An area of ancient written culture from the 1st millennium BCE, the Ethiopian highlands have been home to a complex literary tradition (predominantly in Ge'ez) that has no parallel in sub-Saharan Africa. Its emergence was determined by Late Antique culture (Byzantium including Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and the Red Sea), Mediterranean cultural encounters, and the African background.
The earliest known texts were translations from Greek, later works were adopted from Christian Arabic (esp. Copto-Arabic) literary tradition, in addition to a rich local written production. The complexity of literary history is fully reflected in the changes in grammar, lexicon and stylistic means of the Ge'ez language.
During the years 2014-2019, the ERC Advanced Grant TraCES (Grant Agreement 338756) will for the first time analyze in detail the lexical, morphological and stylistic features of texts depending on their origins using the achievements of linguistics, philology, and digital humanities. An annotated digital text corpus of critically established texts will be created. Frequency and collocation analysis will reveal changes in grammatical and lexical choices across centuries. Novel ways of visualization of textual features and intertextual relationships will be offered to provide insights into the structure, history and evolution of texts. The resulting new understanding of the history of the Ge'ez language and of the Ethiopian creativity and literary activity will help establish features and criteria that may be helpful in determining the origins of texts when the direct 'Vorlage' is missing. The literary transmission and dissemination processes will be analyzed by contrasting and connecting Ethiopian Late Antique and medieval heritage with its parallels and antecedents in Near East and Mediterranean, contributing to our understanding of the cultural networks of the Christian Orient. A number of valuable research tools will emerge as by-products of the project.