Browsing by Subject "el-Lahun"

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  • Autere, Kaisa (Helsingfors universitet, 2017)
    This study examines the normative use of language in the late Middle Kingdom epistolary material from el-Lahun. Although the strong degree of conventionalisation in the discourse of the letters has been recognised in previous studies, the nature and characteristics of the phenomenon have been studied relatively little. This study examines the normative features in the discourse and their pragmatic and other functions. In addition, it discusses the possible factors affecting the use and style of the letter formula. This study is based on a closed corpus and analyses the characteristics of the material through close-reading of texts. The material on which this study is based consists of approximately 80 letters in the el-Lahun papyri collections. The material is exceptionally coherent in spatial and chronological distribution and forms a good basis for studies of normativity. This study shows that the letters which define the manner of communication as swDA-ib (a message, lit. to make heart at ease) follow a common ‘letter formula’. It appears that this specific manner of addressing has two core characteristics. These include the use of the expression swDA-ib pw in structuring the letter, and the use of specific addressing words to refer to the correspondents. In addition, it is clear that the use of this letter formula is restricted to specific situations of social exchange. In addition, the normative language of the Lahun letters favours several indirect requesting strategies and features that aim to background the presence of the author. In fact, it seems that one of the most prominent features of the normative discourse of the letters is the aim to alienate the presence of the author as the agent behind the speech acts performed. This feature appears to be prominent especially in the socially expected manners of formulating a request. This tendency seems to be connected to the nature of requesting in general, as something that is potentially a difficult and harmful situation for the author. On the other hand, the use of indirect requesting strategies can in some cases be related to the difference in the relative socio-hierarchical status between the correspondents. In addition, it is evident that the characteristics of the swDA-ib-letters reflect the socio-cultural structures in the community. Christopher Eyre has emphasised the importance of personal relationships in a society build upon complex patronage and client structures, in which the socio-cultural status of the person is strongly connected to the relationship he has with his patron. It appears that the various greetings, and carefully formulated requests attested in these letters should be understood in this slightly difficult socio-cultural context. The existence of a culturally valued, learned manner of addressing offers potential for several linguistic and philological studies, as well as on research on the complex socio-cultural structures in the community.