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“Whatever in the Coptic Language Is Not Greek, Can Wholly Be Considered Ancient Egyptian”: Recent Approaches towards an Integrated View of the Egyptian-Coptic Lexicon

Tonio Sebastian Richter

Abstract


Ten years before Champollion’s Lettre à M. Dacier, Johann Severin Vater projected a “holistic” vision about the Egyptian-Coptic language, its diachronic development, and etymological components: “Was in der Koptischen Sprache nicht Griechisch ist, darf man wohl im Ganzen für Altägyptisch halten.” During the decades following the decipherment of hieroglyphics, the advanced knowledge of Coptic was of essential importance for establishing the meaning of hieroglyphic words, thus forming the foundation of the Ancient Egyptian lexicon. The early Egyptologists’ retrospective view of Coptic vocabulary reinforced a peculiar development in the lexicography of Coptic, namely that all newer dictionaries of the language are restricted to its non-Greek vocabulary. Lasting influence on Ancient Egyptian lexicography was further excerted by the achievements of the “Berlin school” of Egyptian linguistics in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. In the wake of Adolf Erman’s groundbreaking discoveries about the diachronic diversity of different phases of the Egyptian language, its grammar(s) and lexicon(s) were now being studied separately according to synchronic language phases and subcorpora. The present article intends to introduce two recent lexicographical ventures striving for a fuller picture of the Egyptian-Coptic lexicon, the one concerned with the rehabilitation of the discarded loaned components of its terminal phase, the other aiming at its diachronic reintegration. 


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