Friday, October 20, 2006


No, no, no, no, no. Oh no. I really did not need to see this, not in the light of day and definitely not before going to sleep. I mean, the post at sounded so promising, so hopeful:

"Here's an article about some people who were raised speaking Coptic."

Yay, a dead language coming to life! That's just gotta put a little giddy-up in your step, right? So naturally, I clicked the link. And what is the first thing I see?

Coptic is a combination of the ancient Egyptian languages Demotic, Hieroglyphic and Hieratic.

I guess that's finally it. My pet peeve about the difference between a language and a writing (ok, granted, Demotic is both) has just turned into a major friggin' psychotic break. And the whole historical-linguistics and evolution-of-languages thing isn't even worth bitching about. I mean.... come on:

Combining the Greek alphabet with Demotic, Coptic is a unique conglomeration of languages.

That's right, unique. Very unlike combining Latin alphabet with Anglosaxon to get English, or Hebrew alphabet with German to get Yiddish or again Greek alphabet with Slavic to get Old Church Slavonic*.


Did I mention how much I despise journalists?

*Which, of course, ain't how it went down.


language said...

Oh, man. I feel for you. I'm just glad I got some sleep before being confronted with that particularly egregious piece of idiocy.

Lameen said...

I've heard of cases of people trying to speak Coptic at home, but my understanding is that, excluding such revival efforts, the last native speaker had died by the 1600s. I suspect Ms. Zaki is the child of Arabic-speaking parents who decided to speak Coptic in their house. Still, it would be nice to think that there was still a direct line of first-language transmission...

Anna in Portland (was Cairo) said...

Wow, I have never met anyone who said that they spoke Coptic outside of a liturgical language. Of course most of the Copts I met in Egypt were not all that super duper educated (I lived in Shobra for 5 years) but still...

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