Innovation in Tradition
This study explores the history of the language of a manuscript known as Tönnies Fonne’s Russian-German phrasebook (Pskov, 1607).
The phrasebook is not, as many scholars have assumed, the result of the efforts of a 19-year-old German merchant, who came to Russia to learn the language and who recorded the everyday vernacular in the town of Pskov from the mouths of his informants. Nor is it, as other claim, a mere compilation by him of existing material.
Instead, the phrasebook must be regarded as the product of a copying, innovative, meticulous, German-speaking professional scribe who was acutely aware of regional, stylistic and other differences and nuances in the Russian language around him, and who wanted to deliver an up-to-date phrasebook firmly rooted in an established tradition.
By careful textological analysis and by comparing the text with the earlier phrasebook of Thomas Schroue, this study lays bare the modus operandi of the scribe and shows how the scribe acted as an agent of change when a phrasebook was handed down from one generation to the other.