Early vernacular writings reveal intriguing similarities to texts produced by modern children. This study shows that these similarities result from the fact that both text varieties are the products of incipient writing. Examining medieval vernacular Russian correspondence and letters written by contemporary Russian children, this study (a) identifies the specific similarities between the two language varieties, (b) formulates a theoretical framework for interpreting these similarities, (c) applies measures of children’s writing competence to medieval vernacular writing, and (d) reevaluates the role of oral strategies in early vernacular writings. The study’s findings provide an important tool for investigations of incipient writing.
The article analyses within a pragmaphilological framework the communicative function and linguistic form of birchbark letters no. 5 from Tver’ (Tv5) and no. 286 (N286) from Novgorod. In the case of Tv5, we propose that the letter can best be understood if we assume two instances of direct speech without any markers of reportedness. With regard to N286, we will argue that what seems to be another case of direct speech lacking an introductory verbal tag should in fact be interpreted as an instance of the necessitive use of the imperative.