Chapter

Variants and Evidence of Oral-Written Transmission of Israelite Literature

David M. Carr

in The Formation of the Hebrew Bible

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199742608
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918737 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199742608.003.0002
Variants and Evidence of Oral-Written Transmission of Israelite Literature

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This chapter summarizes key insights from manuscript studies in the humanities and from studies of memory in psychology, summarizing insights into how texts are memorized and how manuscripts of pre-modern texts often bear marks of the role of memory in their transmission. In particular, the chapter develops the concept of “memory variant” to describe the type of variation typical of texts transmitted, in part, by memory. A “memory variant” involves changes of order, substitution of semantic equivalents, addition or subtraction of minor particles with minimal semantic impact, and other changes characteristic of divergent performances of texts that have been memorized. As such they are to be distinguished from aural variants (produced by errors in hearing of dictation) and graphic variants (typical of visually-copied texts).

Keywords: memory; aural variants; graphic variants; psychology; humanities; manuscripts

Chapter.  12858 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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