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The Weakening Of The Bourgeoisie: Social Changes Mirrored In The Language Of The Genizah Letters

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Chapter Summary

The Genizah letters from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries differ in many points. The opening formulae and the system of dating used in the eleventh century are derived from the Classical Arabic forms, while the thirteenth-century letters indicate the date in a simpler manner and adopt a completely different style of opening. The later letters show orthographical, morphological and syntactical features that differ from the earlier material. This supports the observations made by Goitein concerning the social changes that occurred between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries. In the eleventh century, the social elite of the country upheld the conventions of Classical Arabic as part of their cultural heritage. To a certain degree, this also permeated the Jewish segment of society. The weakening of the bourgeoisie and the general economic impoverishment of Egypt in the thirteenth century led to the abandoning of Classical Arabic ideals by Muslim writers.

Keywords: Classical Arabic forms; Goitein; Hebrew content; Jewish letters; social changes



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