Coptic lives!

Coptic, a descendent of the Egyptian language of the Pharaohs, is generally thought to have died out as an everyday language in the 17th century. Since then it’s been used only in the religous ceremonies of the Coptic Church in Egypt. However, according to the Daily Star Egypt, there are a couple of families who still speak Coptic as their language of daily conversation.

The Coptic speaker mentioned in the article says that she does not speak Coptic with her children because she felt that Coptic was a worthless language to have her children speak, therefore she did not do so when they were young. So, unless there are any undiscovered Coptic speakers out there, the language probably won’t survive for much longer.

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9 Responses to Coptic lives!

  1. TJ says:

    The woman is mistaken for sure!
    I once was looking for a coptic dictionary and couldn’t find any at all!!
    Coptic along with Aramaic (or Syriac) should be considered …. and even be assigned as a second language!

  2. Podolsky says:

    I do not believe the story. Journalists are always looking for a scoop and easily invent stories. True, there may be Copts whose everyday Arabic contains a number of Coptic words, but it doesn’t mean these people speak Coptic.
    There are thousands of Indians who claim their mother tongue is Sanskrit. Actually it is their second language, acquired after they learned to speak Hindi or Bengali or some other language.

  3. Polly says:

    I agree with TJ that that lady (if indeed she exists) is throwing away a priceless, family heirloom and possibly a cultural artifact, though an intangible one. Such pragmatism is shortsighted to say the least!
    I often wonder at (grand)children of immigrants who know little to nothing of their ancestral tongue. I think it’s sad. Such a missed opportunity. Let alone allowing a language to die out! Languages go extinct all the time, but to make a CONSCIOUS decision not to preserve yours?! That’s truly careless. I hope this story IS made up, as Podolsky suggested.

  4. Wow! What a story. I hope it is true, and if so, that somebody will step in and try to learn the language from these last links before it’s lost. I must say, however, that the following sentence doesn’t add any credibility to the Daily Star article:

    “Coptic is a combination of the ancient Egyptian languages Demotic, Hieroglyphic and Hieratic.”

    The three names mentioned here refer to writing systems, not languages, although to some extent they do represent different stages in the Egyptian language. Coptic is kind of like Modern Greek and Ancient Greek–it’s the same language, just the newest version.

    And, T.J., I do understand your quandry in searching for a Coptic dictionary. I tried to find one a while back when I was researching Ancient Egyptian vowels, and all I was able to get was a Coptic-French dictionary. Since I didn’t know French (and still don’t!) I had to get out the French-English dictionary!

  5. parkbench says:

    I learned about Coptic through a History channel documentary on the first man to decode Egyptian hieroglyphs (he used it, being related to Ancient Egyptian, to indirectly discern the alphabet). Very interesting.

  6. Lilian Nawar says:

    During my childhood, I got in contact with a person who when got angry would resort to a language that was not the Egyptian-Arabic dialetic nor was the Noubian language(he was never identified as Nubian) but as Egyptian. When I grew up, I realized that he might knew the Coptic language and unfortunately, this was not recognized. This story confirms what I suspected since I realized that the person of Upper Egypt might be still speaking our Egyptian language. I kept telling this story which no body seems to have encountered until I heard this story. We should do everything to record her sound before we do not get chance again. Please do everything you can to preserve what is left from our great language before it is compltely lost. Yes there is the possibility some people who know the language, let us capture this opportunity before we lose it for ever.

  7. Alex says:

    Fall of 2006 I took a semester of Coptic here at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I found the same article mentioned here and approached the Coptic instructor. Neither she nor anyone else took it seriously. However, I think it is possible. Lilian Nawar’s post is tantalizing.

    I bought Crum’s Coptic dictionary, it cost more than $150.

  8. Travis says:

    I think that TJ’s comment sounds very much like that of many Arabic speakers, who seem to find it incredulous that Coptic or Aramaic still live. Arabic is itself disappearing, in the way that Middle English did. I strongly doubt that there are no Coptic or Aramaic speakers in the sense in which I write this in English.

  9. Bashandy says:

    According to Makrizi the language died late 17th century. Families who claim to speak Coptic, learnt it from books in the 50’s & 60’s of last century.(personal encounter)

    I highly doubt the truth of this story as it was mentioned this way.