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Novel Perspectives on Communication Practices in Antiquity. Towards a Historical Social-Semiotic Approach - 03-04-05/10/2019, Ghent (Belgium)


The main aim of this conference, which forms the opening event of the ERC-project ‘Everyday writing in Graeco-Roman and Late Antique Egypt. A socio-semiotic study of communicative variation’ (2018-2023;, is to explore to what extent it is possible and desirable to found a discipline such as historical social-semiotics, parallel to historical socio-linguistics. Such a novel, interdisciplinary approach is particularly relevant for ‘everyday’ documentary texts: since these texts represent autographs, their external characteristics can also be brought into the interpretation. Jean-Luc Fournet (2007), for example, has recently argued for a ‘paléographie signifiante’, noting that ‘l’analyse matérielle d’un document peut être porteuse de sens’ (2007:353), not only when it comes to text type, but also with regard to the socio-cultural context of writing, and the provenance of the document. Other external characteristics to be considered as expressions of social meaning (functioning as ‘semiotic resources’) are – but are not limited to – writing material, document format, and language choice. Their analysis reveals information concerning hierarchy, status and social relations.




FECHA/DATE/DATA: 03-04-05/10/2019


LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Ghent University (Ghent, Belgium)




INFO: web - - -





Thursday, October 3, 2019


8:45-9:15 Registration
9:15-9:30 Welcome Greetings

Morning session: Genre and multimodality
Chairperson: Klaas Bentein
9:30-10:00 Klaas Bentein (Ghent University)

10:00-10:30 Sarah Béthume (INCAL/CEMA, UCLouvain)
“The ‘exposed writings’: how the study of the ‘pluricode’ message of ancient Greek inscriptions can shed light on the archaic and classical dialectal variation”
10:30-11:00 Nicola Reggiani (University of Parma)
“Towards a socio-semiotic analysis of Greek medical prescriptions on papyrus”

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

11:30-12:00 Francesca Murano & Mariarosaria Zinzi (University of Florence)
“A social-semiotic analysis of Greek defixiones from South Italy”
12:00-12:30 James Wolfe (The Ohio State University)
“Imagining faith: images, scripts, and texts of early Christian inscriptions from the Roman Near East”

12:30-14:00 Lunch Break

Afternoon session: Texts and intra-semiosis
Chairperson: Yasmine Amory
14:00-14:45 Key-note speaker, Antonella Ghignoli (Sapienza - University of Rome)
“This is the catalogue! A so far unknown latin documentary papyrus from 6th century Italy”
14:45-15:15 Martti Leiwo (University of Helsinki)
“Hands and language in ostraca letters from Roman praesidia in Egypt”
15:15-15:45 Giulio Iovine (University of Naples “Federico II”)
“Descriptum et recognitum. A survey of Latin closing and acknowledging formulae in Latin and Greek papyri and ostraca”

15:45-16:15 Coffee Break

16:15-16:45 Antonia Apostolakou (Ghent University)
“How to sign a contract in Late Antique Egypt: a study of linguistic variation”
16:45-17:15 Simona Russo (Istituto papirologico "G. Vitelli")
“Rome as New York, fashion capital?”

* Reception at Alice

Friday, October 4, 2019

Morning session: Sociolinguistic variation
Chairperson: Mark Janse
9:15-10:00 Key-note speaker, James Clackson (University of Cambridge)
“Standard languages, language standards and language norms in the Greco-Roman world”
10:00-10:30 Polina Yordanova (University of Helsinki)
“Тhe forest’s broken branches: discontinuity in Greek word order in documentary papyri from III c BCE to III c CE”
10:30-11:00 Alek Keersmaekers (UK Leuven)
“Sociolinguistic variation in the Greek papyri: a corpus-based, bottom-up approach”

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

11:30-12:00 Emmanuel Roumanis & Geert De Mol (Ghent University)
“The Abinnaeus archive: lexical and orthographic features”
12:00-12:30 Alessandro Papini (Ghent University)
“A preliminary investigation on the <e>/<i> and <o>/<u> graphemic oscillations in Italian Latin inscriptions of the Republican age”

12:30-14:00 Lunch Break

Afternoon session: Visual and material aspects of texts
Chairperson: Joanne Stolk
14:00-14:45 Key-note speaker, Jean-Luc Fournet (Collège de France – EPHE)
“Beyond the text: the contribution of the ‘paléographie signifiante’”
14:45-15:15 Marco Stroppa (Istituto papirologico "G. Vitelli")
“Big & small: the size of documents as a semiotic resource for Graeco-Roman Egypt?”
15:15-15:45 Nina Sietis (Sapienza - University of Rome)
“Abbreviations in Greek documentary texts. A case study of ‘significant palaeography’”

15:45-16:15 Coffee Break

16:15-16:45 Eleonora Conti (Istituto papirologico "G. Vitelli")
“Spread and persistence of Latin document features in some Greek letters of high chancery on papyrus”
16:45-17:15 Yasmine Amory (Ghent University)
“Visual signs of deference in Late Antique letters”

* 17:30 Visit at the Archaeological Collection of Ghent University at Het Pand
* 19:30 – Dinner at Sint-Jorishof (optional, pre-reservation required)

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Morning session: Multimodal aspects of writing
Chairperson: Giovanbattista Galdi
9:15-10:00 Key-note speaker, Mark Depauw (UC Leuven)
“Splitting words in Greek letters and petitions. Quantitative research based on Trismegistos”
10:00-10:30 Joanne Stolk (Ghent University/University of Oslo)
“The social meaning of scribal corrections in final versions of papyrus letters”
10:30-11:00 Giuseppina di Bartolo (University of Cologne)
“Sociolinguistic and semiotic remarks on Greek petitions”

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

11:30-12:00 Sonja Dahlgren and Marja Vierros (University of Helsinki)
“Coptic spelling variations transferred onto Greek – visually pleasing or phonologically based?”
12:00-12:45 Key-note speaker, Petra Sijpesteijn (Leiden University)
12:45-13:00 Conclusions and discussion








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