Darwin-L Message Log 2:64 (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.

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<2:64>From mayerg@cs.uwp.edu  Mon Oct 11 15:09:19 1993

Date: Mon, 11 Oct 1993 15:08:37 -0500 (CDT)
From: Gregory Mayer <mayerg@cs.uwp.edu>
Subject: Re: manuscript polymorphism
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

	Bob O'Hara's attribution of "ploidy" to manuscripts is intriguing,
and, I believe, the right analogy to genetics.  It is, as John Langdon
correctly remarks, a form of polymorphism, but it represents not a
populational polymorphism, but rather a polymorphism within the individual
(in this case individual manuscript), i.e. heterozygosity.
Heterozygosity, of course, can occur only in an n>1-ploid individual, so
manuscripts with more than one reading at a single locus can be justly
described as heterozygous and diploid (or triploid, etc.).  The analogy
seems to be "right" in the sense that it is useful: it immediately
suggests to me that the techniques of "polymorphism parsimony" used in
biological systematics for the reconstruction of evolutionary trees could
also be applied to stemmatics, the reconstruction of manuscript trees.  A
"heterozygous" manuscript could be copied giving rise to two (or more)
copies that differ in their reading at a particular locus.  Since multiple
readings are a known phenomenon, it may in some cases be easier to account
for differences and similarities among manuscripts by descent from a
heterozygous version.
	I believe the parallels O'Hara has drawn between multiple readings
and ploidy are useful because they suggest the adoption in one discipline
of a problem-solving technique (polymorphism parsimony) found useful in
another discipline.

Gregory C. Mayer

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