Title: Coptic script compared with Greek and Cyrillic

Source: Michael Everson
Date: 1997-11-25, revised 2000-01-09
Status: Expert Contribution
Action: For consideration by experts

It has been suggested that the Coptic script be de-unified from the Greek script in UCS, a suggestion which I support. While the Coptic and Greek scripts are closely related, they are not identical, and Coptic is to my knowledge never printed in the kinds of normal Times- and Helvetica-style fonts used for Greek. Compare this with the "Gaelic script" and the "Fraktur script", which have correctly been unified with the "Roman script" -- they are all proper variants of the Latin script, and languages like Irish or German, which have been written in Gaelic and Fraktur fonts, are also commonly written in Roman fonts. This is not the case for Coptic, which is only presented to the user in its native garb.

A simple comparison of a text (from Logion 3 of the Gospel of Thomas) in Coptic shows that it is quite illegible when printed in the Greek script. However, it is quite legible when printed in Cyrillic, another script derived from Greek but not unified with Greek in UCS.

In the Greek text I have added the Coptic letters SHEI and HORI; to the Cyrillic text I added only the letter HORI, as SHCHA serves very well for SHEI, but I used the Greek OMEGA in place of the Cyrillic one.

A reader of Coptic will find the text in Cyrillic script far, far easier to read than the text in Greek script. I do not suggest that the Coptic script be unified with Cyrillic. I do suggest that its unification with Greek be undone. There is no evidence that Coptic, unlike the examples of Irish and German, is ever shown in a normal Greek font -- surely the litmus test of whether a script can be unified with another or not.

Michael Everson, Evertype, Dublin, 2001-09-21