This chapter follows the shifting Venetian tax legislation to show how fiscal policy coalesced with the interests of specific dragomans and brokers to articulate new ideas about linguistic incompetence as the quintessential property of foreign and, especially, Ottoman and Safavid merchants. The ability of specific trans-imperial subjects to claim familiarity with multiple state institutions was often pegged on both their foreign provenance and their long sojourns in a host country (spatial ambiguity was clearly of the essence in such pronouncements of familiarity). The chapter illustrates how, by assuming the linguistic helplessness of certain foreign merchants, Venetian officials reinforced the association of brokerage with bilingualism and thus ultimately furthered the claim of converts, redeemed slaves, and other bilingual trans-imperial subjects to be ideal intermediaries between supposedly mutually unintelligible and clearly demarcated groups.
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