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From Coptic to Arabic in Medieval Egypt

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The question of when and where Egyptian Christians began to disuse the Coptic language and adopt Arabic remains a puzzle. The Apocalypse of Samuel of Qalamūn (ASQ) offers interesting hints about the process of language change by referring to the loss of Coptic in church functions. This paper argues that the ASQ represents Christians from the specific region of the Fayyūm and their struggle of identity maintenance that occurred after the Coptic language had generally fallen into disuse. Some scholars have speculated that the ASQ has a Coptic Vorlage, even though it is only extant in Arabic. This paper argues that the ASQ may have been originally an Arabic composition, perhaps written as late as the fourteenth century, as a means of connecting the Christian community to the Coptic language at a time when they were unable to access their tradition through Coptic-language texts.

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Affiliations: 1: Bradley University


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