The Ambivalence of Language: Expression of Power and Administrative Function in Arabic Documents from Early Islamic Egypt
The PhD project “The Ambivalence of Language: Expression of Power and Administrative Function in Arabic Documents from Early Islamic Egypt” by Eugenio Garosi set out to explore hierarchical social relations between the imperial Arab-Muslim elite vis-à-vis the culturally and ethnically diverse populations of the Early Islamic imperial polity as reflected by official Arabic promulgations produced in widely different regional contexts. The dissertation has been developed into a non-content related formalistic investigation of the cumulative corpus of Early Islamic documentary writing. It is the first study of its kind to include comprehensive appraisal of all the relevant documentary evidence (papyrological, epigraphical, and numismatic) on a trans-regional level. The study unfolds through an analysis of intertwined linguistic and social dynamics underscored by:
1)The “mediality” of practices of public Arabic writing, meaning those features of the analysed texts which operated beyond and independently of a semantic comprehension.
2) The linguistic, formulaic, and graphic distinctiveness of Early Islamic Arabic documentary standards compared to their Late Antique pendants at the eve of the Islamic conquests.
3) The public use of the Arabic language and script as elite social identifiers.
4) The parallel existence of different socially connoted registers of Early Islamic Arabic writing.
5) The development of Arabic from a minority language into a lingua franca for medium and long-term exchange across the Mediterranean basin and beyond.
The original scope of the project has further been expanded to include phenomena of interference between the Arabic and the coeval Greek, Coptic, Middle-Persian, Bactrian, Sogdian, and Latin scribal traditions on the level of loan vocabulary, formal structure, and layout.