In this thesis, a set of Sahidic-Coptic prepositions (in particular ⲉ-, ϩⲛ̄-, ϩⲓ-, ⲉϫⲛ̄- and ϩⲓϫⲛ̄-) is studied. Sahidic is a dialect of Coptic, the last stage of the Egyptian language (Afroasiatic language family).


The texts in our corpus date mainly to the 2nd and 3rd c. AD but the text witnesses (manuscripts) can be considerably younger. The framework of this study, sketched in Chapter I, is taken from Cognitive Linguistics and Linguistic Typology. Within this framework, two different approaches are chosen, the first one based on a methodology developed by Bowerman and Pederson (1992) as well as Levinson (2003) and applied on a large typological scale by Levinson and Wilkins (2006). The other approach was developed by Rice and Kabata (2007) in order to uncover the set of functions that can be encoded by means of Allative markers (e.g. Goal-directed adpositions). The text corpus providing the data for this study is the New Testament and, to a lesser extent, also the Old Testament and Apocryphal texts. In Chapter II, the Topological Relations Picture Series by Bowerman and Pederson (1992) serves as a means to identify relevant spatial relations. These relations are topological in nature (i.e. static, locative) and form the basis for an analysis of the subdivision of the spatial (topological) domain.

The results are put in relation to the material that Werning (2012, 2014a) collected for earlier Egyptian chronolects (Old to Late Egyptian). The diachronic change in the encoding is considerable. In particular, the preposition ⲉ- is not used for relations of Attachment of the localized object (Figure) to a reference object (Ground) – in contrast to its Egyptian form r- that was a usual means to express such relations in Egyptian. As a consequence, Coptic – other than Egyptian – belongs to the languages that subdivide the respective part of the spatial domain in only two parts: ON (prepositions ϩⲓ- and ϩⲓϫⲛ̄-) and IN (prepositions ϩⲛ̄- and ⲛ̄-) while Egyptian had a third sub-area, ATTACHMENT (preposition r-). The basic function of ⲉ- in Coptic is to encode a Goal in a Motion event, it is an Allative preposition. In the second part, Chapter III, the preposition ⲉ- is studied with respect to functions beyond its primary function as an Allative preposition. The number of individual functions (almost 20) is very high in comparison to other languages. As compared to the functions of earlier Egyptian r-, which Grossman and Polis (2012) gathered evidence for, the Coptic material shows the results of diachronic change. Particularly interesting is the fact that ⲉ- is well attested as a marker of objects that realize the semantic roles Patient and Themes (and several further related roles such as marker of the Perceptual, Conceptual or Emotional target). This could be part of a larger development in which argument realization by means of direct objects is superseded by other means of argument realization. Other functions such as the alleged Ablative and a context-independent Locative function, that were proposed for Egyptian r-, are refuted in the course of the analysis the latter being a matter of resultative state of a preceding fictive or factive Motion event, i.e. of an Allative use or of a fictive Path).

The differences between Egyptian and Coptic with respect to the subdivision of the spatial domain (topology) and with respect to the attested functions of the preposition r-/ⲉ- are highly significant for language Typology and suggest that further research into the diachronic development as well as into Coptic argument structure would be a worthwhile undertaking.