Développement des pratiques d'écriture et de l'expression écrite : recherches sur les lettres de l'époque amorrite (2002-1595 av. J.-C.)

Abstract : In Mesopotamia, writing was invented, and for a long time mastered, by a small group of individuals working for the temple or the palace. After the collapse of the Third Dynasty of Ur, in 2002 BC, archaeological and epigraphic evidence reveals an intensification in the use of writing. This phenomenon, known as the “Old Babylonian writing revolution”, resulted more precisely in the abandonment of Sumerian for the benefit of Akkadian, in the multiplication of private archives, in the reorganisation of the educational system and in the emergence of new genres, of the tabular format and of the cursive writing. The aim of our research is to study the consequences that this cultural revolution had specifically on the epistolary practice during the Amorite period (2002-1595 BC). We first sought to define the place of epistolary exchanges in the Mesopotamian social interactions. By portraying the letter-senders and studying how they had access to the epistolary practice, we have been able to estimate the establishment of letter communication in the society. Writing and reading a letter also required a certain knowledge and technique. Among the exercises studied during the training in writing, we looked for those which could be used to write and read letters. We then examined to which extent the scribal training prepared individuals to write more or less intricate and varied letters. Finally, we looked to see if the changes introduced in the educational system altered the way the epistolary genre was taught and if these changes were involved in the development of literacy and letter communication. The diffusion of writing also changed how Mesopotamians related to written text: an empirical, “naive” reading of the letters made the researchers realize that letters from the Amorite period are more precise and longer than those written during the previous centuries. We wanted to objectify and rationalise this impression by studying the quality and quantity of the information communicated in writing. What evolved in the letters? Is it the degree of implicitness and ambiguity? Could the letters be understood without the intervention of the messenger who carried them? Or is it the content, which became more detailed and varied? This research is based in particular on pragmatics, which offers a conceptual framework for working on the notion of implicitness and analysing the possibility for the addressee of a letter to interpret the message in the specific context of writing. The fall of the central administration in 2002 BC gave rise to many rival kingdoms. These kingdoms did not use the same graphemes nor the same spellings to write their letters, but very few systematic comparisons have been made so far. We studied how some graphical norms were created and circulated. The comparison of spellings then allowed us to work on the standardisation of letters and on the notion of “orthography”. We finally sought to assess the level of mastery of the writing system required to read and write letters. Our research sheds new light on a corpus of texts that had never been studied as a whole (about 7,000 letters) and is a first attempt to analyse the impact of the intensification of the use of writing on an entire activity, namely the epistolary practice. Besides Assyriologists, our research is aimed at all those who are interested in the history of writing and the epistolary genre.
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Marine Béranger. Développement des pratiques d'écriture et de l'expression écrite : recherches sur les lettres de l'époque amorrite (2002-1595 av. J.-C.). Histoire. PSL Research University, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018PSLEP041⟩. ⟨tel-02269701⟩

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