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Christianity and Monasticism in Middle Egypt$
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Gawdat Gabra and Hany Takla

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9789774166631

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774166631.001.0001

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L⋆ as a Secret Language

L⋆ as a Secret Language

Social Functions of Early Coptic

(p.185) 18 L⋆ as a Secret Language
Christianity and Monasticism in Middle Egypt

Ewa D. Zakrzewska

American University in Cairo Press

This chapter reconsiders the use of Coptic as attested in the texts belonging to the Manichaean community in Kellis (Ismant al-Kharab, Dakhla Oasis). For this particular variety of Coptic, the siglum L* has been suggested by W.-P. Funk, who thus qualified it as a variety of the so-called Lykopolitan dialect of Coptic, indicated by the siglum L. The chapter puts forward a number of hypotheses to reconstruct the motivations that could have induced the members of the Manichaean community in Kellis to use Coptic for their writings. It argues that early Coptic was not simply an Egyptian vernacular but a deliberately constructed alternative literary language and a prestige variety. The association of Coptic with Christianity is not due to its alleged function of converting “indigenous” Egyptians, but to its rise and development within early ascetic communities that were the locus of innovative and highly regarded social practices in late antiquity.

Keywords:   Coptic dialects, Lykopolis, Manichaean community, Lykopolitan dialect, Christianity, alternative literary language, social practices

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