Greek in Italy

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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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Greek literature in Italy

Last year, I taught the Classics Faculty’s Intensive Greek reading classes on Bacchylides 5 (as also in 2015-2016) and Aeschylus’ Persians. Just like Simonides (Bacchylides’ uncle) and Pindar, these two celebrated Greek poets were associated with the court of Hieron of Syracuse. Earlier, there was Stesichorus (late 7th – mid 6th c. BCE), who lived, composed, and died in Magna Graecia, and Ibycus (fl. mid. 6th c. BCE), who was from Rhegion, but was active at the court of the Samian tyrant Polycrates. (Guides to the ‘biography’ of Greek and Latin poets and Collections of sources in their original languages and in translation are freely available via Living Poets at Durham).

That was all by way of a pretext to share two of my favourite journal articles on Bacchylides and highlights from the history of journal publishing. The first compares Bacchylides fr. 20  B 6-16 with a Martini label and, for a similar purpose, the second quotes Callimachus, Aetia (fr. 1.32), Pindar fr. 124 ab 5-7, and Teiresias’ words from Odyssey X 495 in an oft-quoted form independent of their context.

Merkelbach, R. (1973). Zum Trinklied des Bakchylides. Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 10: 228-229.
— (1975). Der Triumph der Nüchternheit oder Die Widerlegung des Martini-Trinkers. Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 17: 97-100.

ZPE 10 1973 229

ZPE 10 1975 98

In those days, ZPE was prepared on typewriters and these (colour) Martini labels were glued in copy by copy…

Bacchylides was fond of compound adjectives involving colours. One of my favourites is κυανο-πλόκαμος: ‘(of Victory) with blue or dark braids (of hair)’. That is, Victory was ‘blue rinse’.

My real reason to mention colours, though, was to reference another article.
Gipper, Helmut (1964). Purpur. Glotta 42.1./2: 39-69.

Blue hair may not have been the key notion in κυανοπλόκαμος and the identity of the colour whose adjective is πορφύρεος  (whence, our ‘purple’) has been a subject for some debate, given its range of applications (LSJ s.v.).

Helmut Gipper concluded his study with a colour swatch, again individually glued into each copy of that issue of the journal.

Gipper Purpur


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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.”