Previous studies have indicated the social significance of linguistic variation in Postclassical Greek (III BC – VI AD). The general aim of this project is to gain insight into the nature of morpho-syntactic variation, focusing on the documentary papyri. For various reasons these documents present a unique, though as yet unexploited, opportunity for such ‘socio-historical’ research.
The project has three specific goals: (i) to analyze how individual linguistic features can be connected to the social context; (ii) to analyze whether there are systematically recurring patterns of co-occurrence, and how these characterize so-called ‘linguistic strata’ or ‘registers’; (iii) to determine the relationship between synchronic linguistic variation and diachronic change. Focus lies on five main linguistic areas where drastic changes are known to have taken place, that is, (i) textual coherence, (ii) tense-aspect, (iii) complementation, (iv) the case system, and (v) constituent order. In order to connect linguistic variation to its social context, reference is made to the Systemic Functional framework, which recognizes a number of ‘vectors of context’.
The scientific contribution of this project is threefold: (i) it contributes to our knowledge of morpho-syntactic variation in the documentary papyri; (ii) it offers a new perspective towards the development of Greek in general, and a starting point for comparison with literary texts; (iii) it opens up a new area of research for socio-historical linguistics