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Lingue antiche e sistemi scrittorî in contatto
Sapienza Università di Roma, lunedì 27 e martedì 28 maggio 2024
Locandina   Programma   Abstract

Terzo incontro di studî del progetto di ricerca
Università per Stranieri di Siena, lunedì 23 e martedì 24 gennaio 2023
Programma, abstract e locandina

Secondo incontro di studî del progetto di ricerca
Università di Napoli «L’Orientale», giovedì 20 e venerdì 21 gennaio 2022

mercoledì 13 gennaio 2021



Convegno finale: abstract

Jesús de la Villa

Between Septuagint and Vulgate: the order of words in Biblical Greek and Latin

The comparison of the Greek texts of the Old and New Testament with the Vulgate version allows us to obtain important grammatical information from both the Greek text and the Latin text (see, e.g. Villa 1999). In the case of the Greek text, the Latin version offers us a direct testimony of the way it was understood already in Antiquity thorough the testimony of individuals who, in most cases, knew the two languages well. In the case of the Latin text, the basis of the analysis consists in the fact that the Latin version of the Vulgate aims, at the same time, to be as literal as possible, and to render a text written within the correct linguistic norms of Latin (see e.g. Brock 1979). The most interesting information comes, therefore, from those cases where there is a divergence between the Greek text and the Latin text, since this divergence gives us insight into the limits of Latin grammaticality. In this paper, I analyze those passages in which there is a variation in word order between the Greek text of the Septuagint and the Vulgate, mainly in Genesis. As I argued in Villa (2000), in such passages it is possible to find regular patterns that correspond to differences in the Greek and Latin systems of word order.

— Brock, Sebastian (1979). ‘Aspects of translation technique in Antiquity’: Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 20: 69–87.
— de la Villa, Jesús (1999). ‘Algunas construcciones gramaticales y no gramaticales en latín tardío’. In: H. Petersmann & R. Kettemann (Hgg.). Latin vulgaire – latin tardif. Actes du Ve Colloque international sur le latin vulgaire et tardif. Heidelberg, 5–8 septembre 1997. Heidelberg: Carl Winter: 287–298.
— De la Villa, Jesús (2000). ‘El orden de palabras de algunos determinantes en la Vulgata y en la obra de Jerónimo’. In: B. García Hernández (ed.). Latín vulgar y tardío. Homenaje a Veiko Väänänen (1905–1997). Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas 2000: 221–237.

Robert Kerr

« … Quia et linguam Punicam scire audieram ». On Latino-Punic or Punic in Latinate guise

The Phoenician alphabet, derived from the Middle Bronze Age Proto-Sinaitic script, was a consonantal linear writing system that, betraying its Egyptian roots, originally only rendered consonants (an abjad), in what is often described as a historical orthography, which renders but little synchronic phonetic information. Later, Western Phoenician, or Punic, would occasionally render final long vowels indiscriminately most often with an ʾAlif. Even later, especially after the destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War in 146BC, until at least the first century AD, an unsystematic system of vocalisation was employed, known as phonetic orthography, recycling graphemes whose underlying phonemes had become quiescent. Apparently, Carthage’s destruction and ensuing Roman suzerainty meant that Punic was no longer the exclusive prerogative of a highly trained scribal elite, and was henceforth used informally, as the unsystematic orthography and widely divergent epichoric palaeographies seem to suggest. During this period, we see a fascinating expansion of the use of public and especially private Punic epigraphy, imitating Latinate habits. From the first to at least the fourth century AD in Tripolitania, the Latin alphabet was used to render Punic in a relatively systematic fashion, Latino-Punic (as well as the testimonia of some Latinate African authors such as St Augustine). These texts are thus among the few alphabetic Semitic textual corpora with contemporary vocalisation, which shed interesting light on diachronic and comparative phonetic developments, and also provide a key to understanding neo-Punic vocalised orthography.
This lecture, after a brief historical overview, will focus on the Tripolitanian Latino-Punic corpus, with some reference to neo-Punic. Although in the past, both neo- and Latino-Punic were seen as the last throes of a dying language (or even mistakenly as Berber), here we in reality see a Semitic language continuing to thrive into early Late Antique Roman North Africa, reinvigorated in a sense through contact with Latin. While we see Latin influence in textual genres, formulae, onomasticon, and occasionally syntax, above all the usage of the Latin alphabet sheds important light on diachronic morphophonological questions. We will furthermore explain how the Latin alphabet was adapted to render Punic. While Latino-Punic had but a limited geographical spread and was only used for a relatively brief period, this is counterbalanced by its importance for diachronic Semitic linguistics.

Marco Mancini

I σήματα e il modello greco dell’evoluzione della scrittura

This paper aims to review the many accounts, often reduced to a mere onomastic citation, provided by Greek (and partly Roman) historians, antiquarians, grammarians and glossographers on the origin of writing. Pre-Christian classical historiography often identified a unilinear trajectory from a given archetype to the Greek alphabetic script. The archetype, from time to time, corresponds to Phoenician, Egyptian, Assyrian, and Aramaic (Chaldaic) scripts and, in not a few cases, refers back to an entirely Greek genesis. Reconstructions are not lacking between history and mythology, in which the different phyla, so to speak, converge with each other. However, a close examination of some scattered evidence, already highlighted in the previous scholarly literature, allows us to identify the co-existence of a plurilinear and not merely unilinear reconstructive pattern of the history of Greek writing. A couple of passages from Plutarch and Diodorus Siculus suggest how in some Greek circles, the idea of two historical segments in the creation of writing had been progressively consolidated: the former was very ancient, predating the Trojan War and the Flood; the latter, leading from the archetype to the Greek alphabetical script, was more recent and represented by several πρῶτοι εὑρεταί (Cadmus, Palamedes, Hermes, Theyth etc.). The former had no historical continuation known to the Greeks except in faint and remote memories; since Hecataeus and Herodotus, the latter was the commonly accepted one. The existence of a plurilinear model paradigm is reflected in some interesting explanations of the famous passage in the Iliad (6, 166-180) devoted to Bellerophon's σήματα λυγρά “baneful signs”. Part of the tradition of the Homeric glosses (the scholia VKM, D, partly dating back to Aristarchus) makes use of this paradigm by contrasting, as occurs in Eustatius and some passages of Plutarch, the very ancient and antediluvian σήματα “the signs” with the γράμματα, the “alphabetical letters.” This demonstrates the remarkable sensitivity of some Greek circles in interpreting a crucial event in Hellenic cultural history.

Daniele F. Maras

Intangible Elements in Material Culture: Writing as a Medium for Cultural Exchange in Late-Archaic Etruria and Latium

Each archaeological object is the bearer of a message from people of the past: however, since an inscribed object was conceived as a message from the beginning, it is able to communicate many intangible elements that would be otherwise lost. In this framework, the author presents some case-studies in Etruscan and Pre-Roman writing with the goal of highlighting the multifaceted cultural aspects that are conveyed by epigraphic documents. The earliest spread of writing offers an unexpected viewpoint on the oral culture relating to the gift-exchange and the ideology of symposium, which were the principal forms of cultural contact in the Orientalizing Mediterranean. Inscriptions are the only direct sources for personal nomenclature, showing the historical development of society as well as the relations with foreigners, from integration to hospitality. Cultic inscriptions found in multi-cultural sacred places - such as harbor and market sanctuaries - offer information on phenomena of religious syncretism, interpretatio and assimilation.

Massimiliano Marazzi

Il geroglifico anatolico: non solo scrittura “ufficiale”

La scrittura cd. geroglifico-anatolica, in uso nell'Anatolia hittita nel corso del II mill. a. C., è stata ritenuta fino a oggi un sistema grafico di carattere “ufficiale”, utilizzato, cioè, a prescindere dai supporti scrittorî dei quali sembra aver fatto uso, per mediare contenuti strettamente legati alla vita economico-amministrativa e politico-religiosa dell'apparato statale. Anche per quanto ne riguarda la tecnica esecutiva, essa è sempre stata vista come sistema tipicamente legato alla pratica dell'incisione/scalpellatura su superfici litiche, metalliche o (ma più raramente) fittili. La sua possibile stesura su tavolette cerate negli ultimissimi decenni della vita del regno non rappresenta in tal senso una eccezione. La maggioranza degli specialisti ritiene oggi, inoltre, che il sistema abbia raggiunto una sua 'maturità fonetica' non prima della prima metà del XV secolo a. C. Nuovi ritrovamenti e nuove riflessioni sulla base della documentazione esistente tendono a sovvertire le certezze acquisite e ad aprire orizzonti molto più complessi sotto il profilo socio-scrittorio.

H. Craig Melchert

The Carian Alphabet of Egypt and Related Issues

Carian is unique among first-millennium Anatolian alphabets based on Greek in having a spectrum of local Carian alphabets plus a unified one from Egypt differing from all of them. Further, it shows an apparent “metakharakterismos” in that most letters resembling those of Greek have sound values strikingly different from Greek. Ignasi-Xavier Adiego in his magisterial handbook of 2007 claimed that the Egyptian alphabet is closest to a Carian ‘Uralphabet’ because inter alia it had extra letters for semivowels that were lost in the later forms of the Carian alphabets. I will show that the second claim is false and the first at best misleading. Adiego’s account of the “metakharakterismos” is basically correct, but the diversity of Carian alphabets surely played a role in enabling the process.

Dimitrios Meletis

Grapholinguistics as an interdisciplinary framework for the synchronic and diachronic study of writing

Grammatology, graphonomy, graphem(at)ics, writing systems research – many labels exist for a field that emerged in linguistics only towards the second half of the last century. They are by no means synonyms as they stem from different paradigms and research traditions. What they have in common, however, is that they address (different) facets of the topic of writing. These aspects are subsumed under the broad heading of grapholinguistics – a designation that is already well-established in German-language research (as ‘Schriftlinguistik’) and is now gaining traction in the Anglophone world as well. Grapholinguistics is defined as an interdisciplinary field that covers not only descriptive questions concerning the structure of writing but also adopts sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic, as well as several other perspectives and methodologies to account for questions of the use of writing (cf. Meletis/Dürscheid 2022). One of the main aims of grapholinguistic research as outlined in Meletis (2020) is the estab-lishment of a framework for the systematic investigation of writing systems, which in a first step entails the proposal of descriptive concepts. Notably, such a framework must be maximally inclu-sive and thus capable of accounting for all writing systems – not just alphabets and not just mod-ern (i.e., living) writing systems. Against this background, a trichotomy of subbranches has been proposed as the core of a comparative descriptive grapholinguistics: (1) graphetics, studying all aspects concerning the materiality of writing; (2) graphematics, examining the linguistic and communicative functions of writing, and (3) orthography, dealing with the normative aspects of writing such as the regulation of written structures. With a combination of concepts from these three subbranches and an acknowledgement of their interaction, a thorough description of various writing systems can be achieved, allowing a comparison and typologization that moves beyond the mere question of which linguistic levels (phoneme, syllable, morpheme, …) their basic units predominantly correspond with (cf. Joyce/Meletis 2021). Furthermore, in enriching the resulting descriptive accounts of writing systems with usage-based perspectives as well as extralinguistic evidence and thus complementing a descriptive theory of writing with an explanatory component, a fuller picture of writing as a structural and commu-nicative phenomenon emerges. This search for explanations can be guided by four categories that assess how ‘well’ writing systems meet different criteria or fulfil given functions: the (I) systematic fit evaluates how systematic a writing system is in and of itself, the (II) linguistic fit asks how well a writing system suits the structure(s) of the language it is used for, the (III) processing fit assesses how well a writing system suits the physiological and cognitive capacities of human readers and writers, and the (IV) sociocultural fit explores whether a writing system fulfils a literate communi-ty’s sociocommunicative and cultural needs and wishes. This talk will give an overview of the mentioned descriptive and explanatory components of grapholinguistics and discuss their implications for both the (re-)assessment of existing research on modern and ancient writing systems as well as the future of their study.

— Joyce, Terry, and Dimitrios Meletis (2021). Alternative criteria for writing system typology. Cross-linguistic observations from the German and Japanese writing systems. Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 40.3: 257–77.
— Meletis, Dimitrios (2020). The nature of writing. A theory of grapholinguistics (Grapholinguistics and Its Applications 3). Brest: Fluxus Editions.
— Meletis, Dimitrios, and Christa Dürscheid (2022). Writing systems and their use. An overview of grapholinguistics (Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 369). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Paolo Milizia e Giancarlo Schirru

Fenomeni di morfologia nominale e pronominale nelle lingue antiche della Valle del Nilo

The speech is addressed to some issues in nominal and pronominal morphology, observed in the languages of the Nile Valley: synchronic data are compared with historical considerations. The availability of a long-range historical perspective is allowed by the presence in this region of one the oldest linguistic traditions, the Egyptian one, which diffused its graphical models along the Nile Valley, until the middle course of the river, where languages genetically unrelated to the Afro-Asiatic group are diffused.
The first part of the speech deals with Coptic. This language exhibits a group of typologically interesting phenomena of agreement which can be easily recognized as such by comparing Coptic translations with their Greek models. For instance, in te-khora tēr-s n-t-ioudaia (Mark 1.5), which translates pâsa hē ioudaía khṓra, the complex element tēr-s corresponds to pâsa; in rō-ou n-ne-htōōr (Jas 3.3), which translates tôn híppōn…tà stómata, rō-ou corresponds to stómata; in harat-f m-p-toou (Mark 5.11), which translates pròs tôi órei, harat-f corresponds to pròs. The second components of these complex elements are pronominal suffixes in their origin. However, as the comparisons above show, from a synchronic point of view, such items must be considered as agreement markers. Coptic thus exhibits cases of 1) adnominal modifiers that agree in gender, number and – remarkably – person with their governing noun; 2) possessed nouns that agree with their possessor; 3) adpositions that agree with their dependent noun.
The second part of the contribution is dedicated to some issues of nominal morphology of the North-Eastern Sudanic languages (following the classification of Claude Rilly), attested in eastern and western territories of the middle course of Nile Valley: in particular, the suffix of nominal plural and, in the inflection of the personal pronouns, the distinction between inclusive and exclusive first plural. Both phenomena will be observed in Nara, a language belonging to the group, diffused in present-day North-Western Eritrea: the observations are partially based on new data collected during a fieldwork in January 2024. It will be argued that the knowledge of Old Nubian, a language genetically linked to the North-Eastern Sudanic group, historically attested through the spread of the Coptic alphabet along the Nile valley to the Christian kingdoms of Nubia, allows the reconstruction of a historical path for the nominal and pronominal inflection of Nara.

Anna Persig

Lexical borrowings in the Latin translations of 1 Corinthians

The influence of Greek on the vocabulary of the Latin translations of the New Testament can be due to various factors, such as the necessity to make up for the absence of specialised Christian terms in Latin and to produce translations as close as possible to the Greek source text. This presentation examines the Greek loan-words and calques attested in the Vetus Latina and Vulgate traditions of the First Letter to the Corinthians. A selection of words derived from Greek will be discussed, with special attention to those unattested outside the Latin Bible and to the semantic areas and grammatical categories to which they can be assigned. It will be also determined whether these forms are equally attested in the manuscripts and in the citations of the Church Fathers transmitting the epistle. Bilingual manuscripts and translations made directly from Greek manuscripts are expected to have the highest number of borrowings because of the close contact with the Greek text. The chronological distribution of the borrowings will be also taken into consideration: it will be observed whether the influence of Greek on the lexicon is more prominent in the earliest translations, when a Latin Christian vocabulary was to be formed, than in the fifth-century Old Latin versions and in the Vulgate or vice versa. The frequency of loan-words and calques also varies according to the geographical provenance of manuscripts and of the early Christian writers that cite the letter: for example, African writers appear to introduce new Latin formations in place of Greek loan-words. Finally, motivations for the inclusion of these borrowings, such as cultural or taboo reasons, will be proposed.

— Bergren, Theodore A. (2019) ‘Greek Loan-words in the Vulgate New Testament and the Latin Apostolic Fathers’. Traditio 74, 1–25.\\- Burton, Philip (2000) The Old Latin Gospels. Oxford: Oxford University Press. — Fröhlich, Uwe (1995) Vetus Latina. Die Reste der altlateinischen Bibel. Epistula ad Corinthios I. VL 22. Freiburg: Herder.
— Garcia de la Fuente, Olegario. 1994. Latín bíblico y latín cristiano. Madrid: Editorial CEES.
— Houghton, H.A.G. (2016) The Latin New Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
— Houghton, H.A.G., Kreinecker C.M., MacLachlan R.F. and Smith C.J. (2018) The Principal Pauline Epistles: A Collation of Old Latin Witnesses. New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents 59. Leiden: Brill.
— Mohrmann, Christine (1950) ‘Les emprunts grecs dans la latinité chrétienne.’ Vigiliae Christianae 4, 193–211.
— Rönsch, Hermann (1875) Itala und Vulgata. 2nd edition. Marburg: N.G. Elwert.
— Vineis, Edoardo (1974) Studio sulla lingua dell’Itala. Pisa: Pacini.

Claude Rilly

Deciphering Meroitic: how far have we come? How far can we go?

Meroitic was the main language of the successive kingdoms of ancient Sudan. It was however written only during the last of them, the Kingdom of Meroe (270 BC –ad 330). Its two scripts (hieroglyphic and cursive alphasyllabaries), which were derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs and demotic, were deciphered in 1911 by F. Ll. Griffith. However, Meroitic belongs to a not-so-rare category of ancient languages that are written in a well-known script but are not or incompletely understood, such as Gaulish, Etruscan, Messapian, Elamite, and many others. As no significant bilingual text was so far discovered, progress in the translation of the Meroitic texts was rather slow in a hundred years. Another reason was the lack of evidence for existing related languages. Scholars such as Griffith himself and his successors Macadam (1909 – 1997), Hintze (1915 – 1993), Millet (1934 – 2004) and Hofmann (1934 – 2016) had to use internal methods of decipherment with contrasted results.
In 2010, the present author provided strong evidence for linking Meroitic to a sub-family of Nilo-Saharan languages, which he termed “Northern East Sudanic”. It comprises four groups of living languages spoken from Chad to Eritrea and significantly includes Nubian, a language family that replaced Meroitic in the Middle Nile valley after the fall of Meroe. This recent discovery gave new impetus to the study of Meroitic. Linguistic comparison with related languages and with the reconstructed proto-language is unfortunately not the ultimate key to the complete decipherment of Meroitic (the related languages are actually not so close), but it proved to be a powerful tool when added to internal methods. Currently, certain categories of texts like the funerary inscriptions can be translated entirely or almost entirely, whereas historical and administrative inscriptions remain in great part obscure, but this obscurity is gradually losing ground.

Liana Tronci

Participial syntax in the Bible: Greek data compared to Latin translations

This presentation focuses on two usages of the participle in Biblical Greek, which were very rare in previous stages of Greek, and investigates them compared to their translations in Vulgate Latin. The types ἐλθὼν κατῴκησεν and ἦν… διδάσκων illustrate these usages. In the first type, the participle and the main verb form a morphosyntactic unit, i.e. a multiverb construction in which the participle provides deictic and/or aspectual information to the main event. Certain constraints on the participle, namely its belonging to a closed class (verbs of motion and posture) and its position just before the main verb, confirm this analysis. In the second type of construction, conversely, the two verbs do not form any morphosyntactic unit, as the finite verb is an existential-locative predication while the participle functions as the main semantic predication of the clause.
In several studies devoted to these constructions in recent years, attention was paid, on the one hand, to the influence of Semitic languages (Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic) and, on the other hand, to the registers of language in which they were used. In this presentation, I would like to explore the relation between these constructions and some structural aspects of the diachrony of Greek, such as the restructuring of the aspectual system and the differences that emerged in the information structure in Biblical Greek.

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