Coptic Articles

Blessed Apostles' Fast to all!
I'm again picking your wonderfully full brains for Coptic grammar.
I know there are 3 singular definite articles for nouns, each with a masculine and feminine form (
pi/]> `p/`t> `v/`;). When is each one used? It seems to be related to both grammar and spelling, but I can't figure out the pattern (if there is one). The only thing I've been able to learn is that I think a word can only use one of the latter 2 articles- not both (ex. picon and `pcon are valid, but `vcon), but I still cannot figure out a real rule for which one of the two to use.
Keep me in your prayers.


  • Dear @Daniel_Kyrillos,
    Ⲡⲓ/ϯ are for general uses while ⲡ/ⲫ, ⲧ/ⲑ are for the more special usage, e.g. Ⲫⲓⲱⲧ, ⲡⲟⲩⲣⲟ as these are words with special significance and their usage is well known without having to use for example ⲛ̀/ⲙ̀/ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ after. The choice of ⲡ/ⲫ and exactly alike ⲧ/ⲑ depends on the letter starting the word after. The latter two options are attached to the letters ⲃⲓⲗⲙⲛⲟⲩⲣ as in ⲑⲙⲁⲩ, ⲉⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ (same thing basically - it is not grammar but it is just a spelling rule) ⲫⲓⲁⲣⲟ (the river Nile, not just any river), ⲑⲛⲟⲩⲛⲓ. Don't ask me why we have ⲡⲟⲩⲣⲟ, ⲡ̀ⲟⲩⲛⲟϥ, ⲡⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ, I would guess there are exceptions to every rule or perhaps the masculine article sounds subtly different between different words.
    By the way the same principle applies to the usage of ⲕ vs ⲭ - just a spelling rule as in ⲭ̀ⲟⲩⲁⲃ, ⲭ̀ⲟⲩⲱϣ as opposed to ⲕ̀ϩⲉⲙⲥⲓ, ⲕ̀ⲧⲁϩⲟ etc
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • aah, i see.
    one of the church songs (i forget which) has 'efowab' instead of 'ethowab' (holy) and i wondered if it was a bit of london accent getting in to the coptic!

    for example, people from south london will normally say they are from 'souf' london when talking!

    so now i know it is not that, we don't have sa'eedi, boharic and london coptic!
  • Not exactly @mabsoota hehe.. Ⲉⲧ/ⲉⲑ is the prefix for the adjective that follows words with definite articles, but ⲉϥ, ⲉⲥ, ⲉⲩ, are prefixes of words that follow words which are not attached to definite articles.
    Examples: ⲟⲩⲡ̅ⲛ̅ⲁ̅ ⲉϥⲟⲩⲁⲃ, ⲉⲩⲥⲱⲧⲏⲣⲓⲁ (basically another way of spelling ⲉⲟⲩⲥⲱⲧⲏⲣⲓⲁ) ⲉⲥⲟⲩⲁⲃ, ⲟⲩⲧⲣⲓⲁⲥ ⲉⲥϫⲏⲕ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ (as opposed to ϯⲧⲣⲓⲁⲥ ⲉⲧϫⲏⲕ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ)
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • ok, mu'alem, when and why would we say 'efowab'?
    i haven't quite understood the rule of which definite article to choose.
    i understand that sometimes we don't use one in english,
    like when we say 'Earth' with a capital 'E', it is a shohrthand way of saying 'the earth' without 'the' as people know we are referring to the planet.

    is it ia bit like that?
    we had coptic lessons advertised in my diocese and i signed up, but they haven't happened yet!
    (probably the coptic lessons will happen on coptic time...)
  • Hi @mabsoota
    Am I a mu'alem? Hehe.. I am not so sure about that nowadays.. I have been too distracted to learn Coptic or hymns these days!
    No it is not like the English example. Coptic words need to be attached to an article, either definitive article or indefinitive article, except in exceptional rules as when a word is followed by ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ, as in ⲅⲉⲛⲟⲥ ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ, ⲟⲩⲟⲛ ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ, ϩⲱⲃ ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ, ⲧⲁⲓⲟ ⲛⲓⲃⲉⲛ, ϣ̅ⲃ̅ⲗ̅.
    The definitive articles for the masculine are ⲡⲓ, ⲡ, ⲫ, as above, and in the feminine form ϯ, ⲧ, ⲑ. It is just ⲛⲓ for the plural - easy enough. As for the indefinitive article it is ⲟⲩ for the singular, masculine and feminine, and for the plural ϩⲁⲛ.
    Ⲟⲩⲛⲟⲩϯ ⲉϥⲟⲩⲁⲃ : Ⲫⲛⲟⲩϯ ⲉⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ
    Ⲟⲩⲥϩⲓⲙⲓ ⲉⲥⲛⲉⲥⲱⲥ : ϯⲥϩⲓⲙⲓ ⲉⲑⲛⲉⲥⲱⲥ
    Ϩⲁⲛⲗⲁⲟⲥ ⲉⲩⲧⲁⲓⲏⲟⲩⲧ : ⲛⲓⲗⲁⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲧⲁⲓⲏⲟⲩⲧ
    I hope that is clear enough.. Hehe..
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • ok, so the word 'holy' when next to 'spirit' has to be 'efowab', not 'ethowab' because the word 'spirit' is female, is that right? or is it more complicated than that?
    and yes, you are a good coptic teacher, this is why i am sharing our chat with the whole world online! 
  • Thanks @mabsoota for your encouragement.. I think it is just that you are a very keen learner.. Nothing to do with my teaching (if anything I know what I am like.. Hehe)
    Spirit is masculine, so with the definitive article it will be ⲡⲓⲡ̅ⲛ̅ⲁ̅ ⲉⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ, and without ⲟⲩⲡ̅ⲛ̅ⲁ̅ ⲉϥⲟⲩⲁⲃ
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • aaah, so efowab (sorry for my horrible transliteration) is without the definite article!
  • Yes that is right.. Ⲉϥⲟⲩⲁⲃ / ⲉⲥⲟⲩⲁⲃ, or for the definitive words ⲉⲑⲟⲩⲁⲃ are all adjectives, so technically they don't need to be attached to articles anyway.. There are of course exceptions to every rule..
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
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