This Ph.D. project aims at gaining new insight into medieval-Christian Nubia by focusing on its literary tradition. At its centre are expressions of spatial and temporal perspectivation in Old Nubian biblical texts, especially postpositional expressions which are equivalent to prepositions in e.g. Indo-Germanic languages.


Based on a corpus of 25 manuscript fragments in a variety of lengths a database has been created, using the open source software Fieldworks Language Explorer and including an analysis with interlinear annotations and a new translation. The relevant postpositional expressions have been identified and contrasted with the corresponding expressions in the possible Vorlage (Koine Greek and Sahidic-Coptic) to determine to which extent the corresponding strategies have been influenced by the differing structures of the topologically distinct source languages. Furthermore, the translated Old Nubian texts can provide new insights into the manuscript tradition in Christian Nubian Sudan. Thus readings in the Nubian text can be found that suggest very old Coptic and not Greek manuscript influences that were assumed so far.

As a first result it can be established that Old Nubian postpositions show a less specific semantic range than Ancient Greek or Coptic. The combination of several PPs as well as the addition of the determiner /-l-/ appears to be an instrument to gain higher precision for translation. Albeit the choice of PP rendering certain Coptic or Ancient Greek phrases is mostly consistent, the apparent variances are due to different production sites and periods.

The translation into Old Nubian seems to become more consistent and conventional in later Christian Nubian history. For instance, syntax rules of the Old Nubian where the verbal complex is located at the end of the sentence, are assimilated to the Vorlage in such a way that verbs are not found at the very beginning but in the second position of the phrase, which is quite common in Greek and Coptic.

This Ph.D. thesis is being written within the program “Ancient Languages and Texts” (ALT) of the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS).