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Coptic word division standardization
  • Nofri

    Does any one have a source on a standardized word division in Coptic?

    Shephmot
  • nofri, namenrit!

    if they could stop putting half the word on one line and half on the next, and then randomly leaving out spaces in the computer presentations used in churches, then we could learn coptic more easily!

    oujai khen epChois

    (sorry, my friend, no coptic fonts yet, have been busy sorting out life, employment, travel, praying etc...)
    may you go with the Lord
    :-)
  • Are you talking about the separations of ALL words, like evolqen and ebol qen for example? or like mabsoota is saying, the division of a word between the lines?
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    @mabsoota
    You just called the original poster in a plural manner. It should be bamenrit for masculine singular or tamenrit for feminine singular..
    Also oujai khan ebshows doesn't mean may you go with the Lord. Rather be well in the Lord, something along the lines of stay sound in the Lord
    Oujai
  • I mean the separations of all words. Definite articles should be separated or not, demonstratives, verb personal pronouns, prepositions, clauses,.. etc.

    A lot of books are written with a random word division. Does anyone know if there is a standard I should follow, or we should develop one.
  • @ophadece 
    I think she meant 'PenMenreet" (Our beloved one)
    And I don't know how accurate the translation is, but I have heard many people saying 'Ougai Khen Eptshois' ;
    Typically, all articles, demonstratives are not separated, anything that directly describe the genre of the word after is not separated from the word for a single moment nor a twinkling of an eye.
    However, words like prepositions are separated as they are generic.
    another rule, you capitalize the word the letter even if it follows an article. "piIsrael", "teeIodhe'a", 'piKhristos'

    example:

    Peniot etkhen Niphi'ouwi

  • Two quick comments:

    1- This problem of word separation is 10 times worse when it comes to Greek texts. I would not be exaggerating when I say that sometimes I stare at a Greek text written in our books unable to even decipher the intended words, only to understand the text very easily once I find it written in proper Greek orthography and spelling somewhere else (such as our Greek Resurrectional Troparia....etc.)

    2- How can anyone determine what the standard rules are? Do you go back to manuscripts written when Coptic was still somewhat extant? Even scribes who copied manuscripts were not necessarily literate, and you will find all sorts of variations in spelling (not just how to separate words). Perhaps Remenkimi can shed more light on this, and I know he's seen a ton more Coptic manuscripts than I have, but it seems to me that this kind of standardization (what parts of words are written separately...etc) may be a later academic thing to make sense of all the variations actually seen in the manuscripts.
  • @Ramez
    The problem with Greek is that editors usually do not have a good knowledge of Greek and con not separate the words properly.
    As for the Coptic manuscripts, surprisingly, word divisions in Coptic were introduced one or two centuries ago. Before that, there were no separations or capital letters. So, we still need to develop a standard.


    Oxford University's version of the New Testament (1898) has a word division standard. It capitalizes the first letter of each sentence only.
    St. Shenouda Coptic society`s version of NT has a similar standard that does not use capital letters at all.
    Joseph Warren Walls' version (2007) has a standard, which is different dealing with some prepositions, and it does not use any capital letters as well.

    I was just wondering which one I should follow.
    In my opinion, St. Shenouda society's standard is the best. It nearly matches the Oxford University version.
    You can find these version here:
    under Coptic Bible; NT
  • Bishoy,

    Interesting info about Coptic. I agree that St. Shenouda Society does wonderful work in this regard. I was not aware of the different "official" standards. Most ancient languages have this problem of lack of standardization in the original documents. Greek was the same way, written in all caps (uncial?) and without any word separation, I assume to conserve manuscript space.

    Regarding Greek, I understand this is the issue. Sometimes however, all it requires is a simple internet research for some of the more popular Greek texts in our tradition (although in my experience, following proper Greek 100% often yields a Coptic text that is quite unfamiliar to a Coptic audience, mostly when it comes to diphthongs, so an argument can be made here against correction for the sake of utility). At any rate, even if I were the only Greek-educated Copt in America (I doubt it!) I am only an email away for questions of spelling, translation, and grammar.
  • Bishoy_Labib,
    The manuscript I am studying now was written no later than 1627 AD. It is Sahidic with many psalms (over 2/3 of the manuscript is from the Psalms) and it has plenty of word divisions. There is some standardization of word separation and use of jenkim/superlinear strokes. The Sahidic Psalter I have, written by Schussler, is far more standardized than the manuscript. Yet Schussler's standardization is somewhat arbitrary at points. 

    The problem here is not lack of standardization. It is linguistic or lexical interference. We want to conform Coptic into modern English rules. We want to conform Copto-Greek into modern rules of Ancient Greek. It is both a natural and unfortunate phenomenon. It is natural because nearly 95% of indigenous languages have either conformed or become extinct. It is unfortunate because 5% of the most commonly used languages should not dictate the development and use of the remaining 95%. Because when indigenous languages do conform, they die a slower death by lexical interference. 

    Natural languages have idiosyncrasies and much non-standardization. That's what makes them natural. English is by far one of the most non-standardized languages, yet no one seems to mind the development of so many subdialects that it is almost hard to see how the subdialects are even related. (Jamaican English is very different than Indian English and Puerto Rican English)

    There is a point when standardization is useless. Using the example of word division and capitalization, you can see there is no real standard to begin with. But even if we hypothetically all chose to follow St Shenouda Society's standard, would you not capitalize Ⲫⲛⲟⲩϯ (Evnoti) or Ⲡϭⲟⲓⲥ (Epchois) that is not the beginning of a sentence? What about a personal pronoun or a proper name? These would not be capitalized by St Shenouda Society's standards, yet they need to be capitalized nowadays. Any standardization is going to have faults making it unnatural. What is unnatural will not be uniformly accepted. 

    The right answer to your question, which standard to use for word division and capitalization is simple. Whatever is acceptable to your general audience. After all, if you write something in Coptic and the audience can't understand it because it differs from general grammar, then your standard is not standard.  


  • Ekhrestos anesty
    @remenkimi,
    Very well said, although I still find it hard to swallow Indian English as a subdialect in its own right. I think some people do things at their whim and should educate themselves enough first and have a good point of view like the one you argued.
    @Bishoy_labib
    I have to admit it's been some time since I read Wall, and I am not aware of st. Shenouda's society efforts but I'll look into that later. This is a very important issue for me..
    Oujai
  • thanks, ophadece for the lesson :)


    i will work harder!


    but it seems from the above discussion that it is a difficult language  

    ;)
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    @mabsoota,
    Verb conjugation in Coptic has 23 tenses! It is made more difficult by the modifications through the ages and no one to tell us how or why in most instances..
    Oujai
  • @mabsoota,
    Quite contrary. Most of our discussion with Coptic deals with modern linguistic theories about Coptic, which is complicated. Coptic is relatively easy since it is natural. English on the other hand is much harder because it is constantly in flux.
  • There's a lot of current research being done in this area, specifically for the purpose of digitizing Coptic Manuscripts and studying them. Here's a recent article I happened to catch that you might find interesting: http://earlymonasticism.org/2014/05/29/tagging-shenoute/

    Midway through it discusses using computational models to segment words for Part-of-Speech annotation.


Memorial for HH Pope Shenouda

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