The Egyptian-Coptic language is the human language with the longest documented lifetime, clocking at 4,500 years prior to its extinction. Its vocabulary reflects the knowledge and worldviews of one of the formative cultures of the ancient world. In order to explore the linguistic and cultural evidence of this historical episteme, the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW) and the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig (SAW) are jointly building a comprehensive, lexically and morpho-syntactically annotated, digital corpus of Egyptian texts of all phases and scripts of the language. Based upon the results of the project “Old Egyptian Dictionary” (completed in 2012) and its “Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae”, this text corpus is being lemmatized with a diachronic lexicon and enriched with semantic and morphological information. This will allow for a digital research initiative to map the vocabulary of the Egyptian-Coptic language along the lines of its diachronic continuities and changes through its (Ancient, Middle, and Late) Egyptian, Demotic, and Coptic phases, as well as its synchronic semantic structures.
The project thus provides, for the first time, the opportunity to research texts and vocabularies across and beyond the boundaries of the individual scripts (hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic, and Coptic) in order to understand the language change which took place in Egyptian. In order to annotate, structure, and analyze the text corpus and its vocabulary, the project is developing suitable concepts, formats and procedures as well as computer tools. The aim is to enable a differential analysis of the Egyptian vocabulary throughout the entire period of its transmission. As a result, the project will contribute significantly to our understanding of the structures and transformations of the Egyptian vocabulary in the complex linguistic, historical, and social reality behind it, as well as in the comparison of Egyptian common language and languages for specific purposes. The electronic text corpus and vocabulary will be freely available for internal and external use via a dynamic user interface – the extended "Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae".
The project’s research program is conducted by two cooperating research units at Berlin (BBAW) and Leipzig (SAW). The BBAW office is in charge for entering texts from the first millennium BC to the first millennium AD into the database, and is responsible for the conceptual and technical development of the database and its lexicon. The SAW office is devoted to the development of a corpus of scientific texts, and to process their technical language.