Lesson 3
Lesson 2 Exercises / Courses / Lambdin. Introduction to Sahidic Coptic / Lesson 3 Lesson 3 Vocabulary

Lesson 3

 3.1 Relative clauses. As we shall see in subsequent lessons, relative clauses in Coptic exhibit a variety of forms, depending on the type of predication involved. In the present lesson we shall consider only those relative clauses associated with sentences with adverbial predicates. Note the transformation

ⲡⲣⲱⲙⲉ ϩⲙ̄ ⲡⲏⲓ

(ⲡⲣⲱⲙⲉ) ⲉⲧ ϩⲙ̄ ⲡⲏⲓ

The man is in the house.


(the man) who is in the house


The relative pronoun ⲉⲧ functions here as the subject of the relative clause; it is not inflected for number or gender:

ⲧⲉⲥϩⲓⲙⲉ ⲉⲧ ϩⲓ ⲧⲉϩⲓⲏ

the woman who is on the road

ⲛ̄ϩⲗ̄ⲗⲟ ⲉⲧ ϩⲛ̄ ⲑⲉⲛⲉⲉⲧⲉ

the monks who are in the monastery


Negation is with ⲁⲛ: ⲛ̄ϩⲗ̄ⲗⲟ ⲉⲧ ϩⲛ̄ ⲑⲉⲛⲉⲉⲧⲉ ⲁⲛ.

Relative clauses cannot be used to modify an indefinite noun. This is an important general rule of Coptic.

Any relative clause may be substantivized, i.e. converted to the status of a noun, by prefixing the appropriate form of the definite article:

ⲡⲉⲧ ϩⲙ̄ ⲡⲏⲓ

the one who (he who, that which) is in the house

ⲧⲉⲧ ⲙⲛ̄ ⲡϣⲏⲣⲉ

the one (f.) who is with the boy

ⲛⲉⲧ ϩⲓ ⲡϫⲟⲓ

those who (those things which) are on the ship


Such constructions may refer to persons or things, depending on the context.

 The relative clause ⲉⲧ ⲙ̄ⲙⲁⲩ, who (which) is there, is used to express the further demonstrative "that":

ⲡⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲉⲧ ⲙ̄ⲙⲁⲩ

that man

ⲛⲉϫⲏⲩ ⲉⲧ ⲙ̄ⲙⲁⲩ

those ships


3.2 Greek nouns. The typical Coptic text contains a large number of Greek loanwords. Greek masculine and feminine nouns retain their gender; Greek neuter nouns are treated as masculine:

ὁ ἄγγελος


the angel

ἡ ἐπιστολή


the letter

ἡ ψυχή


the soul

τὸ πνεῠμα


the spirit

τὸ δω̆ρον


the gift


Greek nouns appear in the nominative singular form of Greek and are usually not inflected in any way. Occasionally, however, a Coptic plural ending is added to a Greek noun:


the letters  


the souls


The Greek noun ἡ θάλασσα (the sea) was borrowed as ⲧ.ϩⲁⲗⲁⲥⲥⲁ, i.e. ⲑ was taken as the definite article plus ϩ. Thus, "a sea" is ⲟⲩϩⲁⲗⲁⲥⲥⲁ.

Initial χ, φ, ϑ, ψ, ξ of Greek nouns are considered two consonants in attaching the definite article (cf. Intro., p. x).


the country


the soul


the philosopher


the offering