Old Bohairic Pronounciation
Bohairic dialect in Bohairic pronounciation (B) was the one used by the Coptic Church all over Egypt, due to the availablity of its manuscript that were produced by monks of the desert of Shihat (Natron Valley), & the condition was so for many many centuries, & it's so until now, in a very few minority of churches in upper Egypt.
In the 1858-1860, there was a trial to merge the Coptic Church with the Greek Church so that one Patriarch be the head of both Churches in Egypt, but the trial did not succeed till now. The union of pronounciation of Coptic & Greek was one of the demanded requests as was witnessed.
The teacher of Coptic in the Patriarchal Church at that time was Arian effendi G. Moftah, he was very enthusiastic to the change of Coptic sounds, he made a project & applied it to do so.
The fact is that many languages share same alphabet, e.g. Latin alphabet is used in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German etc. but the phonetic value of sounds vary much from one language to another, imagine pronouncing parlez vous francais in English pronounciation, or a name like Southampton, in a french style. That is the difference in addition, Coptic borrowed Greek letters in approximate values to what they had at that time, Greek language itself was changed much overtime. Bohairic pronounciation (B) is a natural one, while the GB came as a synthetic man made one.
- He thought that as long as Coptic & Greek have almost the same alphabet so they share the same pronounciation, thus any change of Coptic pronounciation towards Greek is a reform. This was his hypothesis.
- Also, the expected union between the 2 churches was a co-factor, to proceed.
- The Egyptians were at that time suffering stresses, & inferiority complex, due to the appearance of the French expedition (1798-1801) & the scientists of the expedition who stayed many years after the expedition left Egypt. Many people turned out thinking that whatever European is correct, due to the vast difference that was between Egyptians & French people.
The pronounciation of Arian effendi G. Moftah was spread by the central power of the Klirikia (Theological Seminary), Patriarchal School and it took about 50 years to be generalized all over Egypt & used till now by almost all Churches except for a very few minority in upper Egypt that refuses any priest from outside their village.
Along course of spread, the Old Bohairic (B) pronounciation was mistakenly named by Arian's scholars as Sahidic, or that the change would help an expected merge. It was generalized after that.
The Old Bohairic pronounciation
It has got no strict rules of pronounciation, it is as variable as English, sounds much like a natural language, where you can not state what are the rules of pronounciation. It just comes by listening & practice. It fits 100% with slang Egyptian tongue. Many consonants are the same as the Ecclesiastical pronounciation e.g. z,k,l,m,n,r,s,sh,f,kh, others are different. Here's a rough guide about its pronounciation.
Scientific backup of Old pronounciation (prior to Arian's changes 1858-1860)
All above evidences match with each other, making it a prefect close towards a real, authentic, living heritage named Bohairic pronounciation, that in addition to its being backed up with all these scinetific researches, evidences & findings, it's a living heritage that could be traced in egyptian colloquial dialect of arabic & in the churches that preserved this oral tradition, as well as its support by historical evidence dscribing the whole situation denoting a name of a person who did that & the year he did it, & the social circumstances for it. It's an unbroken chain, that can not be accused. Though scientific researches knows no shore as meterology or weather but it is like Anatomy or Geography, where you can't miss the arm or the presence of a mounatin, sea shore, rivers etc.
- The names of Roman emperors written in hieroglyphic scripts
- Spelling mistakes in hieroglyphs due to dictation
- Quality of letters in Hieroglyphic & their phonetic values e.g. Hieroglyphic never included "Th", "dh" ,"v"
- Spelling mistakes due to dictation of Greek names &/or specific terms e.g. Theotokos in Coptic.
- Spelling variation & mistakes in typing Coptic itself, rendering same phonetic values for some letters e.g. in English some & sum
- Coptic manuscripts transcribing Arabic, in Coptic letters, in other words manuscripts where Arabic is written in Coptic for educational purposes dating as far as 10th Century, where for example theta was always used to describe the letter "taa" & not "thaa"
- Latin Phonetic transliteration done by various scholars dating from 16th upto 40's of last Century, done by Petraeus (1659), Maria Cramer, Rochemonix (1891), Georgy Sobhy (1915,1918), Worrell (1942)
- Coptic manuscripts written in 3 columns Coptic/Arabicized-Coptic/Arabic translation, to aid people to read Coptic, in other words, manuscripts writing Coptic in Arabic letters, dating to 18th, & 19th Century, where events took place prior to Arian's era
- Live evidence from a very few churches in Upper Egypt, that do not accept outsiders priests
- Research & academic papers done by Georgy Sobhy, Worrell, Vischyl, Emile Maher, Hany Takla, Joseph Sedrak
- Colloquial pronounciation of Arabic languages e.g letters as thaa, dhal, are always replaced by taa, & dal.
- Ancient Greek pronounciation clarifying differences between it & modern Greek borrowed by Arian G. Moftah
- Various records by Arian's contempoaray copts, who recorded the changes & commented about it.
- Musicality & tonality of the Old pronounciation as compared to the new one proving its superiority & its matching with spoken languages.
- The Coptic words that still survive in colloquial Egyptian dialect of Arabic, matches with Old Bohiric, but has nothing to do with Greco-Bohairic.
- Other languages that borrowed the Coptic alphabet either completely or partially including Nubian, & Russian, Nubian borrowed almost all the alphabet & Russian borrowed 2 letters, they both have pronounciation matching with Old Bohairic.
There's no point of suspecting defects with all above mentioned outlines, moreover, the Greco-Bohairic is not supported by a single evidence, instead it's accused not only by coptologists & coptic linguists but also by amateurs, & lay men who spend some time reading about Coptic or meditating in the names of people, food, villages & animal in colloquial egyptian dialect of arabic.
Recent History of Coptic pronounciation (19th-20th Century)
Since the very early introduction of Greco-Bohairic pronounciation AD 1858-1860 it was met by severe resistance, that faded gradually due to Papal patronage of this pronounciation considering the sound one as informed by Arian G. Moftah
Comments of Coptologists
- Up to 1918 it was not that common in the Coptic Church.
- In 1938 it was spreading heavily where Coptologists where tracing the remnants of the Old Bohairic
- By the 1950's it became almost the one & the only used in Coptic Church (except for a very few minority)
- In 60's of past Century Dr.Emile Maher (now Fr.Shenouda Maher) appeared in the scene as a teacher of the Greco-Bohairic pronounciation who has got no idea about Old Bohairic
- Few years later, Abba Shenouda the Bishop of Education (currently Pope Shenouda III) discovered a mansucript discussing changes of pronounciation, which he handled to Dr.Emile Maher to study. The same study of phonetics was highly recommended by Shakir Basilios main teacher of Coptic at the klirikia
- Dr.Emile Maher started conducting this study, which was sponsored by Bishop Shenouda, he reviewed all available documents, books & manuscripts related to the subjects that are present in Coptic Monasteries of Egypt, The Old Patriarchate manuscript Libray, the klirikia Library, the societe d'archeologie Copte, other Catholic important libraries, in addition to audio recordings from the very few churches preserving this same heritage, including a very rare recording of a 102 old man who as born at 1860, & witnessed all the changes himself & still keeping by heart the old authentic pronounciation.
- In 1968, Dr.Emile Maher announced his re-discovery of the authentic Bohairic pronounciation
- The results were shocking to almost all, esp. because it's hard for older Coptic teachers & heads of Coptic institutes to re-learn this pronounciation, so if they admitted it they would have to lose their positions or spend an effort to learn it.
- Envy, fear to lose positions (as told by eye witnesses, who refused to mention his name) were amongst the main causes towards a vigorous attack towards this pronounciation, but, this led to no more than more enthusiasm to Dr.Emile to spread the re-discovery of the authentic pronounciation
- 1972, two British Coptologists were in a visit to Egypt, they reviewed the works of Dr.Emile Maher, they offered him a post at Oxford UK to accomplish his studies. , the post was accepted, sponsored & encouraged by Pope Shenouda III, & Dr.Emile Maher travelled to spend about 2-3 years in United Kingdom
- 1975, Dr.Emile Maher returned to Egypt with a Ph.D from Oxford University entitled "about the Old Bohairic pronounciation.
- 1976, Dr.Emile Maher starts a massive education of Old Bohairic pronounciation to many Churches
- 1976, the Opening of the Institute of the Coptic Language for the Old authentic Bohairic pronounciation at the abba Rewais Cathedral which covers a space almost equal to the Insitute of Coptic Studies which includes Coptic Language, Coptic Music, African Studies, Coptic History, Coptic Art, Coptic Textiles and Coptic Theology.
- 1976, Pope Shenouda III, Abba Maximos Bishop of Qualybeyya, Abba Bishoy, Abba Timotheos attended special party congratulating hundereds of students for their mastery of Coptic in the Bohairic (OB) pronounciation.
- 1979-1981, Institute of Coptic Language for Old authentic Bohairic pronounciation, continues teaching Coptic depending on its scientific superiority, without religious interference or supervision. It continues in its same place at the heart of the abba Rewais Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, which inclludes the Patriarchate building, the klirikia, Bishopric of Social Services etc.
- 1980's massive attacks towards the Insitute of Coptic Language, led by Dr.Shakir Bassilios & Fr. Theodosius of Syrian Monastery. Attacks included calling him Arius of Coptic Language, the Heretic, causative of schism etc. Most opnions renders these attacks to envy to this supreme success, fear to lose positions of this OB spreads, other opinions renders it to the strict nature of Dr.Emile Maher & the stubborn nature of his enemies to pronounciation
- 1990's Pope Shenouda orders Fr.Theodosius to return to his Monastery & not to re-attack the Institute
- Mid 1990's Pope Shenouda III ordains Dr.Emile Maher as a priest. which in turn shut down any mouth yelling he's a heretic
- Recent years, Fr.Shenouda Maher prays in Old Bohairic, teaches Old Bohairic, even the Church Chorus sings in Old Bohairic at the Church he serves in Rochester, NY, USA
Here are synopsis of commentaries by Coptologists who were interested in the field of Bohairic pronounciation.
About Bohairic (OB), as the only dialect used in Egypt & about the term Sahidic"Bohairic is the only dialect known to the present-day Copts.."About the comparison between the Old Bohairic (OB) & the new one GrecoBohairic.
"The term <Sahidic> (Sa'idi) nowadays is reserved exclusively for the despised <old> pronounciation of Bohairic, as heared particularly among the peasantry of Upper Egypt" (W.H.Worrell, Coptic texts Ann Arbor 1942)"Among the peasantry of Upper Egypt, their survives in ceratin places a family tradition about the pronounciatio of Coptic, which though extremely meagre, is genuine & superior to the pronounciation of the clergy emanating from Cairo. They have great pride in the posession of a family tradition & its superiority" (Worell, A short Account of the Copts, Michgan 1945)About the discovery of W.Till that all the Coptic liturgical tradition is Bohairic & not Sahidic"Till, in 1929 reached the correct conclusion that traditional Coptic pronounciation is at best Bohairic not Sahidic" (Worell, Coptic sounds Ann Arbor 1934)About the Greco-Bohairic naming it reformed pronounciation & the superiority of Old Bohairic over it."The reform pronounciation has introduced eroors & confusion"About the introduction of Modern Greek pronounciation to the Bohairic
"Reform should have been in the direction of the peasant tradition, but that was too much to expect. Instead, Modern Greek values were introduced systematically, & these values are unfortunately being taught by those who are backing the very creditable enterprise of reviving the Coptc language in Egypt. The old tradition is now to be found so far as I know, only in Upper Egypt, or among those who have come from there & who have not yielded to the pressure of the cities (Worell Coptic Texts Ann Arbor 1942)"The introduction of the Modern Greek into Coptic nowadays is often an affectation: as though one were to pronounce all the French words in English according to the present usage of Paris. If this is bad, how much worse it is to pronounce Coptic according to the artificial Erasmian Greek system which belongs to no race, age place or dialect..." (Worrell, Coptic Sounds)"It is not necessary to suppose that the Copts took over Greek letters with exactly their current Greek values but only their approximate ones. Even sounds ordinarily identified in two lnaguges are rarely actually identical. That is the case, for example when Persian or Turkish is written in Arabic letters. It is not likely that Coptic and Greek vowels were identical" (Worell, Coptic Sounds)About the Greco-Bohairic in educational books"All modern books written on Coptic by native authors adopt more or less a mutilated form of Greek pronounciation & apply it entirely to their language. Unfortunately, none of our native authors here knows sufficient Greek to realise the outstanding mistakes he is trying to form into rules applicable to the Coptic language" (Georgy Sobhy,Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 1915)About the superiority of authentic Bohairic (Old Bohairic) over the Greco-bohairic pronounciation."I believe that an ordinary uneducated priest in reciting any Coptic prayer in Church pronounces the language much more correclty & naturally too than if he followed these erroneous rules set down in the modern Coptic books" (Georgy Sobhy,Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 1915)About the superiority of inherited Coptic pronounciation (old Bohairic) over the Greco-Bohairic"Its unbroken use in the Church has undoubtedly preserved its pronounciation, for it has been handed down from one generation of priests to another until our days; and in my own belief a priest who has learned to pronounce this language from his predecessor without the use of the modern sophisticated rules exhibited by Coptic authors in their writings does inherenlty pronounce it more rightly than any other man" (Georgy Sobhy,Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 1915)About the introduction of the mutilated Greek pronounciation"The soundest observation that Sobhy has made is that the introduction of an ignoranlty mutilated Greek pronounciation is to be depreceated"About a text dating to the 10th Century were Arabic was written in Coptic letters, & comparing pronounciation of the 10th Century to the one used at the churches (Old Bohairic) that was used excessilvely at that time."The importance of these leaves is paramount. They teach (us) first of all how Arabic was pronounced in the period when the manuscript was written ... They also teach us that until the period at which the manuscript was written Coptic was still the language spoken by the monks & the Coptic church at least in Monasteries. Last of all, the most important result of studying these leaves is the knowledge we gain of the values of different letters in the coptic alphabet and their equivalents in Arabic. It corresponds most closely with the actual pronounciation of Coptic in the Church" (H.G.Evelyn White, New Texts from the Monastery of St.Macarius NY 1926).About a manuscript dating to 1722 written in coptic & arabiczed Coptic (Coptic written in Arabic letters)"Here lies the value of the book which shows us how Coptic was universally produced in Egypt in the Early XVIII century A.D. & when we compare it with the earlier manuscript & with the manuscript of St.Macarius which was Arabic in language but Coptic in lettering we can hardly detect any difference whatever in the phonetic values of the letters or in the way they were pronounced. Going back still further in time we can, from the documents we have, prove the stability of this pronounciation through the ages. Even the glosses written over the demotic words in Greek letters in the demotic magical papyrus of London & Leiden show that the pronounciation in our book is practically the same as demotic of the above manuscript, which brings us back to IInd Century A.D. (Georgy Sobhy, Tradional Pronounciation of Coptic in Church of Egypt, 1940).
Colloquial Egyptian Arabic
People:Wisa, Watos, Wakhos, Mallawani, Toma, Taddaos, Matta, Tawadros, Takla, Tawbesta, Tarbou, Kolta, Astir, Asanat, Abadeer, Badeer, Domadios, Lawendy, Psada, Demiana, Klaudios, Bedaba, Shenouda, Bashandy, Demian, Danial, Roda, Sawiros, Bastawros, Yousab, Babnouda, Kama, Yuliana, Hilana, Sam, Marina, Moussa, Bola, Armanios, Arsanios, Nofar,Cities & Villages,Batanon, Domiat, Tammouh, Shatanouf, Sandabast, Sandanhour, Edko, Dakahlia, Damanhour, Difra, Baiad, Pshady, Bardanoha, Sandafa, Dishna, Nakada, Dandara, Sodmant, Demira, Ausim, Banawan, Nawa, Belbeis, Atfee7, Ta7a, Asmoun Tana7, Shihat, Esna, Dishna, Etsa, Kena.Sample of Phonetic recordings of Old Bohairic pronounciation
7 stands for the arabic letter 7aa.
Dr Georgy Sobhi, "The Pronounciation of Coptic in the Church of Egypt", Journal of Egyptian Archeology JEA 1915 Vol IIAridân enemebsha engos xan ûshabehmôt ga:Dr Georgy Sobhi, "La prononciation moderne du copte dans l'église" Journal de l'Institut Français d'archéologie Orientale 1918 Vol XIV pg 51
Baniôt adxan nifâûi marafdûo enga bakrân
marasî enga dakmadûro badahnak marafshôbi
emebrâdi xan etba nam higan ebkahi banôik
enda rasdi maif nan emboû ûôh ka niadarôn
nan âûl emebrâdi hôn endankô âûl enniadûon
endân ârôû ûôh embarendan âxûn abirasmôs
alla nahman âûl ha bibathôû xan bixristos Îsûs
Mâran šâbahmôd endodf embirafarbatnanafWorrell & Vychil, Coptic Texts Pg 297-354. Texts recorded as heard at Zeinia Village (near Luxor)
ouôh ennaâd ebnoudi efiôt embanšôis ouôh
ban noudi Isous baxristôs ga afaraskabazin
adgôn afar ouoatin arôn afarâh arôn afšobdan
arôf afdi-aso arôn afdidodân afandan šââhrai
adâi ounou taiallîlûja danwôšd emmok ô baxrisdôs namWhere x = kh, j= y,
bakjôd enagatôs nam bibnawma atwâb ja ak'î
Below is a few excerpts from some manuscripts from a coptic monk from the Wadi el Natrun monastery in the arabic language but in a coptic script. This is only a small peice of what actually was there. It shows how coptic was pronounced in the 12th and 13th century when this monk was alive. I am writing it exactly as it appears on the text ( meaning that one word may be continued on 2 lines) also ...... means that part of the manuscript was missing.These are 3 random peices from the manuscrtipts to show. The 3 are related in only the fact that they were from the same manuscript but are not necessarily an any order. Notice, that B is always pronounced as w in the corresponding arabic word; is almost always TP is always But is always wh is occosaionally the arabic "ain"( but when it was meant as "ain" the arabic ain was always written on top of the coptic H) otherwise it was an H
Part 1pekacebe; kalp felledi ;ah; ie,oun pemec,ene;en hazimahhandoh be meiepkalou melje be qalacille cahepoh feiecih pecau;Part 2
hazimiahref cahepoh feidecemah cahepoh ie;hannen halyih ce...beic;lop qalac.....beie qallecoh......feced delek......erradi fe ide.....hep hede.........halyih bejehed hala qallacoh menelbahs erradi bemehace en ie,oun lenenahn elqeref ennetakah elle;i leka;ih elmecih idenohn ;ebekkelnealyih fele iofcahPart 3fekal esseiq lemme pede essihyten ie,;our cemahten e;;oupeni antwnioc rakad fekomtbejyi; ile hehonefecep; fi hede..eljepel iecir enfired be kaad; hedih elmodde; elkacireh fekal.....aq ,em lekSpelling Mistakes (Errata)
b. The Current Kiahk Psalmody Book: (Claudius Labib print)
- On 2nd Psali Adam of Sunday named aikodi entok (aikoti enthok), the 4th verse, starting with dalda (dhleta), you get this word dekmetaga;oc the word is not written that way it should be wirtten as tekmetaga;oc
- On Adam Psali of Monday named anianansho ensho, the Second verse starting with wida (vita), is written as bon while it should have been written as ouon The same finding is present at the second verse of the watos doxology of Saturday.
Arabic Written in Coptic
- The Psali watos of Raising of Evening incense of Kiahk Sunday's named dishalat (tishelet), contains at 5th verse the noun theotokos written as ;eodokoc .while it should have been wirtten as ;eotokoc which is repeated many many times all over the psalmody of Kiahk.
- The Psali Watos 1 on Thursady tadakia (theotokia), on 9th verse the word shalat (shelet) selyt wirtten as while it should have been wirtten as selet .
- Psali Adam congregation of St.mary, Angels & Saints a verse starts with the word malista, written as malicte maliste while it should have been wirtten as malista malicta .
- The results printed by H.G.Evelyn White, New Texts from the Monastery of St.Macarius, NY 1926, about a manuscript dating to 10th Century according to the viewpoint of a famous coptologist named Casanova. This manuscript is an excerpt from The Paradise of Monks in Arabic but using Coptic letters instead of Arabic letters.
- A manuscript dating to 1722 (18th Century) in 2 columns containing excerpt from Midnught praise in Coptic written in Coptic letters & Coptic written in Arabic letters showing same results. The manuscript was studied and edited By Georgy Sobhy 1940
- Phonetic recording of the first psalm in Coptic & in phonetic transcription by Petraeus 1659
- Phonetic recordings dating to 1531 edited by Maria Cramer 1961
- Chapter 1 , Gospel of St.John, recorded phonetically in 1891
- Thanksgiving Prayer, phonetic transciption by Georgy Sobhy 1915 & 1918
- Coptic Sounds by Worrell 1942, phonetic transciption of Holy Communion
These are some evidences about the way of pronounciation, where, Coptic was written in Arabic letters, Arabic was written in Coptic letters, & Coptic was written in phonetic transcription. The evidence at hand now about pronounciation dates as early as 10th Century to 20th Century, covering a period of 10 centuries.
Other evidences are present in the Thesis of Dr. Emile Maher. who mentioned about his thesis that the thesis traced the phonetics of hieroglyphs, names of Greek emperors written in Hieroglyphs, names of Roman emperors written in Hieroglyphs, Greek names, nouns & expressions in Coptic texts. Arabic written in Coptic, Coptic written in phonetics, Coptic written in Arabic& voice recordings of cantors of remote churches. In addition to phonetics studies by Worrell & Vicychl.
From all these evidence a line could be drawn to trace pronounciation & examine its authenticity. In which it points to the so called Old Bohairic pronounciation. Herewith I attach an html file containing Coptic texts written in Phonetics this was posted formerly to the group but allow me to repost it in the light of the very valuable document the atthoowi supplied us with.
Why Did The Greco-Bohairic pronounciation spread
The reason was that the Coptic Church was bounded to a near era to the idea of the sole clergy college (klirikia) & the sole teacher of Coptic as in the case with Arain Moftah, the students who were graduated becames cantors, deacons, priests, & sometimes bishops. So, the educated people were those who spreaded the Greco-Bohairic, while the Old Bohairic was the natural pronounciation of those who did not have theological studies, the just inherited it, without having knowledge of the scientific backup of their pronounciation.
As the generation of ordinary uneducated priests vansihed the Old Bohairic (B) pronounciation as well, decreased, & it became restriced to a very few minority of Churches, who do not accept external priests & are in remote areas of Egypt that were almost forgotten.
On the other hand, the Greco-Bohairic was resisted at its start though it's about 150 years old & was aided by many schools, & colleges of religious type, it did not make a real spread until 50 years ago.
Another factor was that the presence of the grand son of Arian G. Moftah, who is Ragheb H. Moftah. This man was witnessing the resistance to the newly intorduced pronounciation. He made enormous effort to emphasize on the steps of his grand father by inviting musicologists & ethnomusicologists as Earnest Newland Smith, Margit Thoth & Martha Roy to write the musical notation for the cantor he chose (mo'allem Mikhail G. el-Batanony) & the choir he formed. The work included writing the musical notation of the liturgy of St.Basil & the audio recording of almost all the Coptic muscial heritage & all available chants & hymns. the recordings & the choir became a corner stone for all new generations.
On enuiring Margit Toth & Martha Roy about the choice of Cantor who they worked with, the said that, this was the work of Ragheb Moftah we did not search, he invited us after he chose him & requested that we make musical notation & follow his recordings.
Ragheb Moftah was very enthusiastic to the Greco-Bohairic pronounciation of Coptic which he used in all his recordings with no mention of the Bohairic one. Even when the Old Bohairic was being taught strting from 1976 at the Insititute of Coptic Language which is one floor above his department & proved success in teaching many scholars the Bohairic pronounciation. . He issued a warning at the Watani newspaper against learning the Bohairic pronounciation. The warning did not include reasoning except that he said "from my old age 96 years" and that this is not what he recorded, with cantors.
A story told by the late H.E. Abba Maximos Metropolis of Qaluibeyya who rested in the Lord few years ago. His eminence heared this story at his youth from the old monks of the Monastery of St.Mary at Koskam (el-Moharraq)."When Pope Kyrillos IV visited the monastery & started prayer saying in Greco-Bohairic "Eshlil" instead of the Bohairic "shlal" the monks were severly agonized towards this, they were about to get mad out of it, when they got out they were saying "weeee weeeee" on commentary of the excessive use of "ee" in Greco-Bohairic".The wave of refusal to the Greco-Bohairic pronounciation was continued so, that the new pronounciation (GB), was very slow, even when Dr.Georgy Sobhy (an Egyptian Coptologist) wrote his first article 1915 the GB pronounciation was not really present, as compared to the real Bohairic present everywhere., even pope Kyrillos V & deacons were using the Bohairic pronounciation. The article had the title of "the pronounciation of Coptic Language in the Church of Egypt" .
On his 2nd article 1918, he wrote it titled as "The current Coptic pronounciation of the Church" pointing at the Bohairic (OB) pronounciation & not the the Greco-Bohairic.
Hellenistic & Anti-Hellenistic waves in Greco-Bohairic:
The Greek loan words in Coptic are many, they are calculated by Dr.Gawdat Gabra (ph.d in Coptology) to form about 20% of the Coptic vocubulary & the 80% are Coptic, with very few loan words from otherlanguages.
On the introduction of the Greco-Bohairic pronounciation 2 main waves started appearing:
1. Rehellinizaton of vocubulary in the context of re-Hellenization (Greekanization) of pronounciation:
This wave is feeling that whatsoever borrowing of Greek when comes to Coptic becomes Copticized so it is no nore to be considered as Greek, infact, it's Coptic that became Hellinized so that the difference between both is not felt. This was mainly apparent in:
2. Anti-Hellenization wave
- The re-writing of Greek texts in the Coptic heritage as they are in Modern Greek not as their Copticized version e.g. archi, kai, etc. are re-written as they were in Greek.
- The newly composed Coptic hymns, psalis, or doxologies contain an enormous number of Greek vocubulary that does not only cover what's need but also replace words that were previously used in Coptic.
This wave compensates the hellinization of Coptic, by reducing Greek words to a minimum, & subtituting them with Coptic words, the problem is that this is done very casually & the end result is vague Coptic words that does not have the same meaning of Greek, & sometimes Coptic words are added that had not got any meaning before in Coptic or that points to a totally different thing.
Outcomes of Greco-Bohairic
After about 150 years of the introduction of Greco-Bohairic pronounciaiton & 75 years of the generalized usage of it. The following outcomes are present at present time.
On comparing the Bohairic with Greco-Bohairic outcomes as regards the Coptic Church while it used both, the number of graduates to both schools. It is quite apparent that Greco-Bohairic thoug has very good intentions & makes many steps towards simplifying the language. Yet, people tend to expell it sharply, those who know about it expell it for scientific reasons, & other simple persons expell it but not with words but by deeds. Coptic was the language of Liturgy & Midnihgt priases & Pascha for about 20 Century including at least 4 Centuries in Delta & Cairo where Coptic was a dead language & only the 20th Century witnesses this sharp drawback of Coptic, with only one factor changing in Coptic that's pronounciation.
- Coptic Liturgy: was totally chanted in Coptic, & after Popse Gabriel ben Turaik Lectionary readings became in Arabic. Coptic was not used a spoken language in delta & Cairo since 14th Century, so the factor of language death is to be excluded generally. As apparent from writings & Euhcologions Coptic was used almost during the whole liturgy, with exceptions of readings & very small parts that are occasionally sung in Arabic. After the 1860 GB, Arabic & English are replacing Coptic heavily at the mass, in the last 50 years Coptic became restricted except for very few parts in the mass, & are variable according to the priests interest in Coptic. A real story is that on a Church at the Apokalympses 2003, the priest was incapable of reading Coptic on singing the 1st hos. (the Priase of crossing the Red sea), the priest started in coptic but could not continue & he shifted to Arabic, wile the Chorus was replying in Coptic bec. they did not learn how to for a Choir singing hoases in Arabic
- Coptic Praise: inspite of the introduction of new pslis & doxologies, The coptic midnight praise is being sung in Arabic or English & even blessed by Bishops on tapes etc. (on talking about hymns the talk is restricted to the language & case recording & not the spiritual view beyond it) & the practice is nowadays present in almost all Churches of Egypt the use of Coptic is more & more restricted by Copts themselves.
- Coptic language Education: there are many books for education, but the fact is that number of students has been sharply decreasing in the last 30 years. A random sample in the years 1999-2002 the Institute of Coptic Studies (main responsible of teaching Coptic in Greco-Bohairic pronounciation) has graduated only 1 student from te Coptic Language department. On comparing this number to the graduates of Institute of Coptic Language (for Old Bohairic pronounciation) it graduated in the year 2002 about 50 students with the Certificate of Kami.
- New Church Books: nowadays new Church books including Euchologion, Ministry of the Deacon, Pascha book & other books are almost exclusively printed only in Arabic, & Coptic is oftenly overlooked or if written it's written only in Arabicized Coptic.
- Churches many of the new Churches that were built in the 20th Century does not containa single words in Coptic language neither at the title of the Church nor inside the church itself.
- Papers: pamphlets, brochures, flyers & visual aids that are commonly distributed at special occasions e.g. Christmas, or udring the Sunday schools' service are almost completely devoid of anything related to coptic language.
- Informal Coptic teaching: e.g. Coptic teaching at Sunday schools, Coptic at summer camps etc. that does not end at having a certificate for Coptic, these teaching are now at a minimum level, teaching is occasional usually about 1 week/year at a camp or so. Regular Coptic teaching is not found except when there's an available interested servant who usually teaches at summer & only for 1 or 2 seasons atmost.
- One family speaking Coptic: There's only one sole family (Pisenty Rizkalla's) who are used to speak Greco-Bohairic at home & revive it.
Simply, most people learn Coptic because it is the language of their fathers, & when they just meditate in the sound of this language they discover that it is not it. They just quit learning, because they feelthat there's something fake about it. Others who get deeper & discover usually get shocked & their reactions are far from expectations. So, Greco-Bohairic leads to either a feeling of unease or mistrust or to a shock because it offers artificial recent work to people who are longing to a natural authentic old work.
The fundamental feature of Greco-Bohairic pronounciation is that its basic character which shifted Coptic from natural language to a semi-artificial one, by imposing an atrificial pronounciation, this lead to tensions rising due to the difference of the nature between natural languages & artificial ones. Natural languages tend always to expell what's artificial to it & what's imposed on it & on the other hand artificial lanuguages tend to diapprove & get rid of any naturalism due to its nature that any natural element of a language would turn it down to an inconsistent one.
The main problem is that Coptic (in Greco-Bohairic) as a whole language became unstable, becasue on one hand Coptic in GB is preached as the language of ancestors & on the other hand what's presented is very different from the Coptic heritage. As well, lack of knowledge about, the era of Arian Moftah & the lack of objective approaches towards analyzing this work gets the student of Coptic unwillingly to be a part of a trouble & a tension between OB & GB.
Amongst the tension that arised since the introduction of Greco-Bohairic, is rising towards 2 opposite schools the normative school that tend to deal with Coptic as the language of ancestors & has to be fixed or modified to fit with Bohairic (OB) pronounciation. This is of good intentions though the main drawback is that this is arising a tension after tension & continious instability that's present for over 150 years, with many many things changing.
The other school is towards what they call more development by introducing newer easier values of pronounciation, easier grammar with no exceptions, easier writing system by applying, variants of scripts e.g. transliterations & so on, & introducing new vocubulary that is new to Coptic itself sometimes. Here's an overview of both schools that are found always intermingled together with no sharp cuts or sharp definitions
Instability of Greco-Bohairic
In a period of about 150 years of introduction of Arian G. Moftah's Greco-Bohairic pronounciation, it has been doomed to be continiously an unstable pronounciation that varies from teacher to teacher & from the teacher to himself accrding to the season. A very realistic example was that what happened with the recordings of Cantor Ibrahim Ayyad where he changed evki to evshi, & Vethle'em to Betle'em. He himself does not have an explanation towards it, he just changed it according to something he heared or his own intentions,
- The alpha (a) was said to be always an 'a' as in far by Arian Moftah, but with time it was discovered that this doesn't match with Coptic so now, in a random unstudied way it is shiftin into 'a' as in 'hat', the problem is that it varies much from a teacher to another & has no regulation producing problems at singing etc.
- The beta (b) was always 'v' then a rule was added by students of Arian to be pronounced as 'b' at end of words, then another law specifying the that if followed by a vowel it's a'v' other wise a 'b'. Then a newer rule said that if followed by 2 vowels it is again a 'b', & that it should be 'b' in names of people
- The dhelta (d) letter was introduced in GB as to be pronounced by Arian Moftah as 'dh' always as in the, other, abudhabi etc. The result on names was drastic bec. all Egyptians now that the names of their ancestors are in 'd' rather than 'dh' e.g. Adam, Daniel, Tawadros, Dan etc. An artificial rule of pronounciation was added to make the 'd' pronounced as 'd' in names of people.
- The epsilon (e) letter was pronounced by Arian Moftah as air, then it was changed to be as 'e' as in 'hen' then to a mix between both pronounciation that's aimless, purposless & bizarre
- The eeta (H), was pronounced by Arain Moftah as 'ee', occasionally now it is pronounced as a lighter 'e' with no regulations
- The theta (th) was pronounced by Arian Moftah always as a 'th' by Arian, then due to phonetic impossibility with letters as s/sh it became 't' of preceeded by such letters e.g. stoi (incense). Then later it became followed by a rule to make it also a 't' if followed by 't' e.g. Matthew.
- The dau/tav (T), was at Arian Moftah's pronounciation T but in Greek words if preceeded by 'n' it is a 'd' e.g. pandokrator, this rule is vanishing now
- the phy (ph) letter was originally pronounced by Arian Moftah as a 'v' all the time, this rule was modified to be 'f' all the time then modified to be 'v' in Coptic words & 'f' in greek words.
- Chey (X), was pronounced by Arian Moftah as k, sh, kh then the rule was shifted to k, ch, kh then there's a continious intermingling bet. sh & k as in the recent problem of evki & evshi
- The djandja (j) was pronounced by Arian Moftah as j if followed by a vowel that is towards the e, i side & else where as 'g', then was modified to be j if found doubled in a word e.g. jij & jaji, the countrer of this rule is present e.g. gagi & gig.
- The djinkim (') was of low use before Arian, Arian increased it to be on many consonants rendering the language slower than normal too much, bec. of the many glottal stops, Shakir Basilios was exceeded him in adding jinkims even to vowel letters, later teachers pronounced many of these jinkims as glottal stops (hamza as in go 'at) & others pronounce it as a stress (shadda), later teachers are on an antijinkim regimen reducing jinkims whenever possible.
- Bohairic has its own stresses of sound, & accent that gives it its music & special taste. This was lsot by Arians' changes, thus the stresses became always an unstable work changing always from a teacher to a teacher & from a teacher to the same teacher at different periods of time. Thus, the GB has no accents, some used djinkim to be used as accents but they were used as glottal stops by others.
2. Vocubulary instability:
- Most new scholars have studied English so when they do not find specialt accents & stresses they pronounce as if it were English language
- Teachers who have studied Greek pronounce Coptic as if it were a Greek dialect of a Greek accent
- It is said the the M.A.AbdelMalek who followed Ragheb Moftah at Music department of Institute of Coptic Studies is planning that all Greek parts of the Coptic musical heritage are to be sung according to Greek accents, that opposes the Coptic musical structure of these hymns & chants.wth a quick glance we find that a,b,d,e, theta, t, X, phy, djandja, djinkim etc. in addition to the changes discussed before there are activist opinionsthat are trying more to shift Greco-Bohairic more towards artificiality by suggesting new rules of pronounciation where each letter should have only one equivalent phone, a phenomenon that's almost only found in artificial languages e.g. Esperanto
The vocubulary is rising & decreasing towards Greek, as well the activists of GB who are willing to decrease Greek & re-introduce Coptic in the context of revival reduce phones or syllables from words (to make it easier), or use very rare vocubulary that was scarcely written bec. those rare words are of fewer syllabi. Also, many words in Coptic, Greek or other borrowed words are cut-short for the same reason.. Moreover, words of more than one meaning are restricited to only one meaning.(for the same purpose)
3. Script instability
In the context of the continious changes of GB, the scripts also change, mostly the djinkim increases & occasionally decreases over new writings, as well, there are activist works towards more artificial language for the GB, these works including the writing of Coptic in continious letters ( bound letters e.g. the script font), or separating sectors of words to be easier e.g. separating the subject from the verb, & separating the definite articlae from the noun to look like English language & be easier & lastly the usage of transliteration (English mostly) so that it would fit more with new changes decrease language peculiarities to a minimum & offer an easier interface of GB Coptic language.
4. Grammatical instability:
It is not yet common but is newly rising-Grammar taught by teachers of GB, is now in their modern books changing to fit with artificial rules & norms e.g. peculiairities & rule exceptions of Grammar or either twisted or ignored or another subsitute is found. As well, classical form sof the language are being replaced by newer forms, that does not necessiraly obey Coptic grammar, they casual & of short syllabi, changing both the morphology & the synatx of Coptic language.
The cumulative end-result of the interventions done to reduce this continious tension is dragging Coptic from a natural language towards another artificial one that's different in the phoentics, vocubulary, script & even the Grammar, the end result would be a language of course - if systematically arranged, because if not it would end in a chaos-but can we call it Coptic, or should we choose a new more realistic name?
Ending with this phrase from C.C.Walters 1972 Oxford on talking about Coptic language "it is still used today in church services, but in association with Arabic, and it seems only a matter of time before it disappears altogether, thus severing our last link, however tenuous, with Ancient Egypt"
Is Greco-Bohairic an evolution or a mutilation
Greco-Bohairic has been many times have been called an evolution, well, evolution of languages is a process that could be found in many languages as
Even these natural evolutions are rendered by some linguists as mutilations, e.g. modern Greek, is occasionally said to be a mutilation though it was genuine one.
- Ancient Greek & Modern Greek
- Ancient Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic & Coptic
- Old English & Modern English
- Latin & Italian
- Arabic of eljaheleyya e.g poems of Antar, Emroo el-Qais & today's Classical Arabic
- Classical Russian & Russian after the communist era
- Classical Turkish in Arabic letters & nowadays' Turkish in Latin alphabet
As for evolution it has several criteria to consider any change as an evolution:
Greco-Bohairic pronounciation never had any quality of evolution it's synthetic, one man made (Arian Moftah), at a certain period of time (1858-1860), it happened when Coptic was noted as a dead language i.e. there are no more native speakers of such language, & the change was just in the phonetic values of pronounciation.
- Evolution is a natural process - except on talking about the change of alphabet which is not the case with Coptic.
- Evolution is never made by a certain man's will or opinion, it comes out of a nation, as part of it
- Evolution never has a date for change it's a slow process that comes over centuries & is mostly in the vocubulary & sentence structure rather than phonetic values of letters, therefore evolution is found in the style & not the pronounciation.
- Evolution never happens in a dead language, that has no current use in the day-to-day life
Thus the term evolution seems to be just a sort of condolence or a nice word to subsitute its real name that's mutilation. Using real terms is not humiliating people as Arian Moftah, or Greco-Bohaiairc users. Meaning, Arian Moftah, had very good intentions, & he did not have enough knowledge about linguistic to evaluate these changes & produce a correct decision about them. This is not an excuse or claim his innocence but, this is just understanding of such an action.
Talking about mutilation, imagine an Egyptian man going to US, & speaking English for his very first time he would say
or imagine an English man trying to speak French in an English tongue e.g.
- Can I bark here? (for can I park here?)
- Zis iz za United estates of Amreeka etc.
This is mutilation, & sadly this is how Copts pronounce their language now, as if they were foreigners trying to speak a language that's foreign to them. The best outcome of Greco-Bohairic pronounciation comes to Greek for the ear to hear.
- Je suis malade, parelz vous Francais (it would sound like Je swiss malaid, par-lez vooz Frankais)
GB resembles an Egyptian peasent girl named Bahana who's accustomed to wear garments as Galabeyya, then was foced to stain her hair as yellow, wear tight Jeans, & a T-Shirt in addition to high heels. How would she look like?
Actually, Egyptians can never ever get out of their skins, as in the case of this Bahana, the yellow hair stain can never change the colour of her eyebrows nor the colour of her skin, & the T-Shirt can't hide the oriental bedouin tattoo at her hands.
Greco-Bohairic is boldly & simply mutilation, comlex linguistic studies are not really needed to discover that, just listen to both Greco-Bohairic & Old Bohairic pronounciation & the end results would appear boldly.
After all, it is not good to lie to ourselves we have to discover truth boldly to be capable of dealing with it, & understand it.
Coptic dialects are many, about 5 major dialects, that are Sahidic, Bohairic, Fayumic, Achmimmic, & sub-Achmimmic.
Dialects in Coptic are different from each other in:
Each dialect uses it's specific vocubulary, that gives it its special taste e.g. American English, calls sons as kids, parents as folks, psychiatrists as shrinks etc. The vocubulary extends from nouns, to adjectives, to verbs, to pronouns etc.
2. Grammar & sentence structure:
The grammar varies from one dialect to another in the way how the subject is used
Sahidic does not contain the letter khy, rarely uses teta (thita), or phy, Achmimmic uses a special letter named khory, which is a subsitute for khy
4. Writing & Spelling:
On Comparing Sahidic to Bohairic, Sahidic replaces the following oftenly:
- Alpha in Bohairic is replaced with either e or doubled
- e (ayya) is replaced by a supralinear stroke occasionally
- i (yoda, yota) replaced by ei
- i sometimes removed at end of words or replaced by e(ayya)
- o is doubled
- w is shifted to o or doubled as ww
- wi is replaced with oei
- Hou is replaced by Hu
- gamma repalced by kappa in Greek words
- kappa replaced by gamma in Coptic words
- tita (thita) always replaced by t
- m to n & vice versa
- sima subsituted by shy
- shy subsituted by sima
- phy subsitute by bei (pye)
- chey always subsituted by kappa
- khy always subsituted by hory
- djandja subsituted by gima (shima) & vice versa
- wida (beta) subsituted by fy
- di (ti) subsitited oftenly to as t+e (dau + ayya)
Sometimes pronounciation of some letters differ here are examples about special letter pronounciations in Sahidic
To be more Clear:
- wida (beta) is occasionally pronounced as "f"
- shima (tshima) pronounced as "g" as in goat
- titta (thita) is pornounced as a diphthong as at hat (i.e. t+h) in other words aspirated t & never "th"
- phy is pornounced as P+H e.g. top hat i.e. aspirated p
Here's the text of Lord's prayer in Bohairic in cs fontsje peniwt etqen nivyoui mareftoubo `nje pekran mareci `nje tekmetouro petehnak marefswpi `mvry] qen tve nem hijen pikahi penwik `nte rac] myif nan `mvoou ouoh ,a nyeteron nan ebol `mvry] hwn `nten,w ebol `nnyete ouon `ntan erwou ouoh `mperenten eqoun epiracmoc alla nahmen ebolha pipethwou qen P=,=c I=y=c pen[oic je ;wk te ]metouro nem ]jom nem piwou sa enehHere's the same text in Sahidic Dialect:[e peneiwt eth=n =mpyue. mare pekran ouop tekm=nt=rro marecei. pekouws marefswpe et=fh=n =tpe n=fswpe on hij=m =pkah. penoiek etnyu =ng] =mmof nan =mpoou. =n=gkw nan ebol =nneteou=ntan eroou. =n=gt=mjint=n ehoun epeiracmoc alla n=gnahm=n ebolhitootf =mpponyroc. je twk te t[om m=n peoou sa nieneh hamyn.Old Bohairic is not Sahidic, Old Bohairic refers to natural Bohairic pronounciation -not the dialect- that was used by Copts up till now in some rural areas, which was replaced by the Greco-Bohairic pronounciation used nowadays in most of Coptic Churches. Some, teachers of Greco-Bohairic pronounciation mistakenly call Old Bohairic as Sahidic, to get rid of troubles, utilizing the fact that many students do not get the basic knowledge about dialects in Coptic.
Sahidic dialect is not used in liturgical services since 10th or 11th century, due to the activity of Shihat monks in writing manuscripts, which lead popes to announce Bohairic as the dialect of the Church of Egypt.