Lessen Arabic Influence in North American Orthodox Churches



  • edited October 2014
    I don't know how to compare to Aramaic really, but yes it's spoken and understood by some people in their every day lives.
    I hope I don't disappoint you by saying I cannot speak Coptic as a day to day language, but there are several families who do..
  • edited October 2014
    These families you speak of, which language did they learn and speak first in their own lives?
  • edited October 2014
    I'm not sure why there is such a disconnect here. But let me respond to Mina's posts.


    I really don't know what to say about your Coptenglish post.  Please forgive me, but it sounds like this argument makes no sense at all.  If we live in an Indian community, should we start speaking like this?  I think it's rather silly to talk about Coptenglish like that.  It's English with an Egyptian accent.  Egyptians have went to work with that accent and had very little problems interacting with regular English-speaking folks.  So the argument is a red herring.  Who in the world is born learning to speak Coptic?  Do we have Coptic-speaking tribes in Egypt?  I think that is another red herring."

    First of all, Coptenglish is a variant of American English. American English is a variant of British English. Queens English is a variant of Old English. Indian American English, like the variant spoken by Raj in Big Bang Theory you referenced, is a variant of English. They are all variants. I think I made it clear that no linguistic variant can be considered more proper, more authentic, or more usable than another. Such claims are proscriptive, and not descriptive. When they become proscriptive like this, they are political statements, not based on social linguistic and anthropological science.

    What I wrote about Coptenglish was only to show how your argument doesn't work. You were the one who correlated language usage to proficiency and knowledge. If one believes that such a correlation exists, then it won't work in English since no one is proficient in proper American English. Heck we can't even define which English is actually proper for liturgical use (a common issue that arises when we talk about English bible versions). For these and many more reasons, one cannot associate language usage exclusively to proficiency and fluency. If such is the case for English, then there is nothing preventing Coptic from being used in a like manner. The problem is not the fluency demographics of Coptic, it is the preference of acceptable Coptic usage (which I have show is arbitrary and political)

    Finally, I hate to point it out but you are holding Coptic usage and Coptic fluency to a standard that is no where near what is found in Arabic and English. You keep wrote: "I think Coptic can be sacrificed because 10 times out of 10 (if it's possible to say 200% I would), the person who is speaking Coptic is most probably speaking English or Arabic.  Do you know of anyone who speaks ONLY Coptic?"
    If you hold this standard to English vernacular, then 9 times out of 10, the person who "understands" English knows American texting language (another variant) better than English proper. The person who "knows" Arabic, knows less than 50% of Modern Standard Arabic. (Based on reports of people who were educated in Egypt, closer to 10% of Egyptians have a proficiency in MSA). None of these people argue that English proper or MSA is dead. But you claim as long as no living person speaks Coptic ONLY, it can be removed. By using your logic, if 95%of Copts understand English vernacular, meaning at least 5% of living people cannot speak English vernacular fluently, you argue that it can stay. Add to this, that I have shown nearly all Copts do not have an understanding of basic liturgical terms and a vocabulary past the second grade, one can easily make the argument that most Copts don't know proper college-level English. Add to this that one can't even define which English variant is the right one to use, then we have nearly no consensus on English proficiency. Yet no one wants to argue that English proper should not be used in place of English vernacular (whatever that variant may be). Why is Coptic held to a standard that English and Arabic fail to meet?

    By the way, I can carry on a conversation of 60% Coptic. Ophadece, probably closer to 80%. Other families closer to 95%. Most people can recognize enough words in Coptic that I can consider them 10% proficient (you fall in this category minasoliman). Add this all up, then I can safely say a sizable minority of Copts understand enough Coptic to justify a sizable usage of Coptic (according to your logic), which is more than what we do now. So by your logic, we should increase Coptic usage. This is another reason why Coptic usage cannot be proportional to Coptic fluency.

    This leads me to your story about the English-only speaker who comes to an Arabic-only church. Yes, by love both the Arabic-only church and the English-only speaker will be transformed and accommodating to each other. However, if that Arabic-only church drops down to 95% English to accommodate this and future English speaking persons, and people argue that 5% Arabic is too much, calling those who want 6% Arabic selfish, we have gone past love and reverted to political preferences. Using your example of the specific type of cancer that is best treated with chemo, radiation and surgical resection, what happens if it turns out that this specific cancer was benign all along? People used the political buzz word "cancer" to make it more than what it was, pleading for more research money. All along, the real malignancy had nothing to do with this particular "cancer". Justifiably, this is how I see the battle cry for opponents of Coptic. The real malignancy all along was (and still is) no love. The benign lesion is Coptic. It is made out to be one of the biggest evils (if not the biggest evil) in our church. When chemo, radiation, and surgical resection was performed on Coptic, people still spiritually died from lack of love. This is considered medical malpractice. I don't understand why no one sees Coptic eradication as linguistic malpractice (which likely occurs more often than medical malpractice). 

    This is not about proficiency. This is not about being more proficient in English than Coptic. This is not about saving people from eternal damnation because of linguistic barriers. These are not games here. This is about love and judgment. 
  • @minasoliman,
    Not sure what your point is.
  • edited October 2014
    My point is Coptic is not a primary language. It is a red herring to use the argument of "Coptic" in this discussion. There is not even a derivative language to Coptic. Even Egyptian Arabic has much more in common with Arabic than Coptic.

    The idea of "variants of English" and "English proficiency" still holds no water. Any English is better than no English. It is still a medium upon which people can still communicate. If I go to an area of Hillbillies that speak a semi-different language than proper English, there is a way we can learn from each other and meet. I know a man whose primary language is Spanish. He said to have went to Portugal not knowing a word of Porteugese, and yet was able to get by. So for 2 different languages, their ancestry is still quite close. For there to be "variants" does not mean a language of a completely different and further ancestry is excusable. So if we would compare what's a living language and what's a dead language, Coptic is already much more deeply buried as a usable language than proper English or MSA. No one has yet told me if there is a group of people somewhere who are born learning Coptic as THE primary language, where they go to school speaking it, where they talk to their friends with it. Aramaic has that status, but Coptic does not. Those few families who converse in Coptic do not have Coptic as a primary language. I can bet it's not even a secondary language. Most Copts whose primary language is Arabic probably know English better than Coptic. That's how dead Coptic is. It's not even a viable language that's used tribally. It is used by families who studied it and want to revive it. The fact that these families are reviving it proves its deadness. No one has to revive MSA or Proper English. They are still close enough variants that people of those variants can learn quickly by and live better with. Because English is my primary language, I probably can learn French or Spanish much more quickly than any Arabic variant (or Coptic for that matter).

    It's really not a very difficult concept to comprehend. I think we are strawing gnats in order to preserve a language that has no primary or even variant significance among any community at large.

    Finally, my analogy is still pertinent. Concerning cancer, some benign lesions can still pose a risk factor (some patients get a prophylactic resection due to the risk factors presented). Language is a risk factor. That is the point. And if you achieve better results with language, it is a duty and responsibility to use that language, even if it is a close-enough variant that requires some back-and-forth before accomplishing complete comprehension.
  • @minasoliman,
    In response to your reply to my view, Coptic language is not a dead language.
  • edited October 2014
    I feel obligated to beat this dead horse discussion again because the information, in my opinion, is inaccurate. I appreciate minasoliman's commitment to engage in the discussion. But I still believe, Mina, that you are applying a standard to Coptic usage that is not met in any other language.

    The discussion went from Coptic language demographics to language proficiency and now to primary language choice and linguistic familial conformity. We discussed language demographics and competence/proficiency so I will not repeat that here. Your discussion of Coptic as a primary language has good points. (For clarification, a primary language is defined as a language passed on and taught to the next generation as their primary language of communication. This is the definition I will assume everyone agrees with). In the linguistic community, an "extinct" language is normally defined as one where no new person/child learns and communicates in this language. However, this definition is not absolute. No one learns and teaches a child MSA or English proper. Neither MSA or English proper are primary choice languages. By this definition, these languages should be classified as dead but they are not; illustrating that such a definition of "primary" and "extinct" languages will always be inadequate to describe linguistic phenomena. Also remember also that our current liturgical language in English and Arabic uses English proper and MSA.  Therefore, associating acceptable liturgical language with primary language usage can not be applicable. 

    This leaves us with the issue of language familial conformity. The second definition for languages adopted by the linguistic community for language or dialect is "mutually understandable". Since Egyptian Arabic and MSA speakers are mutually understandable, they are considered languages or dialects. This definition still poses problems. On a continuum of linguistic understandability, Language A and Language B can be mutually understandable, as much as Language B and Language C are mutually understandable. But Language A and Language C are not mutually understandable. This does not negate that Language A and Language C are classified as familial languages categorized under a single linguistic family tree. So I understand why you think a language or a variant that has a completely different and far ancestry is inexcusable for liturgical use. However, it is not a sufficient reason to exclude Coptic exclusively. Proving my original point on political influence, look at the adage attributed to by Yiddish linguist Max Weinrach in 1944 (when Israel was formed) "A language is a dialect with an army and a navy". The only reason Coptic is adjudicated as dead or non-essential for communal worship, not valued as Arabic and English are...as you can guess...has to do with political preference. 

    Like many words, definitions are taken for granted. Your analogy of cancer is another example of how different people understand concepts differently. By definition (at least in the medical community), a benign lesion is not prophylactically removed. Examples of benign lesions are freckles, fibromas/callous, and skin moles. It would be borderline medical malpractice to undergo surgery to remove freckles, since it is known that these benign lesions are harmless. (There are people who believe that bad esthetics caused by freckles is harmful socially. But this exception does not negate my point.) Now there are benign lesions (i.e., non-metastatic lesions that do not infiltrate healthy surrounding tissue) that are aggressive and they are removed since they are not harmless any more and the benefit of the surgery outweighs the risk of the surgery. Let's apply this to Coptic. If we agree that Coptic is like a benign lesion, and it is harmless to keep, and the risks associated with linguistic surgery are significant, then it is wrong to remove the language. There are some who have repeatedly claimed Coptic is the reason people leave the Church. This would be considered a significantly aggressive benign lesion. But one has to provide sufficient evidence to show that the cause of people leaving the Church is the Coptic language and not another cause. I think it is safe to say no one really been able to satisfactorily provide this evidence.  In addition, we cannot take a blind eye and say there is no risk to removing Coptic or any language. What is that risk? I believe that removing a language that one believes is non-essential while another person believes is essential, increases the risk for judgment against each other's personal identity with language and personal view of communal identity with language. 

    Language is not a risk factor. Social and political acceptance of the language is the problem. You claim that "if [we] can achieve a better result with language, then it is a(n absolute?) duty and responsibility to use that language". Such a claim is not supported in the Bible. 1 Cor 14 does not say we have an obligation to abandon the gifts of tongues because it cannot achieve the best results compared to Language X. In fact, Revelations 7:9 explicitly implies that there is a pluralism of tongues for all Christians standing before the throne. Revelations 7:9 doesn't say "a great multitude which no one could number, from the majority of the most powerful nations, tribes, peoples and tongues". No it said from all nations, tribes, and tongues, even the ones that may not be as efficacious as other languages. 

    Such an absolute moral altruistic philosophy (i.e., we are obligated to use the best language for the best result for the majority) is not always beneficial for the Church. If the church is the whole community of the faithful, not a building or a central governing organization, then the individual's self interest (for salvation only, not for sin) supersedes any ethical altruism for the majority. "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world (or helps the whole world) and looses his soul?" Notice an individual's self-interest may be achieved in altruistic actions to others as James 5:20 shows. But altruistic actions that oppress the individual personal interest for the greater good of the majority is bad.
  • edited October 2014
    It seems if I continue any further in this discussion, I will simply be repeating what I already said. I'm afraid I will never understand why my argument does not make sense to you, and I certainly tried, but fail to understand how your argument makes any sense either.

    For instance, I don't see how your use of Revelations disproves my point; a parish does not comprise of "all nations and tongues" but certainly our centuries of parishes in the kingdom will comprise of nations and tongues; that does not preclude the fact that we change our tongues over generations. The way you present the argument of "of all tongues" makes me think any given Christian should not only be able to pray in Coptic, but in "all tongues". I don't think you're saying that, but if this is an argument that counters my arguments, then it seems to imply that all languages, ancient and new, in all variants, should be utilized in liturgy to imitate the eschaton. I think that's a silly argument to make, and to extend to that, it also does not make sense therefore that we should use a language that is not even close to a variant of our spoken tongue.

    I base my arguments on a certain sense of practicality that I thought may be evident in and of itself, and therefore the standard I put on language should not also make it to mean "proper English" is no different than "Coptic" (and it is only an unfair standard when someone wants to keep something that in the long run is impractical, but even then we don't even agree on what is practical), whether by proficiency or variance.

    But if we are looking for concrete evidence, I propose "an experiment". We should perhaps search out for the parishes and test out how much "non-English" they use, and follow through into the future to see "their fruits", i.e. their degree of mission, their growth within the community, their levels of service. To be fair, it will have to be parishes that are equally engaged and loving in their communities, but one uses more Coptic than another (and ideally I would like to see data from parishes with different usages, so like a parish with close to 100% English, and parish with 90/10, 75/25, 50/50, 25/75, 10/90, and 100% Coptic) to see if perhaps language is or is not a negative factor. And it would also be in different areas of the English-speaking world, so from all levels of education as well to factor that in. If you're right, there would be no difference between the 100% Coptic and 100% English in their fruits (as well as everyone in between), in all geographies. If you're even more right, perhaps God will show how wrong I am by giving more success to the parishes that use more Coptic.

    Or we can look at history and find out that language did change according to the times and culture, and it's okay to throw away a language that is not used anymore. It's really that simple. But perhaps I'm wrong, and if so, let it be according to God's will and not according to my own.

    God bless
  • edited October 2014
    Glory to be God. I am happy now that @Remenkimi changed his position. Coptic language is not dead or extinct. 
  • Thank you for your reply Mina,

    It's not that I fail to understand your argument, it is that I disagree with the premises your argument hinges on (one of which you named is the definition of practicality). We will agree to disagree. You're right we will simply be repeating what was said without coming to a consensus on language use in ecclesiastical services.

    In the end, we all agree that everything must be done for the glory of God and for the salvation of all men, according to God's will. 
  • Umm, did I actually say that? I said there is no good definition of linguistic death. But you're right about one thing....Glory to God!!  [-O<
  • You did say that @Remenkimi in a discussion we had here in the past..
  • Here are some interesting observations about language from canadox:


    Even if the Liturgy is completely in English, if the culture of the parish is Egyptian, many will feel like aliens there and will not remain. I'm sorry to say that these English language Coptic Churches are still chaplaincy service, the Church of Egypt in Canada, just offering their chaplaincy in English rather than Arabic, but not attempting to be the Church here. Those who fought to move this far in accommodation are heros who saved the second generation. I am not criticising them. But if we maintain what they built, we are not continuing their work, but are destroying it.

    How then can we go about being the Church here? As I see it, there are a few options:

    1. Create Arabic chaplaincies for newcomers and do not allow them to "fix" the established Churches here. Let those Churches gradually and naturally progress from chaplaincies to being the Church here. 

    2. Offer Arabic chaplaincy services within the existing Churches, and keep those Churches as Arabic and English chaplaincies for the Coptic rite in Canada, while establishing parishes that mean to be the Church here (basically the "convert church" approach.

    3. Establish the Church here as a cooperation between all the Orthodox Churches in Communion, while continuing to offer chaplaincy services for each ethnic rite.

    4. Decide not to be the Church here. Recognize that the OCA and Antiochians have already done this, and encourage our youth to go join them in being the Church here, while continuing to offer chaplaincy services for those who with to maintain the Coptic rite here.

    See more and join the discussion at http://www.canadox.ca
  • I agree that one should just be grateful to have a COC with serving Priest and Deacons.
    Since it is a COPTIC Orthodox Church one should expect that language to be spoken. It is very nice for us English speaking persons that the COC is kind enough to speak in English so we can understand. And we in turn should make an effort to learn the Coptic language.
    Children learn fast and it would be to their benefit to learn as many languages as possible.

    We should understand the pains of others and bear with them as they do with us. I was told by our beloved Coptic Abouna that the Arab invaders would cut out the Copts tongues if they spoke their own language...can any of we spoiled English speaking peoples imagine such a horrible thing??!
    That is why so many elder Copts speak Arabic.
    It would be good I think for them to learn again how to speak their own Coptic language freely without fear. The younger generations should be taught their own Coptic language. It should be preserved and kept..it is their true heritage,
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    thank you dear @purity2
    oujai khan ebshois
  • We can have Coptic chaplaincies for those who refuse to speak in any other language ;)

    In the meantime, I agree with the blog post. Practical, and truly accommodating for all people, rather than make these churche's that exclude members based on language and culture.
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