What is the proper terminology for the changes that occur to a narrative/text throughout history?

These changes could include:

  • interpretation : such as modifying the narrative/text in order to verbally present it, such as a bard would.
  • transcription error : a mistake made in copying the narrative/text
  • translation error : a mistake made during translation of the narrative/text

  • other : there could be other reasons not mentioned here

A real world example includes the changes that occurred to the Bible as evidenced by the differences found in the Dead Sea Scrolls compared to "modern" versions of the Bible.

If this is an inappropriate place for this question, please let me know. Thanks


The term "textual mutations" can describe gradual changes in received works. Whether founded in errors or in judgment calls, they accumulate over time, as you observed.

That said, there might be more substantive answers on the Linguistics.SE.

  • Thanks! I wasn't aware of Linguistics.SE - that might be a good direction to try. Much appreciated. – Integration Jan 5 '17 at 19:01
  • @Withywindle - Linguistics.SE is a good bet, but since you also ask about the changes that occurred within the Bible (some of which have their own special terms), I would also recommend BiblicalHermeneutics.SE, Christianity.SE and Mi Yodeya (Judaism.SE). Too many recommendations? :) – Shimon bM Jan 5 '17 at 22:40
  • @ShimonbM no, thank you for the recommendations, I really appreciate it. While my reasons for asking this question are theological in origin, I seek the correct terminology in order to construct an argument regarding a fictional theology. So while I won't need to ask in the theology based stacks you recommended, perusing them might not be a bad idea in order to get a good idea on how to phrase my penultimate question. Too much explanation? ;) thanks again! – Integration Jan 6 '17 at 0:18
  • @Withywindle - In that case, and depending on how you are using this fictional theology, might I also recommend Worldbuilding.SE? They have a lot of questions of this nature. – Shimon bM Jan 6 '17 at 0:23
  • @ShimonbM bingo! That is a great idea. My question might actually have been asked there previously. Much thanks for your help! – Integration Jan 6 '17 at 0:24

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