DIALECT, IMMIGRANT. In Coptology, the term “immigrant dialect” means any idiom spoken outside its region of origin. The classic example is, of course, Sahidic, which in its farthest origin probably derives in some way from a regional dialect; afterward it spread upstream and downstream, and became gradually a supraregional language, the vehicular, or common, speech of the Nile Valley from Cairo to Aswan. It is reasonable to suggest that each Coptic idiom has, in principle, a territory of which it is, or originally was, the natural language (cf. GEOGRAPHY, DIALECTAL). The validity of this general statement is not affected by the fact that a dialect etc. known to scholars only in a more or less advanced stage of neutralization is evidence of a situation of compromise, which, in terms of logical and chronological evolution, is only secondary, not primary, a situation in which the more advanced the neutralization is, the more difficult it becomes to determine the geographical origin of its components.
The origin of A, F, B, and possibly M can be seen with some precision. That of L—or more precisely, that of each component of L (i.e., L4, L5, and L6) as a dialectal cluster, possibly evolved, collectively, if not degenerate, remains of the previous common speech of at least a large part of Upper Egypt—does not emerge so clearly (to the north and perhaps also to the south of A; cf. LYCO-DIOSPOLITAN). The origin of S is even more obscure, even if some arguments from its phonology (so far as it can be known from its orthography, which the majority of Coptologists think is possible) and especially from its morphosyntax suggest placing its origin in upper Middle Egypt, somewhere between the region of M and the area of which L was the current language. The reason is that the secondary components of L and their origin are still not known. This means that there is even greater ignorance of the precise character of its chief component, but there are good grounds for calling it, too, L, or pre-L, since it was from this above all that L emerged. The lack of knowledge of pre-L prevents location of its origin with any precision.
Even less is known about the secondary components of S, and hence about the precise character of its chief component, pre-S, so much so that some doubt whether it even existed and consider the search for it superfluous and illusory. From this point of view, S would not have any precise local origin; it would be a completely neutral and hybrid product, the result of a large number of compromises among the various Coptic dialects the whole length of the Nile, gathering up the results of earlier regional compromises. In this view, then, one would have to see in S ultimately some kind of a vast compromise embracing the whole “dialectal” panorama of the country, and hence a “language” in the broadest sense, not, strictly speaking, a “dialect” (cf. Kasser, 1980, pp. 103—104, n. 17).
When a local or regional dialect or idiom is spoken in the territory of its origin, it is the “autochthonous dialect” of that area. One may also use this term, by extension, for a somewhat neutralized dialect that has become regional (i.e., a large regional idiom originating in a compromise between the minor autochthonous dialect of one place and minor neighboring autochthonous dialects), so long as its use remains confined to the region in which it has established itself through these compromises.
Some Coptic idioms, each supported by an original milieu (geographical and, above all, social) more dynamic than that of its neighbors, progressively invaded neighboring territory, extending their own geographical area. This is true for S and, to a lesser hut still considerable degree, possibly also for L, and was perhaps a tendency in V (rather than M). One calls these “immigrant dialects” when they are encountered outside the areas in which they are the autochthonous idioms.
The dialectal invasion, the most important cause of the formation of an IDIOLECT, can be seen most conveniently in what appears to have been the progress of S. It very soon, and probably a long time before the strictly Coptic epoch, became the common language of the whole Egyptian Nile Valley hove the Delta. Beside it, of course, in all the important economic and political centers there was the Greek of Egypt, but this was a foreign language reserved for the Greek minority and a small elite of bilingual Egyptians. The consequences of this invasion of Sahidic, in the more or less long term, were disastrous for the other idioms, especially the autochthonous dialects of the areas involved; at least on the literary level, S progressively supplanted them and choked them off.
The Salidic invasion could take effect in two main ways: (a) by a slow continuous progression, through direct contact along the roads by land, which produced a fairly homogeneous conquest and left behind various “pockets of resistance” in corners in the country, sometimes concentrated around small towns or (later) monasteries that were particularly conservation; or (b) by a more rapid discontinuous progression, along the line of the river from large port to large port, which led in the first place to the establishment of islands of the new idiom in certain social milieus of the most important towns, while the country areas and small towns (or small ports) in between remained practically unaffected in the short and middle term, and continued for a long time faithful to their autochthonous local dialect.
According to the social class or the level of culture of those who wished to speak it (the “social” aspect of the Coptic dialects; cf. GEOGRAPHY, DIALECTAL) and according to the time elapsed since its immigration, the immigrant dialect was itself inevitably, and in varying degrees, subject to the influence of the autochthonous dialect (cf. Vergote, 1973a, 2-3, 5). This hybridization may have been practically nonexistent in those milieus which had themselves immigrated from the region where S originated or among recent immigrants for whom S was their mother tongue. But from the second or third generation onward, even in cultivated circles, and with all the more reason in milieus of a low cultural level, it would be encouraged by continual contacts between autochthonous speakers and immigrants, or descendants of immigrants, and would sometimes have reached the level of orthography (especially in vowels), where it produced perceptible modifications.
In milieus of a low cultural level, this contamination was shown by the production, in quite anarchic fashion, of very diverse idiolectal forms. In cultivated milieus in which the immigrant dialect was spoken, resistance to contamination from the autochthonous dialect may have been effective for a short time after the immigration. Succeeding generations would eventually undergo contamination to some extent, despite their will to adhere to their own autochthonous dialectal system. They would gradually come to terms not with the idiolectal anarchy of the milieus of low culture but with a kind of systematic compromise that would emerge as, in some respects, a new dialectal system slightly different from the original system that had penetrated earlier into this area of immigration. This would be a system of hybrid origin, in which the immigrant phonemic component to a large extent predominates, but the autochthonous component, though very much in the minority, also has its part.
Such may have been the case with DIALECT P, in which some have seen a variety of proto-Sahidic (reconstructed, *pS) immigrating into the Thebaid even before the Coptic period. Here, alongside a kind of *pS vocabulary that would be the major element, there would be found also, among remains of some lost local dialect, several *pS lexemes (i.e., proto-Sahidic with some phonemic characteristics that are Lycopolitan or, in a large number of cases, Akhmimic), but not *pSl (i.e., proto-Sahidic with Lycopolitan or other characteristics that are idiolectal or nonsystematic and thoroughly irregular; cf. Kasser, 1982).
Analysis of the numerous Sahidic texts found in Upper Egypt would probably allow one to discover, alongside those which are purely idiolectal and present Sl or Sa forms, others that systematically show their adoption of some Lycopolitan or Akhmimic phonemic characteristic, and hence present Sl or Sa forms.
Equally the product of cultivated Sahidic milieus in a region of which L is the autochthonous regional (or even local) dialect are some texts in immigrant S whose phonological system is entirely S (so far as one can judge from the orthography) but whose syntax and lexical stock are L rather than S. Mutatis mutandis, it could be A rather than S, if one is interested in the phenomena produced by immigration of S into an area of which the autochthonous dialect was akin to A (and no doubt very similar) and in which L, as an immigrant dialect, may have been the common speech even before the Sahidic invasion (as in the region of Nag Hammadi) and before the region was completely swamped by the immigration of S. Should one class these texts as evidence of A or, on occasion, of L, rather than of S? That would not be very reasonable, for if in theory syntactic and lexical criteria are at least as important as (or even more important than) phonological criteria in the analysis of a text, the fact remains that the last are the only ones which can in practice be applied in almost all circumstances, even if one is dealing with a trifling scrap of text in which the syntactic structures are not readily apparent and one can identify only a few isolated and not very specific words, and hence cannot find that rare word, or observe the characteristic syntactic construction, that belongs to A or L and not to S. It is, thus, to the phonological criteria that priority would ultimately be given, not in terms of any theoretical superiority but simply as a matter of convention, because these criteria are the most practical and, so to speak, universally applicable.
Therefore, these cases require the use of a siglum more complex than the earlier ones, to indicate a veneer of S phonology on either a lexical or a syntactical system that is non-S. This kind of siglum will designate either the non-S lexemes adopted into immigrant S (with a phonological orthography perfectly consistent with S) or Sahidic texts originating in another dialect, subsequently adopted into immi-grant S, and clothed in an orthography perfectly consistent with S, but as a veneer on a non-S syntax. Cases of the latter sort may occur either because of mental habits due to the non-Sahidic mother tongue of the redactor (or the translator of the first Coptic version of a Greek original) or because these writings were first composed in another dialect and then translated into Sahidic. These complex sigla will be S/l, S/a, Ss/m, S/f, and so on, for Sahidic, showing its condition as an immigrant dialect in regions where L, A, M, F, or another dialect is the autochthonous dialect: they could also be L1/a and so on if it was a case of Lycopolitan or Lyco-Diospolitan immi-grating into the territory of autochthonous A, and so on.
Sahidic is the most neutral of the Coptic idioms and became the common speech of the entire Egyptian Nile Valley above the Delta. As noted above in the description of the origins of the phenomena indicated by the sigla Sl or S/l, there are all kinds of S, of which only one is an autochthonous S while the others are immigrant. Of the productions in immigrant S, some are as completely S as the autochthonous; these will be described as “atypical” immigrant S. Others will clearly betray their status as immigrant S; they will be called “typical” immigrant S. In a lexicon, the siglum S should be assigned only to lexemes attested by autochthonous S (and the witnesses of atypical immigrant S); the others (witnesses of typical immigrant S) should be given sigla such as Sl or S/l (cf. Kasser, 1980, pp. 108—109).
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