Coptic Alphabet


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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Coptic Alphabet

 

an alphabetic writing system created in the second and third centuriesA.D. by the Egyptians who translated the Bible from Greek into Coptic, since the complex and extremely specific Egyptian writing, which in many respects did not reflect real pronunciation and actually did not represent vowel sounds, was not suitable for translation. In the early centuries of the Common Era, Egyptian magical texts, in which it was important to fix the sound of words (especially in incantations), were written down with Greek letters, using Egyptian cursive symbols (demotic writing) for sounds absent in Greek.

The Coptic alphabet consists basically of 24 Greek letters and six to eight (different in the various dialects) demotic symbols. With the dying off of the Coptic language, the Coptic alphabet went out of daily use and survived only in religious texts.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The six supplementary letters of the Coptic alphabet are not used to initiate stanzas, and the hymnographer is forced to go through some phonological contortions to make this pattern work for Greek letters which are rarely used as initials in the Coptic language (see pp.