- Coptic alphabet
Coptic alphabet Type Alphabet Languages Coptic language Time period c. 300 AD to 14th century AD (Still used today in Coptic churches in Egypt and abroad) Parent systems Sister systems Old Nubian
ISO 15924 Copt, 204 Direction Left-to-right Unicode alias Coptic Unicode range U+03E2 to U+03EF Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols. Part of the series on
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The Coptic alphabet is the script used for writing the Coptic language. The repertoire of glyphs is based on the Greek alphabet augmented by letters borrowed from the Demotic and is the first alphabetic script used for the Egyptian language. There are, in fact, several Coptic alphabets as the Coptic writing system may vary greatly among the various dialects and subdialects of the Coptic language.
History of the alphabet
Proto-Sinaitic script? 19 c. BCE
Meroitic 3 c. BCEOgham 4 c. CEHangul 1443Zhuyin (Bopomofo) 1913
- Ugaritic 15 c. BCE
- Proto-Canaanite 14 c. BCE
- Phoenician 12 c. BCE
- Greek 8 c. BCE
- Aramaic 8 c. BCE
- Kharoṣṭhī 6 c. BCE
- Brāhmī & Indic 6 c. BCE
- Hebrew 3 c. BCE
- Thaana 4 c. BCE
- Pahlavi 3 c. BCE
- Avestan 4 c. CE
- Palmyrene 2 c. BCE
- Syriac 2 c. BCE
- Mandaic 2 c. CE
- Paleohispanic 7 c. BCE
- Paleo-Hebrew 10 c. BCE
- Samaritan 6 c. BCE
- Phoenician 12 c. BCE
- Epigraphic South Arabian 9 c. BCE
- Ge’ez 5–6 c. BCE
The Coptic alphabet has a long history, going back to the Hellenistic period, of using the Greek alphabet to transcribe Demotic texts, with the aim of recording the correct pronunciation of Demotic. During the first two centuries of the Common Era, an entire series of magical texts were written in what scholars term Old Coptic, Egyptian language texts written in the Greek alphabet. A number of letters, however, were derived from Demotic, and many of these (though not all) are used in "true" Coptic writing. With the spread of Christianity in Egypt, by the late 3rd century CE, knowledge of hieroglyphic writing was lost, as well as Demotic slightly later, making way for a writing system more closely associated with the Christian church. By the 4th century, the Coptic alphabet was "standardised", particularly for the Sahidic dialect. (There are a number of differences between the alphabets as used in the various dialects in Coptic.) Coptic is not generally used today except by the members of the Coptic Church to write their religious texts. All the Gnostic codices found in Nag Hammadi used the Coptic alphabet.
The Old Nubian alphabet—used to write Old Nubian, a Nilo-Saharan language —is written mainly in an uncial Greek alphabet, which borrows Coptic and Meroitic letters of Demotic origin into its inventory.
The Coptic alphabet was the first Egyptian writing system to indicate vowels, making Coptic documents invaluable for the interpretation of earlier Egyptian texts. Some Egyptian syllables had sonorants but no vowels; in Sahidic, these were written in Coptic with a line above the entire syllable. Various scribal schools made limited use of diacritics: some used an apostrophe as a word divider and to mark clitics, a function of determinatives in logographic Egyptian; others used diereses over ⲓ and ⲩ to show that these started a new syllable, others a circumflex over any vowel for the same purpose.
Coptic is largely based on the Greek alphabet, another help in interpreting older Egyptian texts, with 24 letters of Greek origin; 6 or 7 more were retained from Demotic, depending on the dialect (6 in Sahidic, another each in Bohairic and Akhmimic). In addition to the alphabetic letters, the letter ϯ stood for the syllable /ti/. The Coptic alphabet is more obviously Greek-based than the Cyrillic alphabet, and may be compared to, say, the Latin-based Icelandic alphabet (which also has special letters at the end which are not in the original Latin alphabet). The Coptic alphabet in turn had a strong influence on the Cyrillic alphabet..
image maj. image min. majuscule minuscule numeric value name Greek
translit. (IPA) Ⲁ ⲁ 1 alpha Α, α a [a] Ⲃ ⲃ 2 bēta Β, β w,v,b [w] Ⲅ ⲅ 3 gamma Γ, γ g [ɡ] Ⲇ ⲇ 4 dalda Δ, δ d [d] Ⲉ ⲉ 5 ei Ε, ε e [i] Ⲋ ⲋ 6 su ϛ (stigma) – Ⲍ ⲍ 7 zēta Ζ, ζ z [z] Ⲏ ⲏ 8 ēta Η, η ē,e [eː] Ⲑ ⲑ 9 thēta Θ, θ th,t' [tʰ] Ⲓ ⲓ 10 iōta Ι, ι i [iː] Ⲕ ⲕ 20 kappa Κ, κ k [k] Ⲗ ⲗ 30 laula Λ, λ l [l] Ⲙ ⲙ 40 mē Μ, μ m [m] Ⲛ ⲛ 50 nē Ν, ν n [n] Ⲝ ⲝ 60 ksi Ξ, ξ ks [ks] Ⲟ ⲟ 70 o Ο, ο o [o] Ⲡ ⲡ 80 pi Π, π p [p] Ⲣ ⲣ 100 rō Ρ, ρ r [r] Ⲥ ⲥ 200 sēmma Σ, σ, ς s [s] Ⲧ ⲧ 300 tau Τ, τ t [t] Ⲩ ⲩ 400 he Υ, υ u,ou [uː] Ⲫ ⲫ 500 phi Φ, φ ph,p' [pʰ] Ⲭ ⲭ 600 khi Χ, χ kh [kʰ] Ⲯ ⲯ 700 psi Ψ, ψ ps Ⲱ ⲱ 800 ō Ω, ω ō,o [oː] Ϣ ϣ šai (none) sh [ʃ] Ϥ ϥ 90 fai (none) f [f] Ϧ (Ⳉ) ϧ (ⳉ) xai (none) x [x] Ϩ ϩ hori (none) h [h] Ϫ ϫ ḏanḏia (none) j,dzh [dʒ] Ϭ ϭ qima Ϙ, ϙ (koppa) q [q] Ϯ ϯ ti (none) ti [ti] Ⳁ ⳁ 900 psis nše (none) –
Letters derived from the demotic:
hieroglyph demotic coptic → → Ϣ š → → Ϥ f → → Ϧ x
→ → Ϩ h → → Ϫ dʒ → → Ϭ q
→ → Ϯ ti
The additional letter xai is Ⳉ ⳉ in Akhmimic and Ⳋ ⳋ in Bohairic, both for a velar fricative /x/.
In Unicode, most Coptic letters formerly shared codepoints with similar Greek letters, but a disunification has been accepted for version 4.1, which appeared in 2005. The new Coptic block, containing a distinctive Byzantine Coptic font, is U+2C80 to U+2CFF. The Greek block includes seven Coptic letters derived from Demotic, and these need to be included in any complete implementation of Coptic.
Greek and Coptic
Unicode.org chart (PDF)
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F U+037x Ͱ ͱ Ͳ ͳ ʹ ͵ Ͷ ͷ ͺ ͻ ͼ ͽ ; U+038x ΄ ΅ Ά · Έ Ή Ί Ό Ύ Ώ U+039x ΐ Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο U+03Ax Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω Ϊ Ϋ ά έ ή ί U+03Bx ΰ α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο U+03Cx π ρ ς σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω ϊ ϋ ό ύ ώ Ϗ U+03Dx ϐ ϑ ϒ ϓ ϔ ϕ ϖ ϗ Ϙ ϙ Ϛ ϛ Ϝ ϝ Ϟ ϟ U+03Ex Ϡ ϡ Ϣ ϣ Ϥ ϥ Ϧ ϧ Ϩ ϩ Ϫ ϫ Ϭ ϭ Ϯ ϯ U+03Fx ϰ ϱ ϲ ϳ ϴ ϵ ϶ Ϸ ϸ Ϲ Ϻ ϻ ϼ Ͻ Ͼ Ͽ Notes
- 1.^ As of Unicode version 6.0
Unicode.org chart (PDF)
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F U+2C8x Ⲁ ⲁ Ⲃ ⲃ Ⲅ ⲅ Ⲇ ⲇ Ⲉ ⲉ Ⲋ ⲋ Ⲍ ⲍ Ⲏ ⲏ U+2C9x Ⲑ ⲑ Ⲓ ⲓ Ⲕ ⲕ Ⲗ ⲗ Ⲙ ⲙ Ⲛ ⲛ Ⲝ ⲝ Ⲟ ⲟ U+2CAx Ⲡ ⲡ Ⲣ ⲣ Ⲥ ⲥ Ⲧ ⲧ Ⲩ ⲩ Ⲫ ⲫ Ⲭ ⲭ Ⲯ ⲯ U+2CBx Ⲱ ⲱ Ⲳ ⲳ Ⲵ ⲵ Ⲷ ⲷ Ⲹ ⲹ Ⲻ ⲻ Ⲽ ⲽ Ⲿ ⲿ U+2CCx Ⳁ ⳁ Ⳃ ⳃ Ⳅ ⳅ Ⳇ ⳇ Ⳉ ⳉ Ⳋ ⳋ Ⳍ ⳍ Ⳏ ⳏ U+2CDx Ⳑ ⳑ Ⳓ ⳓ Ⳕ ⳕ Ⳗ ⳗ Ⳙ ⳙ Ⳛ ⳛ Ⳝ ⳝ Ⳟ ⳟ U+2CEx Ⳡ ⳡ Ⳣ ⳣ ⳤ ⳥ ⳦ ⳧ ⳨ ⳩ ⳪ Ⳬ ⳬ Ⳮ ⳮ ⳯ U+2CFx ⳰ ⳱ ⳹ ⳺ ⳻ ⳼ ⳽ ⳾ ⳿ Notes
- 1.^ As of Unicode version 6.0
Diacritics and punctuation
These are also included in the unicode specification.
- normal English punctuation (comma, period, question mark, semicolon, colon, hyphen) uses the regular Unicode codepoints for punctuation
- dicolon: standard colon U+003A
- middle dot: U+00B7
- en dash: U+2013
- em dash: U+2014
- slanted double hyphen: U+2E17
These are codepoints applied after that of the character they modify.
- combining overstroke: U+0305 (=supralinear stroke)
- combining character-joining overstroke (from middle of one character to middle of the next): U+035E
- combining dot under a letter: U+0323
- combining dot over a letter: U+0307
- combining overstroke and dot below: U+0305,U+0323
- combining acute accent: U+0301
- combining grave accent: U+0300
- combining circumflex accent (caret shaped): U+0302
- combining circumflex (curved shape) or inverted breve above: U+0311
- combining circumflex as wide inverted breve above joining two letters: U+0361
- combining diaeresis: U+0308
- ^ a b Ritner, Robert Kriech. 1996. "The Coptic Alphabet". In The World's Writing Systems, edited by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 1994:287–290.
- ^ Campbell, George L. "Coptic." Compendium of the World's Writing Systems. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Biddles LTD, 1991. 415.
- Quaegebeur, Jan. 1982. "De la préhistoire de l'écriture copte." Orientalia lovaniensia analecta 13:125–136.
- Kasser, Rodolphe. 1991. "Alphabet in Coptic, Greek". In The Coptic Encyclopedia, edited by Aziz S. Atiya. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, Volume 8. 30–32.
- Kasser, Rodolphe. 1991. "Alphabets, Coptic". In The Coptic Encyclopedia, edited by Aziz S. Atiya. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, Volume 8. 32–41.
- Kasser, Rodolphe. 1991. "Alphabets, Old Coptic". In The Coptic Encyclopedia, edited by Aziz S. Atiya. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, Volume 8. 41–45.
- Michael Everson's Revised proposal to add the Coptic alphabet to the BMP of the UCS
- Copticsounds – a resource for the study of Coptic phonology
- Coptic Unicode input
- Michael Everson's Antinoou: A standard font for Coptic supported by the International Association for Coptic Studies.
- Ifao N Copte – A professional Coptic Unicode font for researchers, students and publishers has been developed by the French institute of oriental archeology (IFAO). Unicode, Mac and Windows compatible, this free font is available through downloading from the IFAO website (direct link).
- Coptic Unicode fonts ; Coptic fonts made by Laurent Bourcellier & Jonathan Perez, type designers
- ⲡⲓⲥⲁϧⲟ: Coptic font support – how to install, use and manipulate Coptic ASCII and Unicode fonts
- Download Free Coptic Fonts
- The Coptic Alphabet (omniglot.com)
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