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However, when more than one text is compared, as is typically done in textual criticism, the other texts make up a paradigmatic axis, metaphorically speaking at a right angle to each unit along the syntagmatic axis. In this perspective, readings constitute the units on the syntagmatic axis. In some cases, the various readings are identical, in other cases, there is a smaller or higher degree of variation, as shown in ill. 1. Cf. variant graph.

In the process of collation, texts will be compared, unit by unit. In addition to the rather simple case of one word having different forms on the same point of the syntagmatic axis, there are the added problems of omissions, additions and transpositions.

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