This PhD thesis investigates the means used by the Egyptian language (2500 BC – 1600 AD, esp. in the Coptic stage from 300 AD) to verbalize motion events.

Research

Space and spatial relations are not only cognitively processed in the human brain but can also be verbally expressed in language. The domain of space in language comprises the (static) localisation of a figure with respect to a ground and the change of location of a figure with respect to a ground. The latter is called a motion event. My PhD thesis studies the means used by the Egyptian language (2500 BC – 1600 AD, esp. in the Coptic stage from 300 AD) to verbalize motion events.

Languages vary considerably in their way of encoding a change of location. English, for instance, prefers verbs like creep, run, or climb that encode manner of motion and particles like down, up, out to encode path. Other languages like the Romance family do not make abundant use of manner-of-motion verbs and don´t usually use extra morphemes to express path information either. In the past 25 years, much research has been conducted in linguistic typology (and other disciplines) in order to analyse and compare the inventories and preferences in encoding strategies of motion events in the world´s languages and to extrapolate their cognitive repercussions.

In the long attestation period of the Egyptian language there is evidence of a change in its preferred motion encoding strategy. I analyse the way to express motion events in Coptic – the latest stage of the Egyptian language – particularly on the basis of a text corpus from the 3rd/4th centuries AD that consist of 13 papyrus codices found near Nag Hammadi (the Nag Hammadi library). In a second step, I will trace the diachronic changes in the preferred motion event encoding strategy in order to demonstrate the typological shift that can be observed.