Epigraphic community

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Comunità epigrafica | communauté épigraphique | epigraphische Gemeinschaft


Concept proposed by Martti Leitvo (2002) for “a community, which is attested through inscriptions which share some linguistic idiosyncracies typical of [a] speech community”. The boundaries of the area that is defined by an e.c. do not necessarily coincide with the boundaries of linguistic areas. The definition, as provided by Leitvo (cit.) is glottocentric, as it derives from a conception of writing as a model strictly representing a language or a set of languages. As such, an e.c. seems to be defined only in those cases in which two or more speech communities share a graphic system. However, while the case of language contact and interference is scientifically relevant, there is no reason not to generalize the notion of e.c. in order to indicate any group of people who share the same writing system.

While the term was created in order to describe communities of the Ancient Mediterranean world, it was successfully applied to the analysis of later scenarios (e.g. Safran 2011).

In the Ancient Near East, the notion of epigraphic community is extremely important, as the very definition of the historical area can and should be based as the set of cultures that all belonged to the Cuneiform e.c.

The concept of e.c. is of the utmost importance for the study of epigraphic contact.


See epigraphic contact.


Leitvo, M. 2002. From contact to mixture. J.N. Adams, M. Janse, S. Swain, eds., Bilingualism ad Ancient Society: Language Contact and the Written Word, Oxford, OUP, 168-194. Safran, L. 2011. Public Textual Cultures: A Case Study in Southern Italy. W. Robins, ed., Textual Cultures of Medieval Italy: Essays from the 41st Conference on Editorial Problems, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 115-144.