Coptic Lesson 2: The Weak Definite Article

The 'Weak' Definite Article

The main and most important definite articles are the three listed in lesson 1: pi ] ni (pi ti ni).
These are technically referred to as the 'strong' definite articles. However, pi and ] each have a 'weak' form:

The weak form of pi is `p (`v) [ep (ef) / ep(ep)]
The weak form of ] is `t (`;) [et (eth)/ et (et)]

`v and `; are used for words that begin with any of the following: b l m n o r, while `p and `t are used on all other words. For example:

`psyri (ep-sheeri/ep-shEri) = the Son and `vnou] (efnouti/ep-noudi) = (the) God
`thelpic (et-helpis) = the Hope vs. `;mau (eth-mav/et-maw) = the Mother

However, as with all languages, sometimes Coptic breaks its own rules. The correct 'weak' article for ouro (ouro) = king is actually `p even though it starts with an o. Don't ask me why.

You use the weak form instead of the strong one when you want to emphasise the 'uniqueness' or 'specialness' of the thing you're referring to. It's almost like capitalising a word in English - the King, as opposed the king, a god as opposed to God. For this reason, you'll notice that almost all the terms we use to refer to God in the liturgy use the weak form rather than the strong:

`vnou] (efnouti/ep-noudi) = God vs. pinou] (pi-nouti/pi-noudi) = the god
`psyri (ep-sheeri/ep-shEri) = the Son vs. pisyri (pi-sheeri/pi shEri) = the son
`viwt (ef-yot/ef-yod) = the Father vs. piiwt (pi-yot/pi-yod) = the father
`p[oic (ep-chois) = the Lord vs. pi[oic = the lord

The same applies to St. Mary who is affectionately referred to as the Mother, rather than simply, the mother:
`;mau (ethmav/et-maw) = the Mother vs. ]mau (ti-mav/di-maw) = the mother

Use often has the implied meaning of 'O' (like 'ya' in Arabic), when used to address someone, so often, `p[oic will be translated as 'O Lord', and `vnou] as 'O God'.

And that is it! If you add `p (`v) and `t (`;) to pi ] ni which you learned earlier, you have mastered the Coptic definite article!!!

Well done!
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