Documentary Fayumic Papyri in Vienna – Reedition of Texts from CPR II and IV 


FWF project Nr. P 27781–G21

Head: Fritz Mitthof 

Co-worker: Esther Garel 

Fayumic is one of the dialects of the Coptic language, alongside the two main dialects: Sahidic (south of Egypt) and Bohairic (north). The reason for studiyng Fayumic documentary texts is twofold: the material is marked by a linguistic specificity and the documents share a common and precise place of origin : the oasis of the Fayum, a region known to have yielded thousands of documents. It is however interesting to note that the two realities (linguistic and geographic) are not always the same.

A little over 100 Coptic Fayumic texts of the Viennese collection have been published in two volumes of the Corpus Papyrorum Raineri, first by Jakob Krall, Koptische Texte. Band I: Rechtsurkunden, CPR II, Wien 1895, then by W. C. Till, Die koptischen Rechtsurkunden der Papyrussammlung der Osterreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Texte, Übersetzungen, Indices, CPR IV, Wien 1958, who republished the legal documents. Both editions however are missing a full commentary. Besides, many of the Fayumic texts published (or rather mostly only transcribed and given a short commentary) in CPR II have not seen republication in CPR IV, especially the letters. The aim of this project is also to find unpublished Fayumic documents in the collection.

The Fayumic dialect only appears in documentary texts after the Arab conquest of 641, although it exists in literary texts as early as the 4th-5th century. The first securely dated document is from 745. The majority of the texts date from the 8th to the 11th century. A more thorough study of these documents will certainly allow to be more precise in the dating of the documents and to push back the first documents by a few years.

The Coptic documents dating from after the Arab conquest also have to be studied in the light of documents written in other languagues, namely Greek (until the end of the 8th century) and Arabic, to better understand the position Coptic occupied. 

The specific features of the Fayumic dialect have not yet been extensively studied. The phonetic features are the most well know and the most easily recognizable. For example, one predominant characteristic is the exchange of the liquid consonants (/l/ instead of /r/). A difficulty is added by the fact that in documentary texts, we are faced with a non-standardized version of the dialect (or “vulgar Faijumisch” as Till called it).

The project is expected to add to our understanding of the functioning of the grammar and semantics of this dialect. A lot of words that we find in Fayumic documentary papyri are not attested elsewhere and have sometimes not even been identified. Fayumic texts also have their own peculiarities concerning the formulaic parts of correspondences as well as legal questions