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THE EXCELLENT WORK OF COPTIC NEOLOGISM BY NABIL SABRI ISHAAK

January 18, 2020

Ishaak

The Coptic researcher, Nabil Sabri Ishaak, has published an excellent book, Coptic Neologism (نيولوجسمات اللغة القبطية), in Arabic in 2018.I have said in an earlier article that Coptic revival requires people who are versed in Linguistics, and Ishaak has proven in his book he understands Linguistics very well. His approach is scientific and must be praised by all Coptic enthusiasts.

The revival of Coptic requires creation of neologisms that is introduction of new words to represent new concepts that are not represented in the Coptic language we have inherited. And Coptic, in view of the rude arrest of its development by the intrusion of Arabic in Egypt, requires a lot of new words to fill in the gap and to meet the new developments of our modern world. The Coptic language, like most languages, has always borrowed loanwords from other languages in the past and present. In the past, we borrowed many Greek words particularly, and it is estimated that almost 20% of the Coptic vocabulary is Greek in origin. The Copts of olden days have also borrowed some Latin, Syriac and Hebrew words. In our modern days, Copts since the renaissance started by Pope Cyril IV in the 1850s have tried to coin new Coptic words using different processes. Claudius Labib was the most prominent in the past. There are several more that are known and I find no need to mention them here by name. Ishaak is the most prominent now a days in this effort, and his book comes as a welcome initiative. In his book, Isaak reveals his understanding of the Linguistics behind the effort; and he explains the different ways of creating neologisms. A general understanding of how neologisms are developed in general is essential in the effort to create new Coptic words, mostly by the process of derivation using suffixes, and borrowing from other languages. Ishaak lists all the words he has coined, which indeed a great contribution.

The problem is that there are many other Copts who, working individually, have developed new words for the same concepts but are different from those developed by Ishaak. There is no consensus when work is approached individually. It is, therefore, important to develop a sort of Coptic language academy which does not only ensure a broad consensus but also be accepted as authoritative.

Isaak’s book is rich in content but it suffers from certain defects in its design and layout. Its typography does not help one reads the text easily. A major fault in many books about Coptic written mainly for Arabic-speaking Copts is that they are written from right to left rather than from left to right as Coptic would require. In the book, Ishaak includes a lot of English text which makes it difficult to read in a book designed to be read from right to left. Another major problem in the book is the way references are made. But all that should not minimise the importance of the book though it makes it difficult to read, a difficulty which is probably the reason why it took me several months before I could study it properly. One hopes that Isaak will reprint the book in time with these defects sorted out, and then the importance of the book will be much more appreciated. I strongly recommend this book, and ask other Copts who are interested in revival of Coptic to build on it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2020 3:07 pm

    DEAR DiOSCORUS

    DIOSCORUS BOLES EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE OF COPTIC LANGUAGE AS WELL AS OF COPTIC LITERATURE, CULTURE, AND POLITICS HUMBLED ME READING HIS ADMIRATION FOR MY WORK ON ‘COPTIC NEOLOGISM’.
    IN THE MEANTIME I APPRECIATE HIS VIEWS AND UNDERSTAND SOME OF THE SHORTFALLS HE POINTED AT.
    I SHOULD BE GRATEFUL, IF HE WISHES AND HAS THE TIME , TO TRANSLATE THE BOOK IN ENGLISH, AND, THUS, REMEDIES SOME OF THESE DEFICIENCIES.

    NABIL SABRY ISSHAK

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      January 19, 2020 3:34 pm

      Thank you, Dr Isshak.

    • ⲏⲣⲁⲕⲗⲁⲙⲙⲱⲛ permalink
      January 23, 2020 10:52 pm

      Is there any chance to find this book online? Thank you.

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