Language and identity in ancient narratives: the relationship between speech patterns and social context in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts of John, and Acts of Philip
Snyder, Julia Ann
Drawing on insights from sociolinguistics, the thesis investigates the relationship between speech patterns and social context in three ancient Greek narratives: the Acts of the Apostles, Acts of John, and Acts of Philip. The thesis explores how characters’ speech patterns correlate with their Christian status, and with the Christian status of their addressees. The relationship between speech patterns and gentile/Jewish identity is also assessed. Linguistic variables include plural forms of address and third-person references to Jesus and the Christian god. The thesis shows that Christian characters are portrayed as speaking differently amongst themselves than when addressing non-Christian characters. It also demonstrates that parameters of sociolinguistic variation in each text point to differing understandings of Christian identity. It is argued that attention to sociolinguistic relationships highlights the importance of ascetic practices and baptism in the Acts of Philip, the gradual nature of Christian conversion in the Acts of John, and the close relationship between Jewish and Christian identity in the Acts of the Apostles. The thesis also examines characterization and implied audience, and argues that attention to social context is necessary to appreciate the full significance of an author’s choice of words.