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Loanword lexicography in the DDGLC project: Recording contact-induced language change of Egyptian-Coptic over 1,500 years

What is Coptic?

Coptic is the name of the last phase (ca. 300 CE - 1300 CE) of the longest-attested human language yet available to linguistic study, the Ancient Egyptian lan­guage. Closely connected to the Christian population of Egypt, Coptic is one of the most important languages of ancient Christian literature, alongside Greek, Latin and Syriac. A great deal of Biblical and early Christian literature was translated into Coptic for Egyptian consumption, while an autochthnous Coptic Christian literature flourished for centuries. Writings of other late antique religious movements survived.

Language Contact in Egypt

Coptic was an eminent 'language in contact,' mainly borrowing from two donor languages, Greek and Arabic. Greek was spoken and heard in Egypt as early as in the 7th century BCE, a millennium before the standardization of Coptic. Greek merchants who settled in Egypt and Greek mercenaries in the Pharaohs' armies were early agents of linguistic interaction. As a result of the campaigns of Alexander the Great, Greek spread over the Eastern Mediterranean and became the most important lingua franca in the Middle East.

Work and aims of the DDGLC project

The project Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic (DDGLC) seeks to produce a systematic, comprehensive and detailed lexi­cographical compilation and description of Greek loanwords as attested in the entire Coptic corpus throughout all dialects and genres of text. The results of the project shall be made available in an online database and in a printed dictionary. The core tool of the DDGLC project is a relational database designed to connect linguistic and extra-linguistic data con­cerning types and tokens of all identifiable loanwords in Coptic.