Darwin-L Message Log 2:40 (October 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<2:40>From WILLS@macc.wisc.edu  Sat Oct  9 15:21:11 1993

Date: Sat, 09 Oct 93 15:22 CDT
From: Jeffrey Wills <WILLS@macc.wisc.edu>
Subject: manuscript polymorphism
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

Bob O'Hara writes:

"Unlike organisms, however, manuscripts aren't of any particular ploidy;
rather, at most loci a manuscript will carry only one reading (haploid), at
some loci it will carry two readings (diploid), and at some loci it might
carry three or more readings (triploid or polyploid)."

If one wants to analyze the ms. parallel more closely, one would say that
although mss. often have diploidy, those multiple readings are not necessarily
equal (isoploid???) in their origins or possibility of replication. Usually one
reading will be on the main line with other readings written above it or in the
margin (These variants may be corrections or merely comparanda). For some
scribes, words written above will be seen as corrections and will therefore be
substituted or inserted for the lemma (the glossed word) on the ordinary line
of the text. For other scribes, the glosses might be ignored; for others both
will loyally be copied.
	My points are that 1) although the text is polyploid, the
text will be "expressed" uniquely if someone is reading it aloud (i.e. terms
like "dominant" and "recessive" readings might apply); 2) the likelihood of
the successful copying of diploid variants is not equal (are there biological
situations which weight the inherited diploid "readings"?); 3) the variable
likelihoods of successful copying depend on something external (the human
copier) and cannot be predicted a priori.
	Language can probably also be seen as diploid at points. As we have
discussed, a person can carry more than one language (which are inherited in
distinctly and used in distinct environments), but even within a single
register of a single speaker of a single language we often say that two forms
of a word are "in free variation". Yesterday, a student asked a colleage of
mine how he pronounces "Augustine", i.e. whether he put the accent on the first
or second syllable. The response was that he pronounced it both ways--further
discussion was unable to find an environmental factor (academic vs.
non-academic, religious vs. secular, Cath. vs. Prot.) for his variation. You
can probably think of forms in your own speech (unusual past tenses, spellings
of traveler vs. traveller,etc.). Looking at the population we might say that
forms A and B have different geographic or social distributions, but in
speakers on the margins one might say that "free variation" is a type of
diploidy--either form has a random chance of being expressed or reproduced.
Personally, I think there probably are factors (psychological, prosodic
(=sentence rhythm), social,etc.) but we just don't know enough to sort them
	Jeffrey Wills,

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