Friday, January 22, 2021

Linguistic Understanding of Divine Interaction in Ramesside Egypt

Potter, D. M.
PhD thesis, University of Liverpool (2016)


This thesis sets out to examine a number of linguistic topoi from Ramesside Egypt which are utilised to express an understanding of divine interaction with humanity. In order to assess each of these topoi, the methodologies and axioms of the fields of Pragmatics and Cognitive linguistics are employed. Previously, theoretical insights from both of these fields have not been applied fully to Egyptian texts of a religious nature. Through the in depth examination of these topoi, this thesis aims to foster a greater comprehension of the ways in which individuals during this period understood divine interaction and how this understanding was figured in rhetorical devices. The selected corpus dates from the Amarna period to the start of the Third Intermediate period and includes royal and private monuments, as well as hieratic material. The inclusion of examples from a variety of language registers and genres allows for a wider assessment of each theme. The introduction presents the dataset and discusses the individual sources. This section also presents the theoretical backgrounds of Pragmatics and Cognitive Linguistics, as well as discussing potential cross-cultural variances. Chapter 1 deals with the topoi of the “hand” and the “arm(s)” of the divine. The phrase “the hand of god” is highly familiar to western thought, and this chapter assesses the use of Drt “hand” and a(wy) “arm(s)” in relation to the divine. Though both lexemes have been regularly translated as “hand”, in reality both lexemes function as separate idioms, appearing in separate contexts concurrently within a number of sources. Drt “hand” represents a close and palpable interaction with human characters whereas a(wy) “arm(s)” is used to describe the control of more distant, abstract concepts. As both lexemes are frequently utilised a part of compound prepositions, the issue of grammaticalization is also addressed, and to what extent they are semantically meaningful within such constructions. Chapter 2 assesses the use of the verbs “come” and “go” in relation to divine motion. As deictic verbs of motion, which encode egocentric information, they may only be understood in terms of the speaker and their worldview, and the application of such verbs illustrates how the divine are perceived within their movement. When a positive interaction is iterated, the verb “come” is utilised in order to place focus upon the individual as GOAL (deictic centre) of the movement. Within the gathered corpus, the divine do not “go”. Instead, when expressing negative interaction “come” is negated or the divine movement is described as rotational (i.e. “turning” as opposed to a movement from/towards the individual). Each interaction is described in the same manner as human interactions and is highly attentional. A number of instances also show elements of presupposition of divine interaction when requested. Chapter 3 examines instances in which individuals describe “finding” or having “found” the divine. From analysis of the participant roles within the utterances as well as a contextual analysis, it is clear that the divine are viewed as real world, interactive characters. In all the instances examined gm(i) is used to express perceptual discovery. Each of the studies shows a linguistic understanding of a highly interactive divine. Each expression is couched in the same rhetoric as human interactions and is highly rooted in the perception of the individual speaker/writer/composer.



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