Greek in Italy

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Codebreakers and Groundbreakers

The Fitzwilliam Museum and the Museum of Classical Archaeology in the Classics Faculty are jointly hosting an exhibition called Codebreakers and Groundbreakers.

The Fitz’s exhibition focusses on the decipherment of Linear B (by the architect Michael Ventris aided by John Chadwick, then a newly appointed lecurer in Classics at Cambridge), and, a little earlier, the cracking of German codes during the Second World War at Bletchley Park by Alan Turing and others.

The Classics Faculty includes items from the archive of Alan Wace, who was the archaeologist who excavated Mycenae and discovered tablets written in Linear B, and features displays by current Faculty projects which rely on both ‘codebreaking’ and ‘groundbreaking’: the CREWS (Contexts of and Relations beween Early Scripts) project, the Greek Lexicon, the Myceneaen Epigraphy Group, and us at Greek in Italy!

Greek in Italy
Above you can see our panel at the exhibition. We think it’s pretty cool, and recommend that you go and see it and the rest of the exhibition in both venues (it’s on until the 3rd February, so there’s still plenty of time).

Thanks to Francesca Bellei, who designed the panel and wrote the text!

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The dangers of diglossia and bilingualism

The Latin word for ‘bilingual’ is bilinguis e. As a formation, it “literally” means ‘having two tongues’, just as the poet Ennius said that he had three hearts  (tria cordia) because he knew how to speak Greek, Oscan, and Latin (Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights XVII 17.1). The adjective bilinguis is one of a sizeable set of compounds that begin with bi– (see OLD, pp. 232-235).

The formal equivalent of bilinguis in Greek is δί-γλωσσος (again, “literally”, ‘having two tongues’, a neat illustration of how stems used in compounds can have the force of a singular or plural or dual). Whence come διγλωσσία and English ‘diglossia’ (‘being bilingual in your own language’, as I was taught) and ‘diglot’, a technical term for a book like a Loeb.

Both bilinguis and δίγλωσσος are not just formal equivalents; they also have the same range of meanings, connotations, and applications.

OLD lists the adjective as a description of ‘things’ with two tongues, of people with two languages, and of people who are ‘double-tongued, deceitful, treacherous’. LSJ has ‘speaking two languages’ for Thucydides and Galen (in his famous discussion of the nature of Koine Greek), but also ‘interpreter, dragoman’ in Plutarch. LSJ then continues ‘double-tongued, deceitful, LXXSi.5.9, al.’ (As ever, there is a question of what ‘al.’ means: officially ‘elsewhere in the same author’. This meaning occurs elsewhere in the LXX and in Siracides at that, but also in other authors, as DGE s.v. II 2 reports. ‘etc.’ would have been appropriate this time.) From DGE, we can add a double-tongued singing cicada (Anth. IX 273.2). Since γλώσσα can be anything tongue-shaped (LSJ s.v. III), doubtless, various objects could be ‘double-tongued’.

The Persian by Plautus has one character describing another as tamquam proserpens bestia est bilinguis et scelestus (‘Like a snake he is evil and has a two-forked tongue’: line 299). Virgil, Aeneid I 661, might be better known: domum timet ambiguam Tyriosque bilinguis (‘she fears the uncertain house and the “bilingual” Tyrians’).

The historian Quintus Curtius Rufus describes the Branchidae as:
mores patrii nondum exoleverant, sed iam bilingues erant, paulatim a domestico externo sermone degeneres.
They had not ceased to follow the customs of their native land, but they were already bilingual, having gradually degenerated from their original language through the influence of a foreign tongue.

History of Alexander the Great VII 5.29

This we would describe as ‘progress’ towards ‘language death’, in the context of language contact and cultural contact. However, we would do so more charitably than Curtius, who labelled the Branchidae as bilingual degeneres. That said, the Branchidae had sided with Xerxes and, to please him, had destroyed the Didymeon sanctuary (VII 5.28). Xerxes had resettled them. In VII 5.33-35, Curtius is more sympathetic to them  as victims of genocide (or more hostile to Alexander).

In some instances, it is clear that treachery (1), not bilingualism (2), is in view, but the two go together in the case of the Branchidae and, more generally, as Rachel Mairs has discussed in  ‘Translator, Traditor: The Interpreter as Traitor in Classical Tradition’, Greece and Rome 58.1 (2011), 64-81.

For (1), consider Didache 2.4, an early Christian text only rediscovered in 1883, and its parallel in the longer-known Epistle of Barnabas 19.7a:

οὐκ ἔσῃ διγνώμων οὐδὲ δίγλωσσος· παγὶς γὰρ θανάτου ἡ διγλωσσία.
You will not be double-minded, nor double-tongued: diglossia, you see, is the snare of death.

For (2), there are, among many other instances, bilingual Carian cities in Diodorus Siculus XI 60.4 (Greek cities with Persian garrisons) and an interpreter in XVII 68.5:

ἐν δὲ τούτοις ἧκεν ἀναγόμενος ἀνὴρ δίγλωττος, εἰδὼς <τὴν μὲν Ἑλληνικὴν καὶ> τὴν Περσικὴν διάλεκτον· οὗτος δὲ ἑαυτὸν ἀπεφαίνετο Λύκιον μὲν εἶναι τὸ γένος, αἰχμάλωτον δὲ γενόμενον ποιμαίνειν κατὰ τὴν ὑποκειμένην ὀρεινὴν ἔτη πλείω· δι’ ἣν αἰτίαν ἔμπειρον γενέσθαι τῆς χώρας καὶ δύνασθαι τὴν δύναμιν ἀγαγεῖν διὰ τῆς καταδένδρου καὶκατόπιν ποιῆσαι τῶν τηρούντων τὰς παρόδους.

Among these came hopefully a man who was bilingual, knowing *<the Greek and> the Persian language. He said that he was a Lycian, had been brought there as a captive, and had pastured goats in these mountains for a number of years. He had come to know the country well and could lead a force of men over a path concealed by bushes and bring them to the rear of the Persians guarding the pass.

* an example of a saut du même au même, an omission caused by skipping from the first occurrence of a word (τὴν ‘the’) to a second occurrence.

The words ‘he said that he was a Lycian’ sound a note of suspicion of (1) here… but, in this instance, that was in Alexander’s favour.

What has all this got to do with Greek in Italy?

Well, apart from the Greek historian Diodorus the Sicilian and then Galen, who was active at Rome in the second half of the third century (at the Imperial Court no less), it is enticing to speculate that the Latin bi– compounds have been influenced, to some extent, by their Greek formal counterparts. It is possible that biurus involves Greek οὐρά ‘tail’. If so, the name that Pliny the Elder reports Cicero as reporting for animalia…, qui uites in Campania erodebant (‘animals…, who would gnaw the vines in Campania’) would be a hybrid Latin-Greek compound. Two other bi– compounds, bilycnis ‘twin-lamped’  and bisyllabus ‘disyllabic, involve words that were Greek in origin (λύχνος and συλλαβή), but had their own currency as Latin words (lychnus and syllaba).

Neither the Didache nor the Epistle of Barnabas have any known connection with Italy, unlike other Greek texts among the so-called Apostolic Fathers (Ignatius wrote to the church in Rome, the letter known as 1 Clement was sent from the church in Rome to the church in Corinth, and the Shepherd of Hermas reports events in Rome and may refer to Cumae at 1.3 and 5.1, as Dindorf conjectured [although the Greek manuscripts have εἰς κώμας ‘into the villages’, one Latin version has apud ciuitatem Ostiorum and apud regionem Cumanorum respectively]). However, Codex Claromontanus (6th c. AD), which contains the letters of St Paul in Greek and Latin and which is thought to have been copied in Sardinia, contains a stichometric list that includes both the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas. Two of the leaves of this codex are palimpsest with the Phaethon of Euripides as their undertext (plates I-IV in J. Diggle’s Euripides: Phaethon [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970]). So, there are various other Greek in Italy connections.

More than that, there is the occasion for this post: editorial work has begun on Migration, Mobility, and Language Contact, Greek in Italy’s volume arising from the 2016 Laurence Seminar of the same name. This volume will include a chapter on interpreters by Rachel Mairs.


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A new member for a new year

Happy New Year to everyone. We’re very pleased to welcome to the project Patrick James, who is joining as a post-doctoral research associate. Patrick previously worked for the Greek Lexicon project in the Classics Faculty here in Cambridge, and comes to us via the Tyndale House Institute for Biblical Research. He will be working on Greek loanwords in Latin, and we’re very much looking forward to seeing what he comes up with as we work together on the project. Look out for him introducing his work in more detail here on the blog!


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The CREWS project

If you’ve enjoyed following the the progress of the Greek in Italy project, then there is a new major research project in the Faculty of Classics that you will be interested in.

crews-8-cropped.png

The CREWS project (Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems) is a European Research Council funded project hosted at the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge, led by our colleague Pippa Steele.

Pippa has started a blog for the project, which began in April, and explains here the context and aims of the project. One of the things the project will do is to look at the relationships between different scripts in the ancient Mediterranean – these relationships definitely existed, but it’s not always clear exactly how they work or when they came about.

There are very few writing systems that look like completely ex novo creations (and indeed there is still plenty of debate on which ancient systems were entirely new creations). Most known writing systems are related to other ones. Did you know, for example, that the Roman alphabet that is used for modern English and many other languages is also closely related to the modern Hebrew, Greek and Cyrillic alphabets? Looking back at historical developments, we can reconstruct how they are related to each other, creating a picture somewhat akin to a ‘family tree’ – for instance the Greek alphabet is an ancestor of the Roman alphabet, while the Hebrew alphabet is more like a cousin to the Greek one, and so on. These relations tell us about other sorts of relationships too, because in order for a new writing system to be developed from an old one, there must also be contact between groups of people. Why and how did one group decide to adopt writing from another, and how did they make it their own? The relations between different writing systems give evidence for connections between different cultures and societies across the world.

We’re all looking forward to following this fascinating project as it develops.

There are several opportunities coming up to be part of the CREWS project team. There is currently a PhD studentship in early Greek alphabets available to start in October 2016, and there will also be post-doc opportunities linked to the project. You can find details through the CREWS website.


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Allusions of grandeur

On Friday night I had a nice chat with Helen Zaltzman about alphabets, Oscan, Greek etc. She recorded it for her podcast, The Allusionist, which is about all things to do with language and languages. The conversation lasted about an hour, but she’ll be editing it down significantly, so hopefully I’ll sound a lot more articulate than I really was. That will take a while, so I think the podcast won’t be released for a couple of months – I’ll let you know when it’s available. In the meantime, keep an ear out for other editions featuring friends of ‘Greek in Italy’: Rachele De Felice and Lynne Murphy talking about politeness in British English and American English, and Miriam Wagner on the differences between German in East and West Germany.


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New book: Oscan in Southern Italy and Sicily

Katherine’s new book, Oscan in Southern Italy and Sicily: Evaluating Language Contact in a Fragmentary Corpus, published by Cambridge University Press, is now out. We’re all very excited! Check out the awesome cover.

 

Samnite robot is go!

Here’s the blurb:

In pre-Roman Italy and Sicily, dozens of languages and writing systems competed and interacted, and bilingualism was the norm. Using frameworks from epigraphy, archaeology and the sociolinguistics of language contact, this book explores the relationship between Greek and Oscan, two of the most widely spoken languages in the south of the peninsula. Dr McDonald undertakes a new analysis of the entire corpus of South Oscan texts written in Lucania, Bruttium and Messana, including dedications, curse tablets, laws, funerary texts and graffiti. She demonstrates that genre and domain are critical to understanding where and when Greek was used within Oscan-speaking communities, and how ancient bilinguals exploited the social meaning of their languages in their writing. This book also offers a cutting-edge example of how to build the fullest possible picture of bilingualism in fragmentary languages across the ancient world.

It’s available to order on the CUP website or, no doubt, in your local bookshop.