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Simeon Dekker

4.1 Introduction This chapter is meant to present the theoretical and methodological prerequisites for our investigation. As was pointed out in chapter 1, the research for this study involves the use of a unique historical corpus. The major aim of this study is to shed

Old Russian Birchbark Letters

A Pragmatic Approach

Series:

Simeon Dekker

This study is devoted to a corpus of Old Russian letters, written on pieces of birchbark. These unique texts from Novgorod and surroundings give us an exceptional impression of everyday life in medieval Russian society. In this study, the birchbark letters are addressed from a pragmatic angle. Linguistic parameters are identified that shed light on the degree to which literacy had gained ground in communicative processes. It is demonstrated that the birchbark letters occupy an intermediate position between orality and literacy. On the one hand, oral habits of communication persisted, as reflected in how the birchbark letters are phrased; on the other hand, literate modes of expression emerged, as seen in the development of normative conventions and literate formulae.

Series:

Simeon Dekker

earlier in chapter 2 form the background against which the present study should be viewed. It is meant to build on the abovementioned investigations, but also to provide a follow-up with a well-defined methodology. Gippius’s (2004) argumentation and the subsequent studies may all come across as quite

Series:

Simeon Dekker

for conducting linguistic research. A well-defined methodological framework can help to overcome the limited nature of the data, as is evidenced by the present study. 2 A poltina is half a rouble. 3 Cf. Charpin (2010) for Ancient Mesopotamia, Thomas (1992) for Ancient Greece, etc