This chapter draws attention to the importance of studying not only linguistic variation in language, but also the patterned heterogeneity that can be related to it - in other words, linguistic varieties. Whereas the presence of varieties such as foreigner talk, female speech, colloquial language, etc. in the Classical period has received considerable attention, much less work has been done on the Post-classical and Byzantine periods, a situation which this edited volume hopes to remedy. Before outlining the contributions to the volume, we address a couple of central theoretical questions to research on linguistic varieties, such as the relationship between concepts like ‘variant’, ‘variety’ and ‘variation’, the modeling of varieties in terms of a ‘variational space’, the relationship between varieties, and the different methodologies that can be adopted to study linguistic varieties.
This study investigates, through a qualitative approach, the distribution of finite verb forms expressing absolute time within a small corpus of Ptolemaic private papyrus letters, particularly focusing on the use of the present, perfect and aorist indicatives. Since sender and recipient do not share the same chrono-topic coordinates, compared to other forms of discourse, the epistolary communication, which is time-delayed and mediated by letters, offers an interesting perspective on the use of those tenses that are anchored to the moment of utterance. As a result, the sender’s point of view may shift from his/her own present (i.e. the moment of the encoding) to the receiver’s (i.e. the moment of the decoding), alternatively assumed as reference points for the statement. Scholars report similar cases in letters only for the past tenses (accordingly labelled as epistolary), through which - unexpectedly - sometimes the senders describe events occurring at the moment of writing. However, our survey highlights a number of inconsistencies in the anchoring of the verb not only in the past tenses, but also in the primary stems here under examination. In conclusion, the notion of epistolary tense - traditionally restricted to past tenses - may therefore represent a heuristic tool enabling a better understanding of the category of grammatical tense in letters.
This chapter examines how anteriority and posteriority are expressed in infinitive complement clauses as attested in a corpus of official papyrus documents (I-II CE). It is found that both the perfect and the aorist infinitive are used in the function of the perfective past, and that the future infinitive is relatively common despite the gradual omission of the Ancient Greek synthetic future. It is argued that these documents can also reflect Post-classical syntactic phenomena, in contrast to the view that Post-classical official documents closely follow the example of Classical Greek. In addition to official documents (such as receipts), which may display lower-register features, non-Classical phenomena can also be found in documents displaying no significant divergences from Classical Greek (namely, in mostly reports and applications). Furthermore, it is found that the Classical Greek construction of the aorist infinitive conveying anteriority is often a modern editor’s suggestion rather than a certain reading, although it is sometimes attested in mostly higher-register documents from my corpus.
The corpus of Greek documentary papyri from Egypt consists of various types of documents, such as letters, contracts and accounts, showing different types of linguistic variation. The concept of register is applied here to examine the relationship between the presence of non-standard orthography and the situational context according to the situational variables setting, participants, genre and production circumstances. Quantitative study shows that the participants involved and the genre of the document are predictors for the amount of orthographic variation that is found in a document. Qualitative analysis of the documents in a number of archives reveals that there are also other important factors, such as the choice of scribe, method of production and the stage of composition of the text that is preserved to us, to explain the presence of orthographic variation in the corpus of documentary papyri.
This chapter gathers the examples of deviating spellings found in four documentary papyri written by Nemesion, a tax collector for the Egyptian village of Philadelphia, in the first century CE, with the aim to ascertain the features of the phonemic system of Greek spoken by the writer. The main conclusion is that such spellings evidence a number of phonemic features of an idiolect of Koine Greek characterized by a pronunciation with interferences from the Egyptian vowels and consonants. The phonemic Greek idiolect of Nemesion most probably reflects the sociolect of many adults who lived in Egypt at that time and were bilingual in Greek and Egyptian.
In this chapter, several metrical varieties in a corpus of Byzantine book epigrams are explored. More specifically, we look into a number of varieties in metrical colophons of the type ἡ μὲν χεὶρ ἡ γράψασα ‘the hand that wrote [this]’, which was a very popular colophon throughout the entire Byzantine period. In its canonical form, these epigrams follow a dodecasyllabic metrical pattern, but many scribes freely experimented with the wording and the metrical structure of these colophons, which gives us a unique insight into the mechanics behind the colometrics of these texts and, by expansion, of Byzantine texts in general. The modern cognitive-linguistic theory of Information Units provides a fitting framework to interpret these varieties and to see them in a way that is different from the traditional reading of written texts. Indeed, the specific characteristics of these texts allow us to attribute certain oral characteristics to them, while still maintaining their written status. From this point of view, multiple reoccurring “mistakes” in the metre turn out to be varieties in disguise, originating from a wrongful pairing of correct metrical units (cola).
Linguistic variation in Byzantine literary Greek has normally been attributed to differing levels of education and competence, or stylistic choice. In this paper it is suggested that some variation may be due to discursive factors and communicational needs. A corpus taken from the Letters and the Chronicle of Symeon the Magistros and Logothete (X CE) is investigated, and variation with regard to the occurrence, and use, of verb forms, subordinating conjunctions and particles is discussed.
Specialists of the history of Ancient Greek scholarship and modern-day sociolinguists alike have made observations regarding the seemingly “distinctive” status of syntax: the former have argued there is no coherent theory of syntax in Ancient grammatical treatises, and the latter that syntactic variation is much less prominent in modern languages than lexical or phonetic/orthographic variation. The aim of this contribution is to confront these two perspectives by studying linguistic variation in three different types of sources: petitions in the Katochoi of the Sarapieion archive (II BCE), Phrynichus’ Ecloga (II CE), and the Life of Euthymius and its later metaphrasis (VI/X CE). It appears that syntactic variation plays a different role in these three types of sources, which I explain by referring to the cognitive status of syntax, which is more schematic and complex than lexis, and therefore less easily focused upon in “observer-centered” sources such as the Ecloga. At the same time, I suggest that culture-specific explanations should be taken into account, too.
This paper deals with different varieties of Greek in Egypt setting them in their social and linguistic context and identifying their distinctive characteristics. It offers a description of chosen varieties in a given context explaining the language usage and common features of the variety. In addition to this, the paper combines extra-linguistic contextual information with language usage. The scribes had diverse educational backgrounds and the documents had different functions, which had an impact on the linguistic output. Different educational background produced variation even inside the same genre and register. The overall analysis ultimately seeks to illustrate and understand the rate of language change in various linguistic situations. The main areas of study are the Oxyrhynchites and the Fayum area on the one hand and the Eastern Desert on the other, which represent very different linguistic areas. The Fayum with the nearby Nile valley was the most Hellenized area in Egypt, with many L1 Greek speakers. Thus, it is an area where we might expect to meet the highest number of professional Greek L1 scribes. The second area differs both linguistically and contextually from the Fayum and the Nile Valley. The Eastern Desert included a caravan route from the south to the Nile Valley, but there were also military routes with numerous praesidia, Roman forts, between the Red Sea and the Nile. The crucial difference between these two areas was the availability of professional scribes. The residents of the praesidia either had to write themselves or use anyone who had some writing skills. These Roman forts were lodged by many L2 Greek speakers, for whom their L1 produced contact-induced effects when writing L2 Greek.