Talk by Martina Schmidl – Conference Intra-Writer Variation in Historical Sociolinguistics, University of Erlangen
Talk: “Intra-Writer Variation in Late Babylonian Letters”
Conference: Historical Sociolinguistic Network conference 2021 (HiSoN 2021): Intra-Writer Variation in Historical Sociolinguistics; Venue: Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Kochstraße 4, 91054 Erlangen; Date: 17 -19 March 2021
Abstract: My talk focuses on intra-writer variation in Late Babylonian temple letters from Mesopotamia. The letters stem from the main temple of the city of Uruk in Southern Mesopotamia. They date to around 530 BCE. Specifically, I will draw up a case study on two letters by a writer who belonged to the highest echelons of this temple to other high-ranking colleagues in a time of need, YOS 3, 17 and TCL 9, 129. The letters concern the involvement of the temple in a royal building project. The sender of the letter, while being a full member of the temple administration, had a royal background. He sent his letters to two temple officials with local backgrounds. They stemmed from prominent Urukean families. The tension between royal and local influence is one way of reading these letters, but a focus on intra-writer variation provides us with deeper insights. One letter addresses the šatammu of the temple, an official of roughly equal status who held not only administrative but also cultic functions, the other addresses a lower-ranking temple scribe. These two letters are near-duplicates, but they differ at crucial points. Focusing on these discrepancies makes it possible to trace stylistic variation with regard to the intended addressees, the communicational situations where this was pertinent, and the rhetorical means chosen in these situations.