Linguistic insights into characterisation: the case study of Wenamun

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Characters in literature have rarely been a focus of Egyptological study, and less attention still has been given to the internal, language-driven features of a text that constitute characterisation. This analysis of the protagonists of The Misfortunes of Wenamun applies the infrastructure of Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday 2004) in order to elucidate the portrayal, development and interaction patterns of Wenamun and the Chief of Byblos Tjekerbaal. In addition, it brings into play a range of other linguistic vantage points, including Pragmatics and Sociolinguistics, which show how the language that portrays each character likewise establishes their narratological role and their discursive expectations. For instance, Wenamun’s status as an Anti-Hero is manifest in the contradiction between his deeds and his words, as well as in his manner of talking to the rulers he meets in his travels to the Lebanon. Additionally, the hostility of Tjekerbaal can be seen as a reaction to Wenamun’s liberal use of modal forms, which contrasts with his more direct and powerful propositional style. Characters are therefore brought to life by a study that takes account of their description, action and speech, which demonstrates the value of a linguistically-oriented methodology for studies within the literary domain of Egyptology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51–64
Number of pages14
JournalLingua Aegyptia
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference on Egyptian Grammar (4th : 2009): Crossroads IV - Basel, Switzerland
Duration: 19 Mar 200922 Mar 2009


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