but the Greek alphabet as well, even introducing the forms of such letters as g, d, z, x, and ps, though these sounds do not occur in genuine Coptic. Thus in the Coptic alphabet there are 32 signs, including these intrusive Greek letters; a numeral sign for 6 inserted after e; six Egyptian letters derived from hieroglyphs (and representing two forms of sh, kh, h,f, and the English j); and a syllabic sign for ti.
Strictly speaking, however, there are 21 Coptic sounds, viz.: a, e, i, o, u (which was written oy), all pronounced as in Italian, with y sounded as a French u; h, h, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, f(also written ph), h, the German eh, the English sh and th, and the English j. Diacritic signs were used; thus a horizontal line over numerals, over contracted words, and over m and n, which are then to be read em and en, etc. The language has three dialects, viz.: the Memphitic, or genuine Coptic, which abounds in aspirates, writes ai for ei, and loves the final i; the Sahidic or Theban, which uses the final e, and writes ei instead of ai, and in which the Pistis Sophia, a Gnostic work, is written; and the Bashmuric, belonging to the two oases, the poorest of the three in literature, using a, e, e, and l respectively, instead of o, a, e, and r. - All simple words are monosyllabic, unless lengthened by additional vowels; e. g.: ape, head; ohi, to stand; mash, to strike; pet, to run; ro, mouth, etc. Verbs become passive by a change of their vowel into e: ko, to put; ke, to be put.
There are doubled roots, as shor-sher, to destroy (shor, to throw away); words inserting a vowel, prefixing a, en, sh, or suffixing r, s, f, sh; compounds of two words, as sek-mbu, to draw water, rem-ne-kahi (man-of-land), inhabitant, tsa-bo (ti, give, sbo, learning), to teach, ham-she (man-wood), carpenter, etc.; and compounds with the following prefixes: at-nay, invisible, la-foi, very hairy, ment-(or met)-at-nute (-ism a-the-), atheism, ref-sont (-or creat-), creator, shu-taio, worthy (of) honor, shin-nay, to see; hence nouns by pi-, er-, as pi-shin-nay (-ing see-), vision, an- (much, again) -thba, myriad, etc. Nouns are formed by prefixing at, ma, met; thus: ma-neso (place-drink), inn; met-athmu (-ity immortal-), immortality. Many hieroglyphs are thus compounded: MT-S (Copt, met-sei), ornament; MT-KT (met-koto), circuit; MT-STN" (met-suten), kingdom. The MT expresses our -ment, -dom, -ity, -ism, etc. - There are but two genders. The feminine is often formed from masculine by a vowel change, or by suffixing e (i, Memphitic), or by an article or adjective; thus: uro, queen (from uro, king); hinb-i, ewe-lamb; alu-shime, female child; alu-hout, male child. The articles are indefinite, definite, and demonstrative. The former are of common gender; as, u rbmi, a man; han-mui, some lions.
The definite articles are pe (pi, M.), corresponding to French le; te (ti), to Fr. la; and ne, nei (ni), to Fr. les; thus: pi-son, le frere; ti-sone, la sozur; ne-tay, les montagnes. They often drop the final vowel, as pnute, le dieu. Before initial h the corresponding aspirates occur, as in Greek; thus, th-orasis, n opασις. In hieroglyphs the prefix P stands for le, and N for les, but the suffix T for la; thus MU-T (Copt, ti-mau), mere la. The demonstrative articles, either joined or not, are pei, Lat. hic; tei, Lat. haec; and nei, Lat. hi, hae, haec. In hieroglyphs and Memphitic, they are PAI, TAI, NAI. Possessive adjectives are formed of the definite article and of the suffixes a (to have), and e (to be, etre a, to belong to); thus: pa, Fr. le mien; ta, Fr. la mienne; na, les miens and miennes; analogous are pek, tek, nek, Lat. tuus, tua, tui, masculine; pu, tu, nu, the same for feminine; pef, tef, nef, his, her, their, masc.; pes, tes, nes, fem.; pen, ten, nen, Lat. noster, etc.; peten, etc, Lat. tester, etc.; pey (pu), etc, their; e. g.: pa-nuti, my God; pen-het, our heart; tek-shom, thy power. The hieroglyph RN-F is for the Copt, pef-ran, his name.
Foreign and many Coptic nouns are without a plural form; thus: ni-apostolos, the apostles; han-magos, some magi; Copt, pei-hou, the day; nei-hou, these days. Many Coptic nouns become plural by suffixing i (e, Sah.) to consonants, or by lengthening final vowels; as ape-ey, heads; urb-u, kings; sbb-ui, doctrines. Hieroglyphs trebled the noun, or added three lines, or final diphthongs; thus: KM-UI, Egyptians; MR-UI, regions. Some are anomalous; thus: eiot, father, eibte, fathers; hurit, guardian, hurate, guardians; son, brother, sney, brothers. Others are more dissimilar, as shime, woman, hiome, women; bok, servant, ebiaik, servants; iom, sea, amaibu, seas. The cases of declension are signified both by separate particles and by prefixes. The nominative sign is enshi (S. and B.), or enje; the genitive, ente, en-, em-; the dative and accusative, en-, em-, e-, o-; vocative, pe; the ablative, ebol, hiten, en-, em-, e-, and many prepositions.
The hieroglyphic genitive is N, NT, M; dat., N, R, L, HR (Copt, haro, to); acc., N; abl., M, out from, EM, by, for, MT (Copt. mut, to join). Adjectives become names of origin or of quality by means of en; thus: rem-en-Kemi (man of Egypt), Egyptian; rem-en-nuti (man of God), pious. To form the feminine adjectives, add i (e) to the masculines, or lengthen the final vowel. The plural of adjectives is formed like that of substantives. Some adjec-tivesreceive personal suffixes, as ter-k, whole-thou; naa-s, great-she. The comparative degree is denoted by huo, corresponding to the Gr. ; the superlative by khen, in, ute, between, ebol-ute, before, emate (emastrb), very, much, and by the Gr. In ancient Egyptian, the genitive plural (as king of kings), and enhme, estrate, and ehote, indicated plurality. The numerals are: 1, ua, masc, uei, fern, (uai, ui, M.); 2, snay, sente (snuti); 3, shoment, shomte; 4,ftou,fto; 5, tin, tie; 6, sou, so; 7, sashsf; 8, shmune; 9, psit; 10, met; 20, juot; 30, maa'k; 40, hme; 50, taiu; 60, se; 70, shbe; 80, hmene; 90, pestaiu; 100, she; 1,000, sho, etc. Ordinals: 1st, ti-aphe (beginning), shorp, etc.; the others are formed by prefixing mah (MH) to the cardinals. Distributives are made by doubling the cardinals; multiples by adding sop (times); fractions by prefixing re (R) with fre, part. The personal pronouns are: anok, I; entok, ento (masc. and fem.), thou; entof, he; entos, she; anen, we; entoten, you; entou, they. Possessive demonstrative pronouns consist of the article with o (to be) and personal suffixes; thus: poi (the-is-me), my; pok, po (masc. and fem.), they; pof, pos, his, her; pon, our; poter, your; pou, their. The demonstratives pe, te, ne correspond to the Lat. ille, ilia, illi. The relative et, who, which, what, is indeclinable. The interroga-tives nim, eut, correspond to Lat. qualis; uer, to Lat. quantus, quot; and u, to Lat. quid.
Verbs indicate persons either by suffixes, as i, I; Jc, e (masc. and fem.), thou; f, s, he, she; n, we; ten, you; sen, they; or by the prefixes ti, k, te, f, s, ten, teten, se. Particles of tenses are, for the present, ei, Lat. sum; ek, ere (masc. and fem.), Lat. es; ef, es, Lat. est; en, sumus; ereten, estis; ey, u, ere, sunt. The perfect indefinite is ai (have-I), Lat. fui; ah fuisti, etc. The imperfect, ne (venit), like the Fr. venir de, is inflected thus: nai, nak, nere, nef, nes, etc. Pe following denotes simultaneity, as nai-ke-kahey pe, I was at the same time naked. The future is indicated by e-, -e, eti, eke, etc.; the second future (soon) by na, to go, or ei, toward, as ekna, thou wilt be soon; and the pluperfect by naina, Fr. jallais. Sha denotes habit; thus: shai, soleo; shak, soles, etc. The subjunctive is distinguished by en-, that, as en-tirashi, Lat. gaudeam; the optative by marei (velle), I wish, by ma, grant, or by pe, to be, as marekbnh, utinam, vivas; the imperative is the root alone, or with the prefix a, be it, or ma, give, as ajas, say; the infinitive is the root and used as a substantive; the present participle has the prefix e or et, who, as pilaos ethem-si, the people sitting.
Particles are joined to tenses; thus: entcrei-tbm, when I close; shan-tei-enjoos, as long as you say. Other particles are enei, if, shan, if so that, and empati, before that. Negation is indicated by prefixing en, empe, empate, or by affixing an, or by inserting the verb between en and an. Endings of the sacred dialect are -I, I; -K, -T (masc. and fem.), thou; -F, he; -S, she; -N, we; -TN, you; and -SN, they. Its auxiliary verbs are E-, A-, 0-, UON-, to be, and ER-, to do, to make. The prepositions are: e, in, of, from; ebol, ebolhi-ten, out, through; ehote, before, above, on; nem, with; enten, of; sha, till, to; kha, under, against; ha, under, to; haten, near by, with; hi, in, on, etc.; which are lengthened by such suffixes as rat, tot, ro, ma,fet, o, etc. Adverbs are made by prefixing e to nouns; thus: ephleu, in vain, epehou (on the day), daily; or by prepositions, as khen u rashi (in a joy), gladly. The most frequent conjunction is je (saying), that, because, whereas. Others are shantei, while; enei, eishan, if; empati, before that; and many Greek ones with their own signification, as de, te, alia, an, eti, ana, kata, hina, etc. The hieroglyphic prepositions are N, Copt, en; NT, ente; HR, haro, to; HT, hahte, near; RM, erem, with, near, by.
The construction is strictly logical, the subject being followed by the verb and this by the regimen. Specimen: Pen ibt, et khen (noster pater qui in) ni (article) pheui (ccelis): Maref-tubo (utinam sanctum) enje (article) pek ran (tuum nomen). Maresi (veniat) enje pek meturo (tuum regnum), etc. - Translations of portions of the Coptic Scriptures, of Gnostic odes, and inscriptions have been made by Huntington, Pococke, David Wilkins, Tuki, Giorgi, C. G. Woide, F. Munter, Min-garelli, Zoega, Quatremere, Engelbrecht, H. Tattam, L. Ideler, G. Seyffarth, Schwartze, P. Botticher, Champollion-Figeac, Mariette, Brugsch, and others. Peiresc was the first European student of Coptic. Saumaise and Scaliger made little progress in it. Athanasius Kircher (1636-'44) devoted some attention to it, but fell into many errors. Waldoni (1653), E. Vinding (1660), Bonjour (1699), Blumberg (1716), Tuki (1778), Scholtz (1778), and Didy-mus Taurinensis or Valperga (1783) wrote on the grammar and lexicography. The Opuscula of Jablonski contain an excellent glossary.
Important contributions are furnished by the Re-cherches critiques et historiques sur la langue et la litterature de l'Egypte, by Quatremere (Paris, 1808); the "Grammar of the Egyptian Language," by Tattam (London, 1830), with an appended dictionary by Young; and the grammar and dictionary of Champollion the younger. Rosellini's treatise on the Coptic language (Rome, 1837) was to a large extent copied from Champollion. An excellent survey of the history of the study of Coptic is given by Fe1ix Neve, Des travaux de l'erudi-tion chretienne sur les monuments de la langue copte (Louvain, 1860). Among the latest and best grammars are those of Peyron (Turin, 1841); of Benfey (Leipsic, 1844), showing the relation of the Coptic to the Semitic languages; of Schwartze, edited after his death by Steinthal (Berlin, 1850); of Uhlmann (Leipsic, 1853); of Seyffarth (Gotha, 1855); and of Schrader (Got-tingen, 1860). The best vocabularies are those of Vessiere de la Croze (edited by Woide, Oxford, 1775), Rossi (Rome, 1808), Tattam (Oxford, 1835), Peyron (1835), Parthey (Berlin, 1844), and Brugsch (Leipsic, 1867-8). For a reading book there is the Pistis Sophia, published by Petermann (Lat. version by Schwartze, Berlin, 1851), and the Liber Henoch cethiopice, edited by A. Dillmann (Leipsic, 1861). Valuable contributions appear from time to time in the monthly periodical edited by Lepsius and Brugsch, Zeitschrift fur agyptische Sprache unci Alterthumskunde, which has been published at Leipsic since 1864.