[Editorial note: [...] indicates use of Coptic or Arabic text. Original script is available for viewing in the PDF format of this article.]
‘AYIN. ‘Ayin (= ‘) is the voiced laryngeal fricative (Vergote, 1945, pp. 10, 72-76, 79-80), the Arabic [...]. It belongs to the phonological inventory of ancient and also later Egyptian, perhaps even as far as the beginning of demotic (cf. Vergote, 1945, pp. 122-23, and 1973, pp. 31-32; du Bourguet, 1976, pp. 3-4, 75). However, it probably does not belong any longer to the phonological inventory of Coptic or even Pre-Coptic, not even as a CRYPTOPHONEME, in contrast to ALEPH. (Hence, this discussion will set aside the hypothesis of those who have been tempted to see, or have actually thought to see, a phonemic survival of ‘ in the second element of the graphic vocalic gemination [see GEMINATION, VOCALIC] typical of certain lexemes belonging to S etc.)
Like the lost 3 or the revived /’/ (cf. ALEPH), ‘ayin nonetheless plays an important role in Coptic phonology; its presence, although anterior to Coptic, has not only influenced the vocalization of contemporary Egyptian but has also often left its mark in the vocalization of certain Coptic dialects and subdialects. On the other hand, it will be noted that in numerous cases ‘ itself has not entirely disappeared but has survived in some way, being transformed into /’/, this phonological aleph (in tachysyllabication) normally appearing in orthography (as a phenomenon of bradsyllabication) through the graphic doubling of the phonologic tonic vowel preceding this /’/ (“echo effect”), except in the final position (se below and SYLLABICATION).
Thus, according to Vergote (1973, pp. 30-33):
(1) At the beginning of the tonic syllable, both at the beginning and within the word, ‘ has disappeared in Coptic without leaving traces (e.g., [...], life; [...], be pure) or, just as in the other positions (see below), the ‘ (after the general disappearance of 3) has taken the value of the laryngeal occlusive /’/, which is rendered by the first element (unstressed but the most-voiced) of a hiatus in the archaizing form of writing rmt [...] > languages or DIALECTS etc., S etc. [...], rich.
(2) At the beginning and end of the unstressed pretonic syllable and in the stressed final syllable, ‘ has generally disappeared, though leaving traces in the vocalization (“anteriorization of the stressed vowel, or articulation of vowels more and more forward, /o/ > /a/ and /a/ > /e/, /o/ being less forward than /a/, and /a/ even less than /e/); thus atonic [...]; S, B tonic [...] instead of o; F tonic [...] instead of [...], as in [...] ( a) > [...], etc., oath; [...] > [...], etc., wash the hands. At the end of monosyllabic words the ‘ > /’/ is sometimes preserved in some way (tachysllabically) in A and F and there rendered (orthographically) by the second element (unstressed and the less-voiced) of a hiatus (where it plays the role of a “similiglide”; cf. Kasser, 1981b, p. 35), while in B this essentially vocalic linkage has become a veritable diphthong (its second element being the glide /j/), as in ba‘ > ba’ > S [...] / ba, A, L /b / b[...], B /b[...]j/ b[...], F /b[...]j/ [...], palm (cf. ALEPH, end of article); but note, on the other hand, dabá‘ > S, A, L /tb[...]/ [...], B /thb[...] / [...], F /tb[...] / [...], ten thousand.
(3) At the beginning of the unstressed syllable before a consonant and in the unstressed final syllable of a word, ‘ has been preserved (in some way) in Coptic in the form of /’/, except in M, W, V4, F4, B (and its subdialects), and G, as in [...]a‘ad > / [...]’t/ S [...], B [...], to cut. When ‘ was the third radical, there was inversion (except in some particularly archaic idioms; see below, but the ‘ > /’/ did not modify the “timbre” of the vowel, as in mú[...]‘u > S /m [...], B /m / [...], crowd. Here, however the archaic orthography will be noted (unstressed finals in [...] instead of the usual [...] or [...], with at the same time generally no graphic vocalic gemination), which attracts attention in some idioms: the PROTODIALECT P (in its most ancient form, phonologically very often similar to a reconstructed *ppS, cf. DIALECT P) and the peripheral and often archaic subdialect F7; they are survivals from a stage in which the metathesis had not yet taken place and ‘ has retained its value, preserving the /a/ that derives from old a and u (which shows the late date of the change in question). F5 and V5 for their part present at once the gemination caused by ‘ > /’/ and the peculiar atonic final vocalization (-e instead of the usual -i) resulting from the still active influence of ‘. Finally, F4, V4, and W appear in a manner analogous to P and F7, with, however, in this case, as in V5 and F5, an atonic final vowel in [...] instead of the usual [...], as in mú[...]‘u > P (and F7) /me[...], W, F4 /m[...], F5 /m [...] (S, B see above), crowd; [...], F5 [...], cf. [...], finger (cf. Kasser, 1981a, 94-95). In the cases of /’/ < ‘ at the end of a tonic syllable before a consonant, S presents an [...] instead of o; on the other hand, it has a tonic o before the /’/ derived from other consonants, as in dr.t.f. > /t[...]’tf/ [...], his hand. This proves that at the time of the general change at first in B, later in S, from /a/ to /o/ between the seventh and the sixth centuries A.D., ‘ had preserved it value as a voiced laryngeal fricative and had not yet become the unvoiced laryngeal occlusive /’/ called ALEPH (Vergote, 1973, pp. 31-32). On the other hand, the presence of the tonic [...] in B, despite the disappearance of /’/ < ‘, shows that the latter phoneme is still later (e.g., wá‘bu S /w[...]’b/ [...], B /w[...]b/ [...], holy). When the ' precedes [...], S and B and even A and L present an o; it must be concluded that by differentiation (“dissimilation”) between the two laryngeal frications, the voiced and the unvoiced, ‘ had already become /’/ before the general change of /a/ to /o/ had come about (e.g., yá‘[...]u > S, A /[...]’h/ oo[...], B /j[...]h/ [...], moon). The ‘ that ends the atonic final syllable of a word has undergone a metathesis, without, however, modifying the quantity of the tonic syllable, which thereby became closed; when the second radical was [...], either ‘ disappeared or (after metathesis) it was entirely assimilated to this consonant; sometimes ‘ was changed into [...]; e.g. p[...]na‘ > S /p[...] / [...], B /ph[...]nh/ [...] (cf. F5 [...]), to change; ‘ [...] > S /[...]/ [...], B etc. [...], etc., stand, stay; [...]ma‘ > S / [...] (F5=S), B [...], book (Vergote, 1973, pp. 30-33).
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.