Coptic Grammar


This manuscript consists of a portion of a Coptic primer by Iryan Moftah (1826–86). It lists useful phrases, with the Coptic in the left column and the Arabic on the right. Moftah avoids explanation of linguistic complexities or conjugations. This, along with the simple, everyday phrases, leads to the conclusion that the book is aimed at schoolchildren or young seminarians rather than advanced learners. Although the textbook is aimed at Arabic speakers, there is no assumption that students are acquainted with the complexities of classical Arabic grammar. There are no religious or Biblical references, and the author frequently uses colloquial Arabic to teach such everyday phrases as, “Wash your hands,” “Never taste ‘arak [the local alcoholic drink made of dates or raisins],” or “Trim the candle [wick].” The conversational phrases are grouped into topics such as “at home,” “at bedtime,” or “at meals.” Whether Moftah’s grammar texts were ever published at the Coptic press established around 1860 is not known; no printed copies are known to exist. Moftah’s primers were probably intended for his own use in the classroom at the clerical college where he taught, or as models for other teachers to copy. His manuscripts on religious, historical, and linguistic subjects are preserved in the Iryan Moftah Collection of the American University in Cairo.

Last updated: May 27, 2014