Re: A challenge
- Several years ago I read both of Dearing's books and found them both
fascinating and informative. He has of course only given us a brief
synopsis of his views on the list. Since it's been a while since I read
them, I want to test my memory a bit and reply to both Vinton Dearing and
On Sat, 9 Aug 1997, Robert B. Waltz wrote:
> On Fri, 8 Aug 1997, "Vinton A. Dearing" <dearing@...> wrote:
> >Dear listers:
> > A textual stemma has a general form that may need to be determined
> >before the stemma is decided upon. For example, with three texts,
> >none of which can be intermediary between the others,
> A minor point: Should this not be *directly* intermediary? It is
> usually easy to show that A is the parent of B. It is much harder
> to show that A is the ancestor of B with intervening mixture. I
> assume, from the comments in the rest of this paragraph, that you
> are simply saying that none of the manuscripts are parents of any
> of the others. Correct?
There is no necessity to say "directly intermediary," since with any three
mss with any given set of readings, even if there is an apparent ring, it
can be shown that by creating a hypothetical intermediary ms that has the
majority reading whenever the mss split 2-1, this ms can be added to the
other three in such a way as to eliminate the ring:
/ \ --> |
In case not everyone is clear on the definition of a ring, let me try to
explain it. Dearing's genealogical method begins with the assumption that
every ms under consideration had only one exemplar, so if a reading is
present in two mss, they should be genetically related (of course, common
scribal mistakes such as the addition or omission of a conjunction must be
eliminated from consideration). From time to time, a scribe might create
a variant that also appears in an unrelated ms, thus giving the appearance
of a relationship that is not real. And of course, in the case of
biblical mss, since we know that sometimes one ms was corrected from
another, variants from (mostly) unrelated mss can appear in another ms.
These agreements based on either accident or correction are called rings.
> > With more than three texts, the stemma may have one or more
> >"rings" in it if nothing is done to remove them. If A and B have
> >"yes" where C and D have "yea" and A and C have "no" where B and
> >D have "nay" then the abstract form of the ring is A--B ("yes"), B--D
> >("nay"), D--C ("yea"), and C--A ("no"). The archetype may be any of
> >the four texts or the common ancestor of any two that are connected,
> >say, of A and C, making B a descendant of A and D the common
> >descendant of B and C (i.e., when A and C disagreed, sometimes A and
> >sometimes C had the best reading; the archetype would then read "no"
> >whether or not that was one of the identifiably best readings).
> While I concede the possibility of a "ring" in a point of variation
> involving four texts and two points of variation, I do not think
> it possible to create such a grouping if one includes more manuscripts
> and more readings. For example, with four manuscripts and two binary
> readings, there are sixteen possible breakdowns of results. Adding
> just one more reading doubles this. Adding a fifth manuscript increases
> the possibilities by 25%. And so on. The only way one can find "rings"
> is to confine one's self to very small samples of the text. But if
> one is so confined, how does one decide, of the three variants
> yes/yea, no/nay, and should/shall, whether to focus our attention
> on yes/yea and no/nay to the exclusion of should/shall?
Bob is right about adding mss and readings. With many mss and many
readings, one quickly gets not just simple rings but whole networks of
mss. To break these networks into a simple tree, Dearing proposes
breaking individual links, starting with the weakest ones, until a simple
tree is created.
> > To "break" such a ring we decide which is the "weakest link," all
> >variations considered, and before we look for the archetype -- note,
> >before we look for the archetype. If, for example, there are over all
> >fewer AB agreements than AC agreements or BD agreements or CD
> >agreements, then we say that the agreement of A and B in having "yes"
> >is abnormal (without deciding whether it is accidental, coincidental
> >or emendatory) and set it aside. In effect, then, we have three
> >variant readings, "yes (A)," "yes (B)" and "yea," and the abstract
> >relationship among the four texts is A--C--D--B. Other evidence may
> >modify the relationship without changing the basic series: a lost
> >text may take the place of C with C connected to it, or a lost text
> >may take the place of D with D connected to it, or there may be two
> >lost texts, with C connected to one and D to the other, and one of
> >these lost texts may be the archetype.
> Again, I agree that we should determine everything possible about our
> manuscripts before we look for the archetype. But I fail to see the
> point of "breaking the ring." The only justification I can see is to
> cast off one of the four manuscripts so that one can make a decision
> in the event of a two-versus-two tie. (Which, BTW, is *not* my method;
> in a two-versus-two tie I would actually look to internal evidence.)
> But it would appear that your method rewards texts which agree often.
> In the case of a tie, I would be inclined, in the abstract, to reward
> those which did *not* agree often.
In the case of a tie, as I recall, Dearing's method says that the it
doesn't matter which link is broken--either is equally likely to be the
correct way to break it. I think it would interesting to combine this
purely mechanical approach with a subjective evaluation of internal
readings and see what happens.
> > Now, using A--B--D--C--A for the ring we have just been
> >considering, there may also be rings A--B--C--D--A and A--
> >C--B--D--A, three rings that we may call alternates. And if there are
> >additional texts we may have two small rings A--B--D--C--A and
> >A--B--E--F--A within a larger ring A--C--D--B--E--F--A, the two
> >smaller of which we may call connected.
> Technical footnote: There are actually *six* possible rings with
> four members (assuming we always start with A):
> If you have a method for restricting this to the rings you listed,
> I failed to understand it.
There are only three possible rings. Remember that since the mss are a
ring, the last is connected to the first. Thus, in Bob's list above, the
last three groups of mss are equivalent to the first three (#4 = #2, #5 =
#3, #6 = #1). Maybe it's clearer to draw it this way:
A-B A-C A-C
| | | | | |
D-C B-D D-B
> > In order to be consistent in breaking the rings and to divide as
> >few links as possible, we need to break them in a certain order and
> >may need to repeat the process after the first round of breaking.
> >These increasingly complicated matters are treated on pp. 93-98 of my
> >book Principles and Practice of Textual Analysis. If those who wish
> >to take up my challenge wish also to have a Xerox copy of these pages
> >I shall be happy to send them one. So what is my challenge?
> > You may decide that you can live with a few rings in your stemmas.
> >You will then find that with a medium sized New Testament book like
> >First John and the twenty earliest surviving texts, there are nearly
> >7000 rings. I have written a computer program that patiently
> >identifies all the smaller rings, breaks the rings in the required
> >order, and then repeats the process as often as necessary. This
> >program traces many linkages that do not lead to rings, and if, for
> >example, A leads to C, C to D, D to B, B to E, E to F, and F does
> >not lead to A, the program has (I fear) wasted some time. It is smart
> >enough to know that if A leads to B but never to any other text
> >to the exclusion of B then A--B will never be a link in any ring. It
> >might be smartened up so as to know that if F does not lead to A, as
> >in the longer example above, then it may be that F will never lead to
> >A and the search can stop short when E leads to F. But I have a
> >feeling that the initial form of a stemma is like a great net and
> >that you ought to be able to move forward from any place or tag end
> >on its circumference breaking the meshes (rings) as you come to them
> >until the remaining strands spread out like fans within fans, not a
> >cross link among them. Do you have or can you divise an algorithm for
> >doing this? You do not need to be a computer programmer -- a step by
> >step explanation will do, showing how to start with one text and comb
> >out the linkages between it and the rest. Remember, unless one of the
> >texts has all the best readings it is impossible to decide on the
> >archetype until the comb-out is completed.
Long ago I wrote a program myself (using a method somewhat different from
Dearing's) that would create a tree from a given set of mss and readings,
but it didn't break the rings, only identified them. My question in
regard to the whole approach is this. Is it valid to use the model of a
simple tree when dealing with the transmission of the biblical text? This
question can't be answered in a strictly theoretical way--data is needed.
At what point in the transmission of the NT, for example, did scribes
begin correcting their newly copied mss from a second exemplar? Harry
Gamble, in _Books and Readers in the Early Church_, seems to imply that
the majority of early mss were created privately by copying a single
exemplar. When did the practice of correcting the text against a second
ms become widespread enough so that, after that point, the idea of using a
simple tree to model the transmission of the text breaks down?
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- I am grateful to Bob Waltz for his second communication. If there are
others who wish a more detailed explanation of the problem as I see
it and who wish to tackle it, please let me know.