Sporadic Dialect


A “sporadic dialect” is any dialect attested by one or more texts that, while certainly idiolectal, are of a “transparent” IDIOLECT, allowing one to see clearly the greater part of the essential dialectal characteristics of the idiom; however, throughout the document(s), these characteristics are rivaled by those of another dialect that is continually more strongly attested.

A sporadic dialect may be known only from almost pure witnesses that are not idiolectal, but are (like Husselman, 1947, and Quecke, 1974, for B4, a subdilect of B; cf. DIALECTS) probably (and unfortunately) too brief to provide a truly exhaustive description of most of its principal phonological and other characteristics.

Such was the case with M when Kahle (1954, pp. 120-27) described it before the discovery of the four great manuscripts known today: the Psalms (in rather good condition, but unpublished), the Gospel of Matthew (in perfect condition and carefully edited by Schenke, 1981), the first half of Acts (in perfect condition, but unpublished), and the Pauline epistles (with many lacunae, and rapidly published by Orlandi, 1974).

Such was also the case with B74 (a southern [?] and slightly archaic [?] subdialect of B; cf. DIALECTS), which forms one of the components of the idiolect P. Bodmer III (first hand), before the discovery of Vat. Copto 9, a papyrus codex of the Minor Prophets now in the Vatican Library but still unpublished (cf. Kasser 1958, and 1966, p. 66-76).

So it is, and even more evidently, with DIALECT , a PROTODIALECT of L, for in , where  may appear for /ç/ (60 percent of the cases), it is strongly rivaled by s, (40 percent; cf. Kasser, 1979; 1980b, pp. 83-84; 1981, pp. 112-13).

A partially sporadic dialect (or PROTODIALECT, METADIALECT, or subdialect) will, like P, for example, have some of its essential phonemic characteristics fully attested by orthography (thus  =/ç/, q = /x/), while others will be attested only in sporadic fashion (thus  = /’/ in a primitive state of evolution only [graphic vocalic duplication in a secondary state, as in S, but also frequently omitted], and so on; cf. Kasser, 1980a).


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  • Husselman, E. M. “A Bohairic School Text on Papyrus.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 6 (1947):129-51.
  • Kahle, P. E. Bala’izah: Coptic Texts from Deir el-Bala’izah in Upper Egypt. Oxford and London, 1954.
  • Kasser, R. Papyrus Bodmer III Evangile de Jean et Genèse I-IV,2, en bohaïrique. CSCO 177-178. Louvain, 1958.
  • . “A propos des différentes formes du conditionnel copte.” Muséon 76 (1963):267-70.
  • . L’Evangile selon saint Jean et les versions coptes de la Bible. Neuchâtel, 1966.
  • . “Relations de généalogie dialectale dans le domaine lycopolitain.” Bulletin de la Société d’égyptologie, Genève 2 (1979):31-36.
  • . “Usages de la surligne dans le Papyrus Bodmer VI.” Bulletin de la Société d’égyptologie, Genève 4 (1980a):53-59.
  • . “Prolégomènes à un essai de classification systématique des dialectes et subdialectes coptes selon les critères de la phonétique, I, Principes et terminologie.” Muséon 93 (1980b):53-112. “…, III, Systèmes orthographiques et catégories dialectales.” Muséon 94 (1981):91-151.
  • . “Un Nouveau Document protolycopolitain.” Orientalia 51 (1982):30-38.
  • Lacau, P. “Fragments de l’Ascension d’Isaïe en copte.” Muséon 59 (1946):453-57.
  • [Leipoldt, J.] Aegyptische Urkunden aus den königlichen Museen zu Berlin, herausgegeben von der Generalverwaltung, koptische Urkunden. Berlin, 1904.
  • Orlandi, T. Papiri della Università degli Studi di Milano (P. Mil. Copti), Vol. 5, Lettere di San Paolo in copto ossirinchita, edizione, commento e indici di T. Orlandi, contributo linguistico di H. Quecke. Milan, 1974.
  • Quecke, H. “Em altes bohairisches Fragment des Jakobusbriefes (P. Heid. Kopt. 452).” Orientalia 43 (1974):382-93.
  • Schenke, H.-M. Das Matthäus-Evangelium im mittelägyptischen Dialekt des Koptischen (Codex Scheide). Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 127. Berlin, 1981.
  • Worrell, W. H. Coptic Texts in the University of Michigan Collection. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1942.


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