Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.08.21 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.08.21

Georgios K. Giannakis (ed.), Αρχαία Μακεδονία: γλώσσα, ιστορία, πολιτισμός / Ancient Macedonia: Language, History, Culture / Macédoine antique : langue, histoire, culture / Antikes Makedonien: Sprache, Geschichte, Kultur.   Thessaloniki:  Centre for the Greek Language, 2012.  Pp. 293.  ISBN 9789607779526..  

Reviewed by M.J.C. Scarborough, University of Cambridge (

This volume, edited by Georgios Giannakis and published by the Centre for the Greek Language, presents a survey of the current state of research on the evidence for dialect and language in ancient Macedonia.1 The question of the speech of the Macedonians in relation to the Classical Greek dialects has long been controversial. Traditionally, the debate has focused on the problem of Macedonian glosses and onomastics since Proto-Indo-European inherited voiced-aspirated plosives * bh, *dh, *gh appear to have the reflexes of voiced stops, whereas all Greek dialects have devoiced them to voiceless-aspirated stops, e.g. Maced. Bερενικά vs. Att. Φερενική (cf. PIE *bher- ‘bear’).2 A significant shift in the debate concerning the language of the Macedonians has been prompted in recent decades by new discoveries, particularly a curse tablet from Pella (E. Voutiras 1993, 1998), which is the first significant text of any length that may be called ‘Macedonian’ proper, and by several recent studies by A. Panayotou, C. Brixhe, and M. Hatzopoulos.3

The book is attractively produced and contains four chapters by four scholars working on different areas of Macedonian studies. The volume attempts a multidisciplinary survey, discussing the evidence from ancient history and archaeology in addition to the philological and linguistic evidence. Unusually, it has been produced by simultaneously publishing the four chapters in Modern Greek, English, French, and German, making the contents widely accessible to a broad audience that may include undergraduates as well as professional scholars. This is even more welcome since much of the scholarship on the topic has been scattered in difficult-to-obtain conference proceedings, periodicals, and one-off publications.

Michael Zahrnt's chapter “The History of Macedonia in the pre-Hellenistic Period” is a brief and uncontroversial survey of what is known of the early political history of the Macedonian kingdom from its legendary origins as related in Herodotus down to the assassination of Philip II in 336. While due attention is paid to Macedonian activities prior to the Persian Wars and to Macedon’s involvement in the fifth-century politics of the Greek city-states, a significant portion of the chapter is devoted to the fourth-century power-struggles in Greece and particularly to the consolidation and expansion of Macedonian power and political influence over southern Greece under Philip II is discussed in detail. Zahrnt especially asks whether and to what extent the foreign policy of Philip II was influenced by the ambition to wage a campaign against Persia that later Greek historical writers ascribed to him.

Arthur Muller's chapter “The Other Greece: The Archaeology of Macedonia” picks up from Zahrnt's historical survey and covers the history and findings of modern archaeological investigation into ancient Macedonia. The constraints of the survey format necessarily restrict Muller's coverage to a brief overview of key topics such as city planning and urban facilities, domestic space, the palaces of Aegae and Pella, art and artisanal production, and funerary architecture. While these key themes are necessarily compressed by the survey format, the lack of references to further literature or to illustrations of the archaeological finds discussed in this chapter rather restrict its usefulness as a general introduction to the topic.

The chapter by Emilio Crespo “Languages and Dialects in Ancient Macedonia” is the first of two chapters treating the linguistic evidence from ancient Macedonia. Crespo’s chapter takes a contextual approach to the Macedonian question by attempting to reconstruct what is possible to know about linguistic diversity in Ancient Macedonia from the surviving evidence. He first carefully distinguishes between direct (i.e., epigraphical) and indirect evidence (i.e., notices in ancient authors, glosses, and proper names from literary sources) and crucially notes that all surviving evidence is written in Greek, aside from occasional uninterpretable glosses transmitted from ancient authors and lexica, and that the direct epigraphical evidence itself is of considerable dialectal diversity, with documents attested from the region in West Ionic, Insular Ionic, Attic, and Attic-Ionic koiné. In discussion of the specifically ‘Macedonian’ dialect of Greek, Crespo describes the important linguistic features in detail on the basis of the Pella curse tablet, before assessing evidence from onomastics and further potential fragments. Finally, Crespo dedicates much space to the question of the spellings < Β Δ Γ > for < Φ Θ Χ > in Macedonian glosses and inscriptions. Crespo examines four lines of interpretation: The first and most common ‘Non-Greek Hypothesis’, arguing for a simple deaspiration of the Proto-Indo-European voiced-aspirates *bh * dh *gh to / b d g / is discarded in view that the phenomenon is not universal in the Macedonian material, but is only a restricted isogloss in the epigraphical evidence. The second ‘Borrowings Hypothesis’ suggest that Macedonian was a Greek dialect closely related to the North-West dialect area but borrowed vocabulary, place names, and personal names from a Non-Greek but Indo-European language similar to Phrygian or Thracian that did deaspirate the voiced-aspirated series as in the ‘Non-Greek hypothesis’. A third ‘Fricativization Hypothesis’ holds that the differences in spellings are not due to any Thraco-Phrygian substrate or adstrate, but rather through an Inner-Macedonian chain-shift in consonantal phonology. Considering the ‘Fricativization Hypothesis’ difficult to accept for phonological reasons, Crespo concludes by adopting a fourth ‘Interference Hypothesis’ similar to the ‘Borrowing Hypothesis’ in that it requires the assumption of a Non-Greek Thraco-Phrygian substrate or adstrate, but suggests that the presence of the spellings was due to phonetic interference between speakers of that language and a Macedonian Greek dialect.

The final chapter “Ancient Macedonian as a Greek dialect: A critical survey on recent work” by Julián Méndez Dosuna, champions the view that Ancient Macedonian was a Greek dialect of the North-West type, and favours the ‘Greek Hypothesis’ against the ‘Thraco-Phrygian Hypothesis’ (in his terminology). After a brief summary of the evidence in favor of the Greek Hypothesis, Méndez Dosuna immediately tackles the most controversial issue, the development of the Proto-Indo-European plosives in Ancient Macedonian. Méndez Dosuna, who has himself argued elsewhere for early spirantization of plain voiceless and voiced stops in certain Ancient Greek dialects,4 favours the interpretation of the data by M. Hatzopoulos, whereby the Macedonian voiceless-aspirated stops have undergone spirantization /ph th kh/ to fricatives /f θ x/, and have been secondarily allophonically voiced to [ v ð ɣ ] intervocalically, as part of a more general allophonic voicing lenition in the stop system in intervocalic position whereby the voiceless-unaspirated stops / p t k / lenite to voiced stops [ b d g ], and the voiced stops / b d g / lenite to voiced fricatives [ v ð ɣ ].5 Although this particular form of secondary lenition is without parallel elsewhere in Ancient or Modern Greek, Méndez Dosuna plausibly compares it to a parallel phonological process observable in contemporary Spanish and its dialects, and shows that it is also similar to a process found in Gothic and elsewhere in early Germanic. In addition to Macedonian consonantism, Méndez Dosuna also presents a detailed discussion of the evidence for the Macedonian vowel system on the basis of the Pella tablet, glosses, and a handful of relics of vocabulary tentatively identified in the Modern Greek dialect of Pieria by Ch. Tzitzilis. After treating problems of consonantism and vocalism in some detail, Méndez Dosuna sketches out the significant dialectal features of Macedonian and discusses its classification among the Greek dialects based on the congruities of the evidence with other known dialects. He also importantly discusses the dialects with which Macedonian cannot be affiliated. Overall Méndez Dosuna concludes that Ancient Macedonian was a Greek dialect closely related to North-West dialects, which featured some idiosyncratic but not entirely implausible phonetic phenomena in its consonantal phonology.

A facsimile drawing and edition of the Pella curse tablet is included in an appendix, followed by a complete bibliography for all chapters.

By way of an overall evaluation, the interdisciplinary scope of the volume’s contents is admirable. Although the linguistic debate that lies at the heart of this volume is intelligible without the chapters by Zahrnt and Muller, their inclusion reminds the reader that the linguistic debate is inextricable from its original social and historical context. While this contextualization is one of the strong points of the volume as a whole, one perceives a slight disconnect between the first two chapters on historical and archaeological matters, and the latter two, which treat the linguistic evidence specifically. An intermediate chapter dealing with dialect and constructions of linguistic identity in ancient Greece might have bridged the material of the initial and final chapters; the lack of such a discussion seems something of an omission in a volume dedicated to introducing a ‘new’ Greek dialect.6 While the disagreements between Crespo and Méndez Dosuna—the former preferring the assumption of a ‘Thraco-Phrygian’ substrate or adstrate, the latter an inner-Greek Lautverschiebung to account for the linguistic data—may be taken as indicative of the difficulty inherent in interpreting the slender remains of the evidence for Macedonian speech, it is also worthwhile to note their agreement that the text of the Pella curse tablet represents a new form of specifically Greek speech, being the local dialect spoken in the Macedonian kingdom, a dialect distinct from the Attic-Ionic koiné. In spite of the difficulties and differences of interpretation, this volume nevertheless makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate and makes that debate available to the wider scholarly community of historians, archaeologists, linguists, and epigraphists in an intelligible and accessible form.

Table of Contents

ΕισαγωγήΓεώργιος Κ. Γιαννάκης 7
Ιστορία της Μακεδονίας κατά την προελληνιστική εποχή – Michael Zahrnt 11
Η άλλη Ελλάδα: Η αρχαιολογία της ΜακεδονίαςΑrthur Muller 31
Γλώσσες και διάλεκτοι στην αρχαία Μακεδονία – Emilio Crespo 53
Η αρχαία μακεδονική ως ελληνική διάλεκτος: Κριτική επισκόπηση της πρόσφατης έρευνας – Julián Méndez Dosuna 65

Introduction – Georgios K. Giannakis 79
The history of Macedonia in the pre-Hellenistic period – Michael Zahrnt 83
The other Greece: The archaeology of Macedonia – Αrthur Muller 101
Languages and dialects in Ancient Macedon – Emilio Crespo 121
Ancient Macedonian as a Greek dialect: A critical survey on recent work – Julián Méndez Dosuna 133

Introduction – Georgios K. Giannakis 147
Histoire de la Macédoine pendant la période pré-hellénistique – Michael Zahrnt 151
L’autre Grèce : archéologie de la Macédoine – Αrthur Muller 169
Langues et dialectes dans la Macédoine antique – Emilio Crespo 189
L’ancien Macédonien en tant que dialecte grec : une étude critique des travaux récents – Julián Méndez Dosuna 201

Einleitung – Georgios K. Giannakis 215
Geschichte Makedoniens in vorhellenistischer Zeit – Michael Zahrnt 219
Das andere Griechenland: Die Archäologie Makedoniens – Αrthur Muller 237
Sprachen und Dialekte im antiken Makedonien – Emilio Crespo 259
Das antike Makedonisch als griechischer Dialekt: Kritischer Überblick über die jüngste Forschung – Julián Méndez Dosuna 271

Παράρτημα · Appendix 287
Βιβλιογραφία · Bibliography · Bibliographie 289


1.   This book is published as part of the Centre for the Greek Language's project "Ancient Greek Dialects of Vital Importance for the Continuity of the Greek Language and the Cultural Tradition – A documentation project for the support of the curricula in the Universities’ Departments of Language and Literature (Διάλεκτοι της Αρχαίας Ελληνικής με κομβική ιστορική σημασία για τη συνέχεια της ελληνικής γλώσσας και πολιτισμικής παράδοσης - Ἐργο τεκμηρίωσης για την ενίσχυση των προγραμμάτων σπουδών των τμημάτων φιλολογίας ΑΕΙ) with the assistance of the Greek Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture, and Sports, and the European Social Fund. The volume itself is freely downloadable in .pdf form from the project webpage
2.   The devoicing of the PIE voiced-aspirates is normally understood as one of the earliest specifically ‘Greek’ isoglosses distinguishing it from Late Proto-Indo-European and is already found in Mycenaean Greek of the second millennium. Cf. G. Horrocks. Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers (Chichester 2010, p.9ff.)
3.   A short selection of relevant literature includes E. Voutiras “Ένας διαλεκτικός κατάδεσμος από την Πέλλα” Ελληνική Διαλεκτολογία 3 (1992-3) 43-48; E. Voutiras Διονυσοφῶντος γάμοι: Marital Life and Magic in Fourth Century Pella (Amsterdam, 1998); A. Panayotou “Φωνητική και φωνολογία των ελληνικών επιγραφών της Μακεδονίας” Ελληνική Διαλεκτολογία 3 (1992-3) 5-32; C. Brixhe “Un 'nouveau' champ de la dialectologie grecque: le macédonien” AION: Annali del Dipartimento di Studi del Mondo Classico e del Mediterraneo Antico - Sezione linguistica 19 (1999) 41-71; and M. Hatzopoulos “La position dialectal du macédonien à la lumière des découvertes épigraphiques récentes” in I. Hajnal (ed.) Die altgriechischen Dialekte: Wesen und Werden (Innsbruck 2007, pp.157-176). An earlier but still useful presentation of the communis opinio and principal controversies over the evidence can be found in A. Panayotou “The position of the Macedonian dialect” in A. P. Christidis (ed.) A History of Ancient Greek: From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity (Cambridge 2007, pp.433-443).
4.   Cf. J. Méndez Dosuna Los dialectos Dorios del noroeste: Gramática y estudio dialectal. (Salamanca 1985, pp.333ff.); id. “On <Ζ> for <Δ> in Greek dialectal inscriptions” Die Sprache 35 (1991-1993) 82-114.
5.   The ‘Fricativization Hypothesis’ outlined in the chapter by Crespo. See M. Hatzopoulos “La position dialectale du macédonien à la lumière des découvertes épigraphiques récentes” in I. Hajnal (ed.) Die altgriechischen Dialekte: Wesen und Werden (Innsbruck 2007, pp.157-176)
6.   The contradictory nature of the literary evidence from classical antiquity on the ‘Greekness’ of the Macedonians is briefly addressed by Crespo pp.122-123. Objectively we could outline and apply a set of strictly linguistic criteria to define Macedonian as ‘Greek’ for ourselves but whether other ‘Greeks’ regarded the Macedonians as Ἕλληνες and Greek-speakers proper is a much more complex ethnolinguistic question. Still fundamental on this topic is the discussion of A. Morpurgo Davies “The Greek Notion of Dialect” Verbum 10 (1987) 7-28. Cf. also the discussion of S. Colvin “Greek Dialects in the Archaic and Classical Ages” in E. J. Bakker (ed.) A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language (Chichester 2010, pp.200-203). It may be useful to consider the concepts of autonomy and heteronomy in contemporary dialectology as an aid to interpreting the interaction of the political and cultural factors in conjunction with the purely linguistic facts. Cf. J.K. Chambers and P. Trudgill Dialectology (2nd ed.) (Cambridge 1998, pp.9-12).

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