Contact Tracing in Damaskini
2022-04-12, 10:00–10:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 6

The proposed paper studies the processes of standardization in the Balkan Slavic area. Standardization is frequently described from a centralized, top-down perspective, as an effect of codification (e.g. Keremedčiev 1943, Milroy 1999). Our study suggests that the emergence of new literary norms within the Balkan Slavic area rather followed existing practices in the literature. When related texts from a sufficiently broad area and period are studied, multiple patterns of convergence may be observed, some of which are likely to be codified and may be even promoted to an element of a collective identity. The emergence of a supradialectal literary language is seen as an evolutionary process, in which separate literary circles adopt or discard practices (e.g. writing of a certain graphem or using a specific morphological expression) seen as obsolete, local or foreign. Within the context of a development of a collective organization, the process of standardization marks the transition of an ethnic network to an association, i.e. the establishment of the conditions of inclusion (Handelman 1977).

Our study uses data from comparative corpora of two works frequently copied in the 16th-19th century manuscripts called "damaskini": the hagiography of St. Petka (Parascheva) by Patriarch Euthymius of Tarnovo and the Homily on Dying by Damaskenos Studites. Various editions of these two text traditions were digitally transcribed and annotated for morphological features and syntactic dependencies. The data is compared with older (Church Slavonic) and modern (20th century) editions, measuring distances between the individual sources according to a set of variables based on the grammatical and orthographic features, which have changed in the observed period. Furthermore, the distances were compared with philological metadata available about the sources, in order to compare the grammatical features with the present-day dialectal data. While preserving the structure and contents of the text, individual editions show remarkable evolution of both grammatical and orthographic features, reflecting convergences between separate literary circles into interregional networks.

The results can be used to supplement philological and historical data about the contacts between the individual scribes and literary circles, but also to determine the influence of various dialects on the literary language.


Handelman D. (1977), "The Organization of Ethnicity", Ethnic Groups, January 1977, pp. 187-200
Keremedčiev G. (1943), Borba za knižoven ezik i pravopis, Sofia: Xemus
Milroy J., Milroy L. (1999), Authority in Language: Investigating Standard English, London & New York: Routledge