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Languages and Scripts in Egypt
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Glossary

Coptic

It is a name for Egyptians of the Christian faith and their Church. It is also the name for the last form of the ancient Egyptian language, which was written with mostly Greek letters. The Coptic language survives only as a liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

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Development of the Coptic Language
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The Coptic language is named after the name given to the Egyptians at the time, "Coptic", meaning Egyptian. Ancient Egyptian had been written in what was mostly Demotic script.

Individual efforts were made by Egyptians in the pre-Christian eras to record their language in Greek script. Texts dating from this period are written in a Greek script interspersed with Demotic letters. These texts are found in museums in Paris and London. Unrelated to the Christian religion, these attempts resulted in the development of what is known as the Coptic script, either by one person or by a group of people.

They succeeded in writing their language using Greek letters to which they added seven letters taken from the Demotic script. Greek words and expressions entered the ancient Egyptian language, especially in the Byzantine era. Coptic contained words not to be found in the older language while many ancient Egyptian words were dropped.

Although Coptic gradually faded with the dominance of Arabic, it did not entirely disappear. Egyptian Arabic is different from the Arabic spoken in other Arab states. Among the Coptic words still in use in Egypt to this very day, are "yamm", sea, "qulla", a vessel for holding water, "timsah", crocodile, "nannus", nunu, affectionate terms used to address children, "bisara," a dish made of ground beans, "salla", basket, "shuna", storage space, "rumman", pomegrenate, "balah", date, and many of the names used for the different types of fish such as Buri, Bunni, Labis, Ray, and Shal.

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