Coptic casing; N1658 proposal to encode Coptic in ISO/IEC 10646

From: Marc Wilhelm Küster (
Date: Wed Dec 10 1997 - 04:11:36 EST

Somewhat belatedly I would like to comment on Michael Everson's mail on Coptic casing.

  According to my information Coptic is, contrary to what "Les caractères de l'Impremerie Nationale" suggest, a caseless language. To comment on this question I have not only studied Walter C. Till's standard Coptic Grammar (Koptische Grammatik (Saidischer Dialekt). Leipzig 1955), but also a considerable corpus of Coptic texts, none of which show any distinction between upper- and lowercase Coptic letters.
  Traditional Coptic does not even know word divisions. Till is quite clear that "In den koptischen Handschriften (mit Ausnahme ganz spaeter) wird der Text ohne Worttrennung geschrieben. In den modernen Drucken wird eine Einteilung in Worte durchgefuehrt, wobei allerdings keine allgemein anerkannten Grundsaetze herrschen"(p. 44. Translation: In Coptic manuscripts (with the exception of very recent ones) text is written without word division. In current prints word division is introduced, though without universally accepted rules.)

  It is true that Faulmann in his "Das Buch der Schrift" (Wien 1880) gives upper and lowercase Coptic letters, but with the exception of zita/zeta and Hori the latter are only inflated forms of their smaller counterparts.

  Furthermore, I have consulted experts in Tuebingen's Aegyptologischem Institut (chair Prof. Schenkel) who are among Germany's leading specialists in the field and who concur in this judgement.

   I have allowed myself to forward them a copy of N1658 (Proposal to encode Coptic in ISO/IEC 10646) for consultation. They have agreed to discuss this question with Egyptologists from other universities and to make suggestions for improvements / additions, should they feel the need.

  It is quite possible that in the course of this consultation the need for uppercase Coptic letters might reappear.

  Best regards,

        Marc Küster

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