Freie Universität Berlin

Service Navigation

Language Change within Coptic Egyptian

Long-term Research Project on Greek Loanwords in Coptic Egyptian Moved to Freie Universität Berlin

№ 362/2015 from Nov 17, 2015

The long-term research project “Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic” (DDGLC) is in its second phase of funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and since November 2015 has moved to Freie Universität. The involved researchers are working to produce a systematic, comprehensive, and detailed lexicographical compilation and description of Greek loanwords as attested in the entire Coptic corpus through every dialect, each kind of text, and in pre-Coptic Egyptian. The project will eventually record 1500 years of contact-induced language change of the Coptic Egyptian language. The project is expected to continue through 2024 with four lexicographers, an IT staff member, and various student assistants working under Professor Tonio Sebastian Richter at the Egyptology Institute of Freie Universität.

"The language change in the ancient Coptic Egyptian language can be observed over more than 4,000 years of continuous textual tradition," says Professor Tonio Sebastian Richter. "This is a unique opportunity for historical linguistics." Changes in Egyptian vocabulary took place without external motivation for the first 2500 years after the invention of writing around 3000 BC. Beginning in the 4th century BC, when linguistic interaction between Egyptians and Greeks began to occur constantly, language change became apparent in vocabulary. In the approximately one thousand years between the conquest of Egypt by Alexander in 331 BC until the Arab invasion in AD 642, Coptic Egyptian was enriched with more than 5000 Greek words in almost all parts of speech and semantic fields. "Up to now this vast vocabulary consisting of loanwords was virtually untapped," said Professor Tonio Sebastian Richter.

During the first funding phase, the project was affiliated with the Egyptology Institute in Leipzig.


Prof. Dr. Tonio Sebastian Richter, Egyptology Institute, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-70291, Email:

Homepage of the Project