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Scribal Repertoires in Egypt from the New Kingdom to the Early Islamic Period$
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Jennifer Cromwell and Eitan Grossman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198768104

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198768104.001.0001

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Scribes in Private Letter Writing

Scribes in Private Letter Writing

Linguistic Perspectives

(p.227) 10 Scribes in Private Letter Writing
Scribal Repertoires in Egypt from the New Kingdom to the Early Islamic Period

Hilla Halla-aho

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the role of scribes in private letters from Roman Egypt. The role of the scribe here refers to the scribe’s activity in producing the linguistic form of the letter. Most private letters in Roman Egypt were not written by their senders, but by a scribe (usually not professional) to whom the sender dictated his message. It is pointed out that on the levels of orthography, phonology, and morphology, we see predominantly the output of the scribe. Concerning syntax, it is possible to distinguish two types of scribal behaviour: first, reproducing the author’s message in the forms it was dictated to the scribe, and secondly, composing the letter text more or less independently. Reproducing the author’s syntax appears to have been the normal practice, but in certain occasions linguistic comparison provides clear evidence that a competent scribe took care of the final wording on behalf of the author.

Keywords:   private letters, Roman Egypt, scribes, language, syntax, style, dictation

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