Liturgy in Coptic Unicode

Hi--all sorry if this has been asked before, but I couldn't find it in previous forum discussion. Does anyone have the liturgy typed out in a Coptic unicode font?  I'm preparing a reader of the liturgy where the Coptic portions of the liturgy are in Coptic unicode and the Greek portions are in Greek unicode (with actual Greek spellings, not Coptic transliteration).  Thanks!


  • That's a brilliant project. This is a link to the liturgy in CS Fonts you may want to use them and convert them via the tools available at or if you are using GNU/Linux the website offers support for this as well. I believe this will save a lot of time; instead of writing from scratch you will just do the editing.
  • Dear @egeey,
    Can I ask why would you like to use Greek fonts for the Greek portions of the liturgy?
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • Thanks all!

    It's not just Greek fonts--it's Greek spelling with appropriate Greek declensions/tenses of nouns and verbs.  It is nearly impossible to understand the Greek of the liturgy using the Coptic transliteration.  It would also help tremendously in studying the liturgy and translations from the Greek (rather than the Coptic attempt at and voicing the Greek).  

  • Thanks for your answer @egeey, while I totally understand what you said, I have to tell you that you risk ruining the prayers Copts used for generations. Please note that such was the way they understood and used the Greek in the liturgy and we learned it that way through their teaching and understood it, why would someone change it now? It may have meant something else in those days for the Copts to follow such usage that we or modern day Greeks struggle with now. Indeed, you ask the Greek and they will tell you that they don't understand their liturgy as well because despite the evolution of the language, tradition and heritage of the forefathers is stronger. On a non-spiritual comparison level, imagine getting rid of Shakespeare poems or prose and changing it to modern day English.. One may think of this in schools to teach the young to appreciate the status of heritage and tradition but in the Coptic church we are neither in school nor in need of making up for the imperfect "inheritance". Another thing to note, there are many instances where the prayers are made up as part Coptic and part Greek with words joined together one by one or two by two, how would you deal with that? I urge you to have a look at a project that was done with the ajbeya in three languages (or four) where your proposal is followed and you will easily be able to see for yourself how the non-uniform usage of a language, or writing system degrades and ruins the intended target. So in the end I'd like to say that I very much admire what you are starting and doing but please reconsider playing with what we have now or changing it..
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • I can see both points, however, at the time of writing liturgies and coptic literature, Coptic & Greek letters were identical in shape. Nowadays, they look different due to various historical & cultural spearation.

    Having a Greek font with proper typography helps on two:
    01. It allows the reader/cantor/singer to appreciate the difference between Greek & Coptic more
    02. It demonstrates clearly how much Greek text we have in the Coptic Liturgy

    There are drawbacks & difficulties
    01. Despite its ease, not everyone is familiar with the Greek orthography
    02. As @ophadece mentioned, Copts did not write modern Greek, it was more of a Coptic dialect of Koine Greek to some extent. consider the way some words are written in Greek e.g.
    χαιρε, και, κονσταντινος, εκκλησια, & the different pronunciation of letters e.g. 
    β was pronounced as w/b not v,
    γ was more approximated to G/Εgyptian geem ج rather than its Greek sound,
    δ was pronounced as D rather than dh,  ذ
    ε was pronounced as ə mostly
    η was pronounced as either ɪ or ə e.g. μαθητης matɪdəs
    θ was pronounced as an unaspirated t or ط at times
    π was mostly pronounced as voiced b rather than p
    τ was pronounced as t or d or  ط / ض whether it was voiced or unvoiced, it depended on its position in the word& vowels coming afterwards
    υ was pronounced as w if preceded by α, ε, otherwise it was the same
    φ was mostly pronounced as b
    χ was pronounced as k, ʃ, χ in IPA however, it does not sound like the current Greek χ

    The other difficulty is the intonation, accents, and stresses of speech, by adopting a fully Greek orthography, one is inclined to pronounce in Greek however, we are not sure how our ancestors stressed Greek load words.

    The third challenge is the multitude of Greek loan words in Coptic texts that adopted a constant shape e.g. μαρτυρος, παρθενος, θεοτοκος many Greek words were borrowed and got stuck in only one form of the word regardless their position in the sentence (whether subject, object, dative, genitive, or accusative). Also in many occasions in the liturgy the priest speaks in Coptic, the deacon & congregation respond in Greek. It can be challenging typewise.

    Overall, I guess it is an interesting endeavour, so long one does not assume that the Greek etymology of texts & words should be applied disregarding how these texts are Copticised, akin to what happened in many pidgins (eg Nigerian pidgin), creole languages (eg Caribbean creole languages) or languages with heavy influence from other languages e.g. the Arabic influence on Turkish, Persian, & Swahili. One cannot assume that a whole nation is mispronouncing English or Arabic in these languages because in the original version of the language words are spelled and pronounced differently.

    Once these issues are taken into consideration, whether a Greek typography is adopted or the Copticwas used, it would not make a lot of differences.
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  • @Bashandy

    Thank you for adding such well thought out information to the topic.

    I've always thought the explanation for the pronunciation was much simpler than that, i.e. the orthodox church does its best to preserve every jot and tittle of it's tradition, but sometimes very small cultural variations can be seen. Depending on a person's perspective these variations can be seen as imperfections, but the consequences would be far worse if we let people "fix" things as they see fit.

    For example, Erasmian pronunciation of Koine Greek just plain bugs me. When Koine Greek is read in a Greek Orthodox church, it has a modern Greek pronunciation. I'm told from personal sources that I trust, that it is likely that Koine Greek sounded a little different from modern Greek and I'm fine with that. But it's the Orthodox Church that is delivering and passing down the written and oral traditions, and I prefer to take it as it is.

    I figure it's the same with the Greek in the Coptic tradition. If you take, for instance, the Trisagion. The way it's pronounced in a Coptic Church will invariably sound odd to a native Modern Greek speaker. It's pronounced that way because the Church is in itself the best record of tradition that we have.

    That being said, I am also interested in linguistics. The idea of piecing together what ancient languages sounded like is fascinating to me, but I'm always skeptical. You said a lit of very interesting things in you post about how Greek was pronounced in Egypt in the first few centuries. Could you please identify your source? I've looked for good info on this a couple of times in the past, but I always feel I com up short.

    My favorite unprofessional theory is that in a preliterate society language varied a lot from region to region and possibly even from town to town. I find it easiest to believe that there isn't a "right" way that "people" spoke Greek in "those days" even among people who did a lot of travelling. I expect pronunciation was extremely fluid, not very well defined, and relied more on consonants than vowels. I figure that as more and more people became literate, vowel sounds started becoming more anchored by a small number of letters and letter combinations. I find it easy to believe that in early Greek, the different vowel combinations represented different sounds, but I find it hard to believe that those sounds were the same everywhere. I expect simplification came with standardization.

  • Thank you for your reply. My understanding about the linguistic theory is quite limited as I am not a professional lnguist, however, the approach of assuming that there is a 'correct' pronunciation, based on another language, from another geographical location, and hence loan words and phrases are considered 'corrupt' if they do not match the original resource language, has been challenged. According to various videos by Prof Noam Chomsky, language has always been a fluid concept with high degrees of regional variations, so for example Macadonian Greek, would show differences in pronunciation, phonology, than Athenian Greek etc. The same with Coptic Bohairic sounded different from Sahidic oor Fayyummic dialect etc. The same with French, French language, tended to sound more Italian at the east than the west.

    With central education, and rise of nationalism, one dialect rose to power RP in Britian, Parisian French in France etc. Eventually, some started to assume that the 'elite/correct' pronunciation/dialect 'should be' like this or that. Also, the the assumption of a central 'correct' dialect & regional variation on an 'original' started to appear.

    This idea has infested and eroded the regional traditions, labelling them as less of a proper pronunciation, this seems to have affected Coptic language in a negative way, where Modern Erasmian pronunciation of Koine Greek was assumed as the 'correct' version of how Greek should be written & pronounced. Hence, the best thing is to return back to the 'origin'.

    In modern linguistics, the regional changes of dialects are looked upon as inevitable product of a language that represent the growth of the loan language into another culture, and the natural evolution of the language in different places, Akin to the evolution of the white bear for evolutionary advantage, one cannot assume that we should paint the polar bear brown as it was originally a brown bear.

    To return to Coptic, it would be an error to say that Copts are mispronouncing Greek, or that there is a 'correct' version of Greek that we can adjust Coptic loan words or phrases towards it. The same token is applied to pidgins & creole languages, it would be impossible to say that all English-based creole language use English incorrectly, as it developed into another form. It would be also wrong to assume that Egyptians are pronouncing Arabic wrong as colloquial Egyptian Arabic substitutes th with t, dh with d, q with glottal stops, and sounds different that Saudi Arabian Arabic. Though we know that the Arabian Peninsula (inc. Yemen) where the sources of Arabic.

    I would suggest which has excellent resources about the phonology of Coptic especially Ishak, Emile Maher: Worrell, & Sobhy, Georgy. I would also invite you to read or watch some of the works/lectures of Noam Chomsky about the philosophy & history of languages. There is also a YouTube Channel by Paul LangFocus that offers an overview about the history of languages, I would recommend watching Tok Pisin, Carribean Creole Languages, Nigerian Pidgin, Greek, Russian, Turkish, Swahili, & searching for other creole languages that are related to a language that you know well, to see how they were morphed. For example, how English as a Germanic language adapts words from Romance languages.

    I find Černy's etymological dictionary of Coptic helpful. It offers the roots of most words found in Crum's dictionary, and comparing how Copts & ancient Egyptian used loan words from Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Akkadic, Syriac and other language.

    In brief, I would like to say that language develop in an organic way of their own, assuming that there is a right/wrong squeezes the language into an unhelpful binary algorithm, the prestigious state of another language does not render it the authority or the correct version of the dialect/language.
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