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Author Topic: The TRUE Pronunciation of Old Bohairic  (Read 768 times)

13 April , 2019, 04:02:59 PM
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ⲧⲁⲛⲓⲉⲗ ⲅⲓⲣⲅⲓⲥ

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The TRUE Pronunciation of Old Bohairic
« on: 13 April , 2019, 04:02:59 PM »
Most of us use Emile Maher's theory of the Old Bohairic pronunciation as the true pronunciation of Bohairic Coptic, but (with respect to Emile Maher's hard work to find the old pronunciation of Bohairic) I figured out that his theory is actually INCORRECT.

I was reading one of his books called ⲥⲁϫⲓ ⲛⲉⲙⲁⲛ, and on the first page, he had the proposed pronunciation of Old Bohairic. When I looked at the back of his book, I found the sources he used to support his proposed theory of true pronunciation of Old Bohairic, and I found many of the sources he based his theory upon were from Sahidic Coptic, a completely different dialect. The thing that grabbed my attention though was a source written in 1915 by a person called Georgy Sobhi, who actually lived through the transition between Old Bohairic and Greco Bohairic. What I found interesting is that the pronunciation of Old Bohairic that Georgy Sobhi writes about does not match Emile Maher's pronunciation. This made me curious.

The thing written by Georgy Sobhi in the book ⲥⲁϫⲓ ⲛⲉⲙⲁⲛ was a transliteration of the lord's prayer
in coptic written using the latin alphabet. I then found that it is from a document called "THE PRONUNCIATION OF COPTIC IN THE CHURCH OF EGYPT " (link at the bottom). After reading this document, I have found that it is much more reliable for multiple reasons.

1) When it was written, Old Bohairic was still in some use
2) It is not a theory rather a written record of what was actually pronounced at the time
3) It is completely based on the old unified pronunciation of the church (which was the Bohairic
    Dialect)
4) It uses native speaking priests as evidence for the pronunciation
5) The lord's prayer that is transliterated is said to have been dictated from 3 different priests
     which:
            a) Speak Old Bohairic
            b) Dictated the exact same pronunciation to Georgy Sobhi
            c) Don't match Emile Maher's proposed Old Bohairic Pronunciation

Thank you for reading this and I hope that this pronunciation of Coptic spreads as it proves itself as true better.

Here is a link to the document with the TRUE PRONUNCIATION OF OLD BOHAIRIC:
https://copticsounds.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/thepronunciationofcopticinthechurchofegypt.pdf 

15 April , 2019, 01:33:52 PM
Reply #1

Offline bashandy

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Re: The TRUE Pronunciation of Old Bohairic
« Reply #1 on: 15 April , 2019, 01:33:52 PM »
Thank you for your post. Linguistics is generally defined as a descriptive study of the language. Phonetics and phonology follow-from that. I find the assertion that a certain set of pronunciation CORRECT/TRUE and another as WRONG is an oversimplistification, which lingers on being not a scientific statement.

In phonetics, pronunciation is a code, each set of symbols in a code set [word] has to be generally recognisable from others to allow for clarity, overlaps occasionally occur. Each letter can vary from an individual to the other within limits of being identifiable. e.g. Daw could be pronounced as the voiceless /t/ or the voiced /d/ or anything in between, but it would not be recognisable is pronounced as /m/ for example.
Apart from this detour, I would respectfully disagree that there is any TRUE pronunciaiton whether Old Bohairic (OB) by Emile Maher Ishaq, or G. Sobhy or Worrell or GB by Iryan Moftah or Claudius Labib or others.

What Emile Maher Ishaq did was that he traced a pronunciation set and tried to find whether this is a valid pronunciation or not. He was granted Ph.D based on his rigorous methodology to validate the authenticity of a pronunciation. This does not mean that every single person who spoke Bohairic from the 2nd century till present spoke exactly the same. It only tells that the OB pronunciation scheme is an authentic one.
With respect to Sahidic, it would be hard to consider any influence from sahidic as 'contamination' as both are dialects within the same language. Also, it can be difficult to claim that OB is Sahidic without evidence to justify this.
As for the phonetic transcription of G. Sobhy, I have no problem with it. I find his methodology to be a direct straightforward recording of how people spoke OB early in the 20th century. I do not find massive differences between Sobhy and Ishaq to be honest. I find both of them to be valid variants of late Bohairic.
I guess the main source of confusion started when terms like 'True' & 'Correct' were added as adjectives to describe Old Bohairic pronunciation, which are not the best ways to describe ponunciation.

Finally, by all means, if you find that Sobhy's pronunciation is much more valid, feel free to use it. However, I am curious about what are the differences that you discovered between both schemes.

16 April , 2019, 02:03:47 PM
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Offline bashandy

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Re: The TRUE Pronunciation of Old Bohairic
« Reply #2 on: 16 April , 2019, 02:03:47 PM »
Thank you for your reply. I did not perceive disrespect to Dr Ishaq, one has the right to agree/disagree with a phonetic theory irrespective of respect.
01. Djandja/Gshima are two of the most problematic letters when it comes to pronunciation. So, for these letters I really cannot argue much, the only argument that was intriguing is that the GB rule for pronouncing it seemed reminiscent of the way the English G is pronounced.02. For educational purposes in schools, usually a letter is assigned one phonetic value then, as the student learns other values are grasped e.g. in school books in English S is given the value of S as in sit. In reality, S is pronounced as S as in sit, S as in sun (slightly different, closer to Arabic Sad), Z as in as, J as in vision, invasion, Sh as in sugar, sure,  or silent as in island. My bet is that for educational purpose hori was equated with its most common pronunciation h however, there are a few words where it still exists as the arabic ha e.g. tobh, timsah, handous, honfa, hantour03. The Chi letter is also tricky as in Greek it has a different pronunciation, so, Copts were using a process of approximation to imitate the sound, this could vary from a person to a person, this may explain the variability.
Having said that, I see that the main purpose of the language is communication, I do not think that these would affect mutual comprehensibility massively. So, by all means, if Sobhy's pronunciation scheme is what you believe is more authentic, please feel to use it.

17 May , 2020, 09:57:07 AM
Reply #3

Offline Anaksunamun

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Re: The TRUE Pronunciation of Old Bohairic
« Reply #3 on: 17 May , 2020, 09:57:07 AM »
I’d also add that the OB Pronunciation is specific to Bohairic spoken at about right after the turn of the century right into the Arabic conquest and I feel like it is spot on... though, I’d add that it would be unwise to assume that Coptic spoken much earlier would be that much different, based upon the spelling we can assume the differences were gradual and not overwhelmingly drastic.


There are a few important pointers that I would add in order to further the study of Ancient Egyptian (not in reference to OB pronunciation at all), and that is that scholars/Egyptologists need to fill in the the older language with a preference of Coptic and not Arabic or Hebrew... even looking into the phonology of Koine/Alexandrian Greek would be a better choice, second to that dissecting the modern Arabic spoken in Egypt would also help, which is what was done in the OB Pronunciation Reform.