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The word is a learned formation of the Greek διά ‘through’ and σύστημα ‘whole compounded of several parts, system’.

A term applied to textual criticism by Cesare Segre (1976) to express the idea that the text transmitted in a given manuscript represents the contact between the linguistic system of the author and those of the copyists who filter the exemplar through their own code. A diasystem can thus be seen as a sort of compromise between two or more semiotic systems coming into contact with one another:

“Che cosa accade se i ritocchi linguistici e stilistici non sono attuati dall’autore stesso, ma da copisti, editori, ecc.? Da un punto di vista teorico, si verifica l’interferenza tra due sistemi: quello dell’autore e quello del copista, editore, ecc. Il copista mantiene, per lo più in quantità cospicua, il sistema dell’autore, ma vi interviene realizzando in parte un proprio sistema. … Il risultato di questa Sprachmischung potrebbe essere definito, a mio avviso, un diasistema … il sistema di compromesso tra due sistemi in contatto.” (Segre 1979, 53-70).

(What happens if the linguistic and stilistic adjustments are not made by the author himself, but rather by copyists, editors, etc.? From the theoretical point of view, what takes place is an interference between two systems, i.e. the system of the author and that of the copyist, editor, etc. The copyist usually keeps a conspicuous amount of the author-system, but he also partially filters it through his own. The result of this Sprachmischung could be defined as a diasystem …, namely a compromise between two systems coming into contact.) 

Segre makes a semantic redefinition of the linguistic notion 'diasystem' coined by the dialectologist Uriel Weinreich in 1954 and indicating a higher-order system which subsumes all low-order discrete systems.


– Segre, Cesare. 1976. “Critique textuelle, théorie des ensembles et diasystèmes.” Académie royale de Belgique, Bulletin de la classe des lettre set des sciences morale set politiques 62: 279–292.
– ———. 1979. “Critica testuale, teoria degli insiemi e diasistema.” In Cesare Segre. 1979. Semiotica filologica: Testo e modelli culturali, 53–70. Torino: Einaudi.
– Weinreich, Uriel. 1954. “Is a structural dialectology possible?” Word 10: 388–400.

In other languages

DE: Diasystem
FR: diasystème
IT: diasistema


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