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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

REVIEW: Arietta Papaconstantinou (ed.), The Multilingual Experience in Egypt, from the Ptolemies to the Abbasids.

Arietta Papaconstantinou (ed.), The Multilingual Experience in Egypt, from the Ptolemies to the Abbasids.   Farnham/Burlington, VT:  Ashgate, 2010.  Pp. x, 240.  ISBN 9780754665366.  $114.95.   

Reviewed by Katherine McDonald, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge (km440@cam.ac.uk)
The study of ancient multilingualism has been gathering momentum in the last decade or two, to the point where the debate has started to move away from mainly (or even exclusively) discussing Latin and Greek, to explore less well known corners of the ancient world and their languages. This volume is (surprisingly, considering the wealth of material available) among the first to present a collection of articles on multilingualism in ancient Egypt with a chronological span from the third century BC to the eighth century AD. The contributions are tied together by their authors' thorough knowledge of the evidence, and its cutting-edge interpretations, generally using all the modern theory available to them. However, despite the authors almost unanimously decrying the lack of cooperation between scholars of the different languages used in Egypt – broadly, Greek, Latin, Coptic, Demotic and Arabic in this book – the volume is not always as clear as it could be to those without prior knowledge of the material. Nevertheless, there is a great deal here for both the expert and the interested general reader to get their teeth into.

Etc. at BMCR

Introduction, Arietta Papaconstantinou; 
Linguistic identity in Graeco-Roman Egypt, Sofia Torallas Tovar; 
Bilingual papyrological archives, Willy Clarysse; 
Coptic or Greek? Bilingualism in the papyri, Sarah J. Clackson; 
Multilingual archives and documents in post-conquest Egypt, Petra Sijpesteijn; 
What's in a sign? Translating filiation in the demotic magical papyri, Jacco Dieleman; 
Early Coptic epistolography, Malcolm Choat; 
Toujours honneur au grec? À propos d'un papyrus gréco-copte de la région thébaine, Anne Boud'hors; Language choice in the Qurra dossier, Tonio Sebastian Richter; 
Aristophanes son of Johannes: an 8th-century bilingual scribe? A study of graphic bilingualism, Jennifer Cromwell;