[Editorial note: [...] indicates use of Coptic, Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Akkadian, or Demotic Greek text. Original script is available for viewing in the PDF format of this article.]
VOCABULARY OF SEMITIC ORIGIN, AUTO-CHTHONOUS COPTIC. Every country has relations with its neighbors (commercial relations, military relations, mainly when it is conquered, etc.), and in the course of time its language adopts foreign words. Egypt is no exception to this rule. At a relatively recent epoch of their history, the autochthonous Egyptians adopted a great number of Greek words (among them a certain number of Greco-Latin origin), and, later on, some Arabic words (see VOCABULARY, COPTO GREEK and VOCABULARY, COPTO-ARABIC). But even the Egyptian vocabulary of the pharaonic period, which later became Coptic and is considered autochthonous with regard to these Greek and Arabic additions, is not entirely homogeneous, as attentive etymological studies reveal. Several components may be distinguished, such as an old Semitic layer that is far from being negligible (for a more recent Semitic component, see VOCABULARY, COPTO-ARABIC).
Semitic loanwords made their first appearance in Egyptian in texts of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties (1554-1305 and 1305-1196 B.C.). Being foreign personal names and place-names, they are written in the so-called syllabic orthography.
Syllabic orthography was used in Egyptian mainly to distinguish foreign names and words from Egyptian ones. In many cases, an 3 is added to the consonants: d3 may be read da, di, or du. In other cases, y and w are added: ny is read ni, dw is read du. In particular cases, short words are used: t3, land, was pronounced ta3 in the New Kingdom, and so the word is used for the syllable ta. Sw, he, and sy, she, were probably pronounced *suwa and *siya (as in Assyrian), and later, in the New Kingdom, su and si. Therefore, sw and sy were used for the syllable su and si. In two cases, syllabic orthography indicates consonants without vowels: the group r3-y was pronounced -r (at the end of a syllable); and -n (suffix of the first-person plural) represented final -n. The system has been explained by W. F. Albright (1934). Later it was strongly attacked by W. F. Edgerton (1940), but E. Edel (1949), who adopted an intermediary position, laid down the rules governing this system in different periods of the language. Syllabic orthography is more useful for reading ancient personal names and place-names than for Coptic etymology, as true Egyptian words are rarely written syllabically. Nevertheless, it is known that B, S [...], who?, derives from *ni-m and not from *n[...]m, n[...]m, thanks to syllabic writings, and that S [...], Meshir, a month name, derives from *m-[...]i-r [...]ba-d, staff, is the prototype of B, S [...], and *ba-n-r = *ba-l the prototype of B, S [...] outside, as in B, S OBOX, out (Arabic barra).
It is not always easy to assign a definite origin to the Semitic loanwords in Egyptian and particularly in Coptic: most of them may be compared with Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic forms, but some of them seem to derive from extinct languages and dialects:
[...] (S masc.), ram; compare Hebrew ’áyil; probable origin pre-Hebrew *’ayl-a (accusative)
[...] (S masc.), vulture, hawk; compare Hebrew nè er, hawk, eagle; Akkadian na[...]ru, eagle; Arabic nasr, vulture, eagle; probably from *na[...]r-i (genitive)
[...] (S masc.), price; compare Hebrew [...]á‘ar, measure, price; probably from pre-Hebrew * [...]a‘ri (genitive)
[...] (S in [...], also [...], masc.), pitch, a composed word: lam + [...]; compare Arabic zift, pitch; probably from *zift-i (genitive); Hebrew has zèfet, pitch, from ancient *zaft-i (genitive)
[...] (S), [...] (A masc.), leaven; compare Arabic su3r, rest, remainder; [...] from *s[...]r-i, *s[...]ri (genitive); [...] from *su3ri *sö3r-i (genitive)
[...] (S masc.), vinegar; compare Hebrew [...]óme[...], vinegar, from pre-Hebrew *[...]um[...]-i (genitive)
joeit (S masc. and fem.), olive, olive tree; compare Hebrew záyit, Arabic zayt, oil, probably from *zayt-i (genitive)
[...] (S fem.), [[...] (S fem.), pot; compare Hebrew kalla[...]at, cooking pot, cauldron; probably from *[...]alla[...]t-i (genitive)
[...] (B masc.), sea, wine-press, oil-press, plural [...]; compare Hebrew y[...]m (fem.), sea, basin (plural yamm[...]n and Arabic yamm, sea; probably from *yamm-i (genitive); the pural [...] derives from yammi, considered ancient adjective *yamm-[...]y: *„ amm y-[...], then *[...]amm[...]w-[...] (regressive assimilation [...]– y-[...]:- w-[...]) (This is the one case where it is certain that the Coptic form derives from an ancient [i.e., pre-Hebrew] genitive.)
[...] (B, S masc. And fem.) saw; comp. Hebrew ma[...]r, Arabic min[...]r, apparently from pre-Hebrew *ma[...]r-i (genitive)
[...] (B), [...] (S fem.) farm, small village; compare Aramaic kafr-[...], village; the ending –[...] is the Aramaic, definite article, still in use in biblical Aramaic; the Coptic form survives in the place-name Shubra, Arabic [...]ubr[...] (The correct form would be *[...]ibra . The modern pronounciation [...]ubr[...] is vulgar; compare Quft n. loc., Koptos, for Qift; Qubt-iy, Copt, for Qibt-iy, from Greek Aigypti-os.)
[...] (B masc.) rue (Ruta graveolens sive montana), demnotic b[...]w , Aramaic [...].
[...] (L subst.), army; compare Akkadian madakt-u (fem.), camp (military); compare also demotic mtgt
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