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Aspects of variations in Byzantine Greek Documents of the patriarchal chancellery of Constantinople (14th c.)

Christian Gastgeber
  • Austrian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Medieval Research, Division of Byzantine Research, Vienna, A-1020, Austria
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Published Online: 2017-10-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0017


A unique collection of about 900 Greek documents, issued by the chancellery of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the 14th c., provides insight into the linguistic level at one place in the capital of the Byzantine Empire. So far research focussed nearly exclusively on their historical or juristic interpretation, the big data for historical sociolinguistics - a general desideratum for Byzantine literature (Hinterberger 2015) - were not taken into account, only some text pragmatic aspects and the use of spoken Greek elements in letters sent abroad were addressed in studies and did unfortunately not entail further investigation. This article focusses on a sociolinguistic point of view and outlines two aspects of variations: a) in order to meet the addressee’s linguistic level and b) to “exclude” the addressee from the learned community (see also Hickey 2012). Three case studies exemplify the emphasis that is put on the intentional use of linguistic variations even in a chancellery with more or less rigid forms.

Keywords: medieval Greek; Byzantium; historical sociolinguistics; language of chancellery; code switching; language variation; Greek manuscripts


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About the article

Received: 2016-12-28

Accepted: 2017-07-02

Published Online: 2017-10-28

Published in Print: 2017-10-26

Citation Information: Open Linguistics, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 342–358, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0017.

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