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A Marriage Contract: Aspects of Latin-Greek Language Contact (P. Mich. VII 434 and P. Ryl. IV 612 = ChLA IV 249)

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In this paper we approach a Latin marriage contract from Philadelphia, Egypt, taking into account various viewpoints. The document is written in Latin, a language that was not commonly used in the community. As a result of the language choice the contract offers a possibility for a contact linguistic analysis. The names of the father of the bride and the future husband, Nomissianus and M. Petronius Servillius respectively, are Roman, so there probably was some connection with the Roman army. The contact between Latin and Greek is studied from social, philological and linguistic perspectives.

We suggest that together with some other known persons with Roman nomina from Philadelphia Nomissianus and M. Petronius Servillius belonged to a social network where Latin was the prestige language. This was the reason for choosing to write the marriage contract in Latin, which otherwise was minimally used in the Philadelphian documents. Greek was used normally, so that interference from Greek can be expected. The language of the contract is, however, clearly Latin, not Greek flavoured with Latin legal idioms. It is noteworthy that all Latin legal formulae and phrasing were composed correctly and the scribe definitely knew enough of the morphophonological correspondence between Latin and Greek to be able to latinize a majority of the original Greek words (which are mainly technical terms for objects given as dowry or part of the parapherna).


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