Greek in Italy

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New Book: Oscan in the Greek Alphabet

Jacket

Nick’s new book, Oscan in the Greek Alphabet, is available from today with Cambridge University Press. This is very exciting for me in particular – I’ve referred to Nick’s great analysis of the phonology and orthography of Oscan many times in my own work, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so for a long time.

CUP tweeted a picture of the book as it went on the shelves:

 

Here is Nick’s blurb of the book:

Oscan was spoken in Southern Italy in the second half of the first millennium BC. Here, for the first time, all the evidence for the spelling of Oscan in the Greek alphabet is collected and examined. Understanding the orthography of these inscriptions has far-reaching implications for the historical phonology and morphology of Oscan and the Italic languages (for example providing unique evidence for the reconstruction of the genitive plural). A striking discovery is the lack of a standardised orthography for Oscan in the Greek alphabet, which seriously problematises attempts to date inscriptions by assuming the consistent chronological development of spelling features. There are also intriguing insights into the linguistic situation in South Italy. Rather than a separate community of Oscan-speakers who had adopted and subsequently adapted the Greek alphabet in isolation, we should posit groups who were in touch with contemporary developments in Greek orthography due to widespread Greek-Oscan bilingualism.

You can preview the book at Amazon and Google books too, or order it through your local bookshop.

 


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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.

 


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Migrating to the Hay Festival

festival-wales

Last week I gave a talk relating to the Greek in Italy project as part of the Cambridge Series at the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts. The festival is set in the beautiful Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye and attracts around 100,000 visitors each year. Around three hundred of them braved the torrential rain on Friday morning to come to my talk, ‘Migration and Language: Ancient Perspectives’. In the talk I was comparing some of the modern and ancient anxieties about the consequences of population movement on language. Nigel Farage’s disquiet at hearing foreign languages spoken on a London train and David Starkey’s fears (expressed after the London riots in 2011) that British youth had been corrupted by Jamaican patois can be set aside ancient views, found for example in Pseudo-Xenophon Athenian Constitution and Cicero’s Brutus, that the language of incomers leads to linguistic corruption. These worries about the effects of migration on language can be countered by the findings of the national census (in the modern case) and by consideration of the long-term picture of language change in the ancient world. Despite the massive influx of non-native speakers of Latin (many of them Greeks) into Rome, Latin continued to be spoken in the Western Roman Empire. Indeed, it was the other languages, Oscan, Umbrian, Etruscan, Gaulish, Iberian etc. that died out. In the same way recent census findings have shown the dominance of English in the British Isles, and that this is at the expense of the minority language, Welsh. The 2011 UK Census also asked for the first time about competence in English amongst those who did not use it as their first language, and found that only a tiny fraction (0.3% roughly 138,000 people) of the population were unable to speak any English at all (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_302179.pdf). A recording of this talk  – although unfortunately without the accompanying slides – is available here.


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New book: Language and Society in the Greek and Roman Worlds

James Clackson’s new book Language and Society in the Greek and Roman Worlds is now available as part of the “Key Themes in Ancient History” series.

The blurb:

“Texts written in Latin, Greek and other languages provide ancient historians with their primary evidence, but the role of language as a source for understanding the ancient world is often overlooked. Language played a key role in state-formation and the spread of Christianity, the construction of ethnicity, and negotiating positions of social status and group membership. Language could reinforce social norms and shed light on taboos. This book presents an accessible account of ways in which linguistic evidence can illuminate topics such as imperialism, ethnicity, social mobility, religion, gender and sexuality in the ancient world, without assuming the reader has any knowledge of Greek or Latin, or of linguistic jargon. It describes the rise of Greek and Latin at the expense of other languages spoken around the Mediterranean and details the social meanings of different styles, and the attitudes of ancient speakers towards linguistic differences.”