New NEH Grant for Computational Research on Coptic

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The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently announced the approval of a grant application, co-directed by Amir Zeldes, Assistant Professor for Computational Linguistics here at Georgetown, and Prof. Caroline T. Schroeder (University of the Pacific, Religious and Classical Studies) to develop computational resources for the study of Coptic. Coptic is the language of Ancient Egypt in the first millennium AD and forms the last stage in the over 4000 year historical attestation of Ancient Egyptian, the longest in the world.

As a direct descendent of the language of the hieroglyphs, Coptic has a large corpus of codices and papyrus texts from the earliest period of Christianity and into the middle ages, which is of great interest to religious studies, history and linguistics. So far there has been relatively little computational work on Coptic compared to other languages of late antiquity, such as Latin and Greek. This initiative aims to build editing and archival environments, natural language processing tools and standards for the study of Coptic.

The project, called KELLIA (Koptische/Coptic Electronic Language and Literature International Alliance), is one of only six grants approved this year in a bilateral program to advance international collaborations with Germany. The German Research Foundation (DFG) will be funding project partners in Göttingen for €169,810 next to the $192,000 NEH grant on the US side.

The archeological site of Kellia, Egypt.

Image: Wouter Hagens / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0