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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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Set Them Free?!

Set Them Free?!

Investigating Spelling and Scribal Variation in Language and History

(p.41) 3 Set Them Free?!
Scribal Repertoires in Egypt from the New Kingdom to the Early Islamic Period

Alexander Bergs

Oxford University Press

This paper presents and investigates some general issues regarding the study of scribal variation and the question of free variation in language. It shows that historical linguistics actually does not suffer from a lack of data, but that the particular data available to the historical linguist can offer new and fascinating insights into language users and the groups they belong to. In two empirical cases studies (the late Middle English Paston Letters and the early Middle English Peterborough Chronicle), this paper presents two long-term analyses of individual scribes and authors, and their role(s) in their respective social networks. It appears that scribal variation, at least for this period, was not a question of free variation, but was constrained by complex language-internal and language-external factors. The specific nature of historical data allows for a detailed study of these factors.

Keywords:   social networks, historical sociolinguistics, real-time studies, language change, innovation, diffusion

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