CHANGE    PRIN Progetto di ricerca di Rilevante Interesse Nazionale        Contact and History in Ancient Grammar of Europe

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mercoledì 13 gennaio 2021


Ancient languages and writing systems in contact: a touchstone for language change.

Nobody who tries to study ancient languages is able to do so without written documents. When a textual tradition takes shape, we can notice the ineluctable selection of a single language variety, which is documented. As a matter of fact, the textual tradition aligns itself with a standard that writing crucially helps to establish and diffuse. This is why it is difficult to demonstrate variation and change of any ancient language as a whole by means of conventional written documents. If we have at our disposal records, which are quite rich and diversified, then we can show some language variation by means of a careful philological and linguistic analysis, but much leaves no trace in written texts and remains hidden and inaccessible.

However, there is a tool we can use to shed light on these concealed variations: written records having nothing to do with the textual tradition, i.e. written documents that are not subject to the constraints pertaining to orthography and literary genres – especially when a language relies on non-native literacy in order to be written. One possibility is offered by those texts which are occasionally written using different graphic systems to the one usually employed for that language (e.g. any Latin text written in Greek letters).

Comparison with otherness is, on the other hand, a good reactant for recognising phenomena of variation otherwise hidden by the orthographic rules and by the linguistic norms that are imposed by the codification of the textual genres. This is why the project aims to take into account a second type of document in which the relation between equivalence and difference is revelatory (especially regarding morphosyntactic and lexico-semantic phenomena), i.e. the translations and, in particular, the group of Latin translations of the Bible that are based on Greek original texts.

As a whole, the above-mentioned scenarios (also including lexical interference), can be drawn from a range of texts consisting of everyday practical documents, school exercises, more formalised texts (e.g. Roman chancellery texts written in two languages and addressed to the Greek-speaking eastern communities, as well as the multiple translations of the Bible). The perspective adopted in the assessment of this material allows, furthermore, for the observation of phenomena of language change at all levels of analysis. Phonology, morphology, lexis, and syntax are observable to a lesser extent in heterographic texts, which are most relevant to questions of phonology – but the departure from epichoric writing conventions allows the graphic representation of certain morphological, and – at times – also lexical and syntactic phenomena. On the contrary, in the translations, the syntactic, lexical and morphological features are relevant; whereas the phonological ones less so.

This project aims, consequently, at an intersection of this two-fold documentary perspective in order to enhance and update current knowledge on the phenomena of language variation and change in those countries where both Greek and Latin language and writing were diffused in the ancient and late ancient world.

eng/progetto/inizio.txt · Ultima modifica: 2020/04/17 12:31 da amministratore