Language in society. A historical-sociolinguistic study of everyday writing in Roman and Byzantine Egypt (I – VIII AD)

Begin - Einde 
2017 - 2018 (lopend)
Vakgroep Taalkunde



The main goal of this project is to analyse the language of Greek documentary texts from Egypt. Since we know more about the context of the written word in Ancient Egypt than anywhere else in the Ancient world, my approach will be historical-sociolinguistic: the focus will be on lin­guistic variation, and how this variation can be connected to the social context.

For this purpose, I will be using the Systemic Func­tional framework, which views lan­guage as a social semiotic with three major functions, called ‘ideational’, ‘textual’, and ‘inter­personal’, which correlate systematically with three major social parameters, called ‘field’, ‘mode’, and ‘tenor’. My intention will be to analyse linguistic features not only in terms of the ideational and textual dimensions, as previous scholarly research has done, but to include the interpersonal dimension in the analysis: I intend to show that linguistic features can be con­nected directly to tenor-subparameters such as social distance, social status, and agentive role. I furthermore intend to analyse the interrelationship between the different dimensions in terms of conflicting and converging motivations, and to see whether there is diachronic change.

In order to carry out the analysis, I have created a new digital tool, which allows its user to generate subcorpora of documentary texts, and to annotate them linguistically and socio-pragmatically. Using this tool, I have annotated a subcorpus of nearly 3000 documentary letters, petitions, and contracts from the Roman and Byzantine periods (I – VIII AD) for a select number of linguistic features. As part of my project, I intend to create a web-version of this new digital tool, which will allow researchers world-wide to create new subcorpora, to use my annotations, or to add annotations to my subcorpus.


Postdoctorale medewerker(s)