Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic
Freie Universität Berlin
CONTACT-INDUCED LANGUAGE CHANGE OF EGYPTIAN
LOANWORD LEXICOGRAPHY IN THE LEIPZIG PROJECT DATABASE AND DICTIONARY OF GREEK LOANWORDS IN COPTIC (DDGLC)
Coptic was an eminent 'language in contact,' mainly borrowing from two donor languages, Greek and Arabic. Over mor more than 1000 years, Greek functioned both as the spoken language of a courtly and urban élite, and as a written language gradually dominating administration, economy, literature, sciences, and private day-to-day correspondence. Only after the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs in the mid-7th century CE, the importance of Greek diminished. Some of its functional domains were occupied by the Egyptian native language, others by Arabic, the language of the new governors. The massive Greek impact on the contemporary Egyptian idiom becomes obvious in thousands of Greek loanwords in Coptic, representing almost all parts of speech and semantic fields. Occasional Arabic loanwords occurring in 8th- and 9th-century CE Coptic texts indicate incipient Coptic-Arabic contact, and Coptic texts from the 10th and 11th centuries, the period in which major parts of the indigenous population of Egypt began to shift from their native language to Arabic, bear evidence of intensified borrowing from Arabic.
All in all, it is not an exaggeration to say, that the Greek-Egyptian contact is the most broadly and densely attested case of language contact in antiquity. Beginning with borrowing from Greek into pre-Coptic Egyptian, and taking borrowing from Arabic into later Coptic into acount, the Egyptian-Coptic language provides the opportunity to look over 1.500 years of contact-induced language change in a single ancient language under fairly well-known historical and sociolinguistic conditions.
Since April 2010, a project entitled Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic (DDGLC) is hosted by the Egyptological Institute –Georg Steindorff– of the University of Leipzig. During a 2-years pilot phase, technical and conceptual foundations to a systematic, comprehensive and detailed lexicographical compilation and description of Greek loanwords in Coptic were laid. Since autumn 2012 the DDGLC project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft as a long-term project with a foreseen lifetime up until 2024.