Peust, Carsten
Egyptian phonology: an introduction to the phonology of a dead language — Göttingen, 1999

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https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/peust1999/0175
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Syllable structure and phonotactics

4.1

Three vowel classes in Coptic

As was recognized early, Coptic stressed vowels (on unstressed vowels D3? § 5.8) can be
arranged into three classes each of which has two members frequently showing morpho-
logical alternations with one another. In the following chart, the vowels are arranged by
their place and manner of articulation. My assumptions about the articulation of Coptic
vowels are discussed in § 5.2. The following is valid for Sahidic and Bohairic, whereas
the other dialects have somewhat different representations (Kg" §5-3).



high

low

Paleo-Coptic vowel
quality (ITS' §5.5)

class 1: back

0)

0

a

class 2: front (1)

1

&

i

class 3: front (2)

H

em

u

High and low vowels of the same place of articulation are frequently found in
morphophonological alternations.
Examples of CO-O-alternation

seiCOT /'jot/ "father" - ^lOTC /'J3te/ "fathers"

K-Wne /'sona/ "sister" - «CON /'son/ "brother"

^MCu /hjty "old woman" - ^JAO /hJV "old man"

8P0)q Prof/ "his mouth" - spO /W "mouth"

SK0)T6 /'koto/ "to turn" - sKOTq /'katf/ "to turn him"

Examples of l-A-alternation

^OiTEIT /'hwit/ "first (sg.)" - ^OffMe /'hwato/ "first (pi.)"

seBlT /a'Bit/ "honey dealer" - seBl&Te /ap'jato/ "honey dealers"

sfOTf /'tiw/ "five" - sTAeiO?T /'taju/ "fifty"

SAIC€ /'miss/ "to give birth" - »Ad£T<{ /'mastf/ "to give birth to him"

spiK€ /'rika/ "to bend" - spd,KTC /'rakts/ "inclination"

The H-6-class is less well established, Kg' § 5.5.5.

4.a Predicting the Coptic vowel class by the number of

following consonants

These morphological alternations, comparable to the phenomenon of apophony in Indo-
European languages, are unmotivated on the synchronic level. Vowel height cannot be
predicted by the phonetic environment in Coptic. From a diachronic perspective,
however, an interesting relationship becomes obvious between the height of the stressed

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