Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2019.02.12 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2019.02.12

Georgios K. Giannakis, Emilio Crespo, Panagiotis Filos (ed.), Studies in Ancient Greek Dialects: From Central Greece to the Black Sea. Trends in classics — Supplementary volumes, 49.   Berlin; Boston:  De Gruyter, 2018.  Pp. xvi, 599.  ISBN 9783110530810.  €119,95.  

Reviewed by Marina Veksina, Humboldt Universität Berlin (

Table of Contents

The volume is a collection of 22 articles on various aspects of Ancient Greek dialectology with an introduction by G.K. Giannakis, index locorum and a thematic index. Most papers result from two meetings held at the Center for the Greek Language in Thessaloniki in 2012 and 2015. The contributions are very different in scope, size and quality, and range from examinations of specific dialectal traits (A.C. Cassio, E. Crespo, B. Helly, A. Lillo, J. Méndez Dosuna, E. Nieto Izquierdo) and assessment of the evidence from certain inscriptions (J. de la Villa) or corpora (S. Tselikas, J. Méndez Dosuna) to overviews of whole dialects (M.B. Hatzopoulos on Macedonian, R. Hodot on Lesbian, del Barrio Vega on the Ionic of North Aegean, A. Alonso Deniz, in part intersecting with del Barrio Vega, on the Ionic of Thasos and Paros, but also on the possibility of a Thasian ἔκδοσις or διόρθωσις of Archilochus) or areas (Epirus by P. Filos, Black Sea by del Barrio Vega). The volume also includes attempts to reassess the dialectal situation in the centuries preceding our first alphabetic inscriptions (M. Finkelberg, R. Janko, N. Pantelidis), discussions of koineization (A. Striano, V. Bubeník), an elaboration of the hypothesis of the Balkan sprachbund (B.D. Joseph) and finally a methodological contribution of programmatic character (J.L. García Ramón).

The focus is on the territories north of Attica. It is virtually impossible to organize such an eclectic collection into a coherent whole, and the editors did their best by arranging the contributions in geographical sections, plus an additional section “Genetic Relations, Synchronic Contacts and Convergences” (contributions in the geographical sections deal with issues of dialectal interrelations as well). The volume offers a wide palette of material, views, problems, and approaches and will certainly be indispensable to any scholar interested in the discipline as a whole or in the specific issues addressed. A number of articles offer convenient surveys of the state of research on certain dialects, dialectal areas, and corpora.

Several contributions are English versions of articles already published in Modern Greek in the volume Ο γλωσσικός χάρτης της κεντρικής και βόρειας Ελλάδας κατά την αρχαιότητα (Thessaloniki, 2015, ed. G. K. Giannakis). This fact is neither discussed nor even mentioned by the editors or the authors with the exception of P. Filos. The contributions by Finkelberg, Tselikas, Pantelidis, and “The Ionic of North Aegean” by del Barrio Vega contain only minor, mostly redactional and bibliographical, changes. Crespo’s article is slightly extended with regard to its Greek version, whereas Hodot’s and Filos’ articles have been revised somewhat more substantially.

New material plays an important role in the volume. A previously unpublished inscription from Larissa (III BC?) is presented by García Ramón (p. 37ff.; note that in πενψεσθειν (= πέμψεσθαι), N instead of M is probably simply an example of ‘inverse’ or ‘hypercorrect’ spelling and doesn’t necessarily indicate dissimilation). The corpus of the oracular tablets from Dodona that finally saw the light of day in 2013 yields material for the contributions by S. Tselikas and J. Méndez Dosuna. The latter proposes inter alia a number of important new readings. B. Helly draws attention to the PhD thesis of A. Doulgeri-Indizesiloglou (2000) containing many Thessalian inedita. Two newly published decrees from Larissa are studied by J. de la Villa. Del Barrio Vega discusses a recently published inscription from Samothrace (p. 492ff.); her article about the Ionic of the North Aegean is largely based on the new corpus of inscriptions from the Thracian coast between the rivers Nestos and Hebros (2005) that also contains many inedita. Recently published objects with Linear B signs found in Volos and Dimini are mentioned by R. Janko.

The volume gives a reasonable impression of the current state of discussion on the Ancient Greek dialects, providing many insights into various dialectal phenomena and into ongoing debates both of methodological and empirical character. It is impossible to do justice to each contribution within the limits of this review and only some snapshots of the volume’s contents are given below.

Highly instructive is Méndez Dosuna’s meticulous exposition of the dialectal characteristics of the newly published oracular tablets from Dodona. Doric texts are left out: they are treated in a forthcoming article by Méndez Dosuna and in the article by Tselikas in the present volume. Of particular value are the tablets contributing to our knowledge of the local vernaculars of Thessaly (three varieties of Thessalian are identifiable in the corpus, p. 280-287) and two tablets that might be Macedonian (p. 292f.).

Contributions on Macedonian (M. B. Hatzopoulos, E. Crespo) naturally revolve around the issue of voiced consonants, the major issue in the scholarship on Macedonian. Hatzopoulos offers a useful summary of the scholarly debate on the position of Macedonian. Affinities between Macedonian and Thessalian are discussed by him in detail (pp. 308-314) and it is highlighted that “the coexistence of North-West and Thessalian characteristics in Macedonian… indicates the intermediate position of the latter dialect” (p. 312). Withdrawing from his own scenario of the genesis of Macedonian presented in the volume Die altgriechischen Dialekte. Wesen und Werden (Innsbruck, 2007, Ed. I. Hajnal), Hatzopoulos now approves B. Helly’s model (presented in the same volume) that involves “the North-Achaean substratum, the North-West idioms of the Thessaloi and the Argead Macedonians, and finally the Thracian and Phrygian adstrata” (p. 322).1 E. Crespo analyses spirantization and voicing in Macedonian as dialect-internal processes and compares them with developments in Insular Celtic and Western Proto-Romance. Quite misleadingly, he repeatedly states throughout his article that the voicing of consonants isn’t found in any other Greek dialect except Macedonian and mentions that “such pronunciations could be an isogloss shared by the Macedonian and the Thessalian dialect of Perrhaebia” only in the “Concluding Remarks” (p. 344). The possibility of a substrate/adstrate influence in the case of the Macedonian voiced consonants is acknowledged both by the proponents of Macedonian as a Greek dialect (pp. 313, 320, 322 M. Hatzopoulos, pp. 331, 344 E. Crespo) and by B. Joseph, who is „not fully persuaded“ of the secondary voicing in Macedonian (p. 200) and opts for treating Macedonian “either as independent within Indo-European or a sibling to the entirety of the ancient Greek dialects, much as Tsakonian is a sibling to all of the modern Greek dialects” (p. 199).

The issue of dialectal interrelations is ubiquitous in the volume. Alonso Déniz makes a well-articulated case for the possibility of “Thasian philological activity about Archilochus’ work” (p. 552). The argumentation is based on the two features of Thasian (psilosis and -εος in the masculine a-stems) that, as Alonso Déniz shows, are alien to the dialect of its metropolis Paros, and are “marginally attested in the text of Archilochus” (p. 535). Still, other possibilities (a Thasian scribe or Archilochus’ own use of different variants) don’t seem to be compellingly excluded. Del Barrio Vega consolidates evidence on the possible mutual impact between Ionic and Doric colonies in the Black Sea.2 The conclusion (p. 526) that Ionic features in inscriptions from Doric cities “must be attributed to the influence of the neighboring Ionic-speaking colonies” rather than to the joint foundation by Ionians and Megarians or the Ionic foundation and subsequent settlement of Dorians is not justified by the analysis: both alternative hypotheses are not discarded in the case of aisymneteia (p. 517), and the joint foundation is taken as a possible explanation for the use of the Ionic alphabet in Chersonesos (p. 516). In order to support the claim that ἱερ- appears in Doric inscriptions “too early to be justified by any koine influence” the author quotes inscriptions (ibid. fn. 16), most of which postdate the late fourth cent. BC.

As far as dialectal prehistory is concerned, R. Janko’s suggestion that laryngeals in the environment of /r/ resulted in the a-vocalism in North Greek (as against the non-uniform treatment in South Greek) deserves attention. M. Finkelberg considers the prehistory of Lesbian and highlights that the influence of Asia Minor Ionic on the formation of Lesbian is not to be exaggerated.

B. Joseph inquires into the possible structural convergences between Greek and Albanian (on p. 206, an interesting case is made for the presence of the inherited augment in ancient Albanian) considering as such a reanalysis of *ḱj-āmer- to *ḱjā-mer-. The assumption that “it is hard to see the use of *āmer- as a shared retention, since it isn’t a widely distributed term across Indo- European” (p. 209) sounds strange: a limited distribution doesn’t speak against a retention (or ‘selection’); but more importantly, nothing is said about why and how the word ἦμαρ, one of the Greek nouns that interchange –αρ/-ατ- and represent an old Indo- European heteroclitic type, can be interpreted as a post-Indo-European innovation.

Practically equal to a small monograph in size (pp. 29-106), the contribution by García Ramón presents a critical overview of the current themes and approaches in Ancient Greek dialectology. Consisting of 27 loosely interconnected sections, this polemical and in many points controversial essay is focused on theoretical and methodological issues. Before turning to more problematic topics, the author points at some “promising fields of research”, among them “the approach to phonetic issues on the basis of articulatory phonetics”, “the conception of a dialect as a system”, and description of certain grammatical (including syntactic) phenomena (p. 44ff.). The discussion of dialectal classification and prehistory (pp. 66-98) bears on many important questions, but due to space limits can’t be evaluated here. The acute debate with Cl. Brixhe and his school on the applicability of sociolinguistic approach recurs throughout the article. Quite surprisingly, inquiries into dialectal syntax, vocabulary, dialectal geography and sociolinguistic inquiries are declared questionable directions of research. Introductory and concluding remarks express a radically negative attitude (“voluntarism... serious error” p. 54, “any attempt in this direction... could hardly be perceived as real progress” p. 98, etc.). Yet the main part of the discussion (pp. 54-65) is rather evenly weighted. The studies on dialectal syntax and vocabulary are recognized as “welcome”; as for sociolinguistic variation, it is admitted inter alia that “it is certainly plausible that deviating or anomalous forms often reflect the language of less ‘cultivated/literate’ social groups, especially in the case of less accurate spelling” (p. 63); finally, the potential of dialectal geography is acknowledged (“regions which may be promising, e.g. Boeotia, still await some research followup” p. 60, “the tracking of isoglosses… may be successful”, “Lesbian does not really fit into a homogenous dialectal domain” p. 61, etc). The position on Thessalian is baffling: “the dialect of the entire Thessaly… is a relatively homogeneous one (García Ramón 1987)” (p. 61f.), though “the convention of the Basaidai… made it evident that Histiaeotis had a special position as against the rest of the region” (p. 61). Remarkably, in the mentioned article of 1987,3 García Ramón himself was positive about local differences within Thessalian.

Critique of the dialect-geographical approach is also expressed by García Ramón’s colleague B. Helly. He states that “Thessalian was developed as a unitary variety in the tetrads of Thessaly” (p. 351), again with reference to García Ramón 1987. According to Helly, “a ‘Dialektgeographie’ approach… was based on the divisions (tetrads) of the classical Thessalian state” and is therefore inadequate (p. 368). Now, this critique is aimed at a distorted notion of the dialect-geographical approach. To presume that geographical distribution of linguistic features coincides with political or administrative boundaries is certainly neither the letter nor the spirit of the dialect-geographical approach, which, on the contrary, relies on the absence of presuppositions about geographical extent of any dialectal trait and demands that this extent is established empirically and not extrapolated from any other considerations, e.g. ideas about dialectal boundaries or settlement areas of ethnic groups or distributions of any other linguistic features in space or indeed administrative borders. On p. 362, Helly opposes the dialect-geographical approach to “a larger ‘areal distribution’ model inside and outside of Thessaly”. But including territories outside Thessaly into analysis doesn’t contradict the dialect-geographical principles in any way.

Bibliographical lacunae are numerous, and only few can be pointed out here. R. Wachter’s article “Abbreviated writing” (in Kadmos 30, 1991) isn’t mentioned where the phenomenon is discussed or could have been discussed (ΚΡΤΟΝΑ p. 268, ΗΤΑΙΡΟΙ pp. 502, 539, 541f.). The Coan sacral calendar is quoted by García Ramón not according to the standard edition (IG XII 4, 1, 280), which appeared in 2010, but according to the obsolete SGDI 3731 (both times, p. 41 and 59, with mistake: επικοπον instead of ἐπίποκον). An Arcadian inscription published in 1987 is discussed by the same scholar as “new” (p. 37ff.) without knowledge of its recent edition by Thür and Taeuber (1994).4

Before finishing, I should note the low quality of the copy-editing and proofreading, especially given the authority of the publisher. 5 An important typo is κις on p. 286 among the features of Thessaliotis (should be τις).

Table of Contents

Georgios K. Giannakis: Studies in Ancient Greek Dialects. From Central Greece to the Black Sea: Introductory Remarks 1
José Luis García Ramón: Ancient Greek Dialectology: Old and New Questions, Recent Developments 29
Richard Janko: The Greek Dialects in the Palatial and Post-Palatial Late Bronze Age 107
Araceli Striano: Koiné, Koiná, Koinaí: Are we Talking About the Same Thing? 131
Vit Bubenik: North-West Doric Koina and the Issue of ‘Koineization’: Sociolinguistic Concerns 149
Nikolaos Pantelidis: Boeotian and its Neighbors: A Central Helladic Dialect Continuum? 167
Albio Cesare Cassio: Notes on the Origin and Diffusion of the -εσσι Datives 189
Brian D. Joseph: Linguistic Contact in the Ancient Balkans: A Sprachbund, or Something Else? 197
Panagiotis Filos: The Dialectal Variety of Epirus 215
Sotirios Tselikas: The Doric Dialects in the Corpus of the Oracular Tablets from Dodona 249
Julián Méndez Dosuna: The Language of the Dodona Oracular Tablets: The Non-Doric Inquiries 265
Miltiades B. Hatzopoulos: Recent Research in the Ancient Macedonian Dialect: Consolidation and New Perspectives 299
Emilio Crespo: The Softening of Obstruent Consonants in the Macedonian Dialect 329
Bruno Helly: Some Materials for a Historical Grammar of the Thessalian Dialect 351
Enrique Nieto Izquierdo: Palatalized Consonants in Thessalian? New Perspectives on an Old Problem 375
Julián Méndez Dosuna: Thessalian Secondary 3pl. -(ι)εν and the Optative: Dangerous Liaisons 391
Jesús de la Villa: More on Aspect and Modality in Thessalian Official Documents 405
Antonio Lillo: On Thessalian πόκκι Constructions: A Morphosyntactic and Semantic Question 429
Margalit Finkelberg: Lesbian and Mainland Greece 447
René Hodot: Lesbian, in Space, Time, and its Uses 457
María Luisa del Barrio Vega: The Ionic of North Aegean (from the River Strymon to the River Hebrus) 473
María Luisa del Barrio Vega: The Greek Language in the Black Sea 511
Alcorac Alonso Déniz: The Dialect of Thasos and the Transmission of Archilochus’ Fragments 531


1.   The critique of Hazopoulos’ position expressed by Helly on p. 362f. of the present volume therefore becomes unnecessary.
2.   A wrong date in the second half of the 5th cent. BC is given for a lead letter from Berezan SEG 48.988, p. 515 (it is of the 6th. cent.).
3.   J. L. García Ramón, “Geografía intradialectal tesalia: la fonetica” in: Actes de la Ière Rencontre Internationale de Dialectologie Grecque (= Verbum, 10). Nancy, 1988, pp. 101-53.
4.   G. Thür and H. Taeuber. Prozeßrechtliche Inschriften der griechischen Poleis: Arkadien (IPArk). Vienna, 1994, no. 9.
5.   For example: p. 55 “for most the issues”, “a Thessalian from or coloring”, p. 73 “add euidentiam”, p. 182 “it also becomes clear in this case the extent to which”, p. 231 “consist a form”, p. 241 “must to take”, p. 272 “when it comes to identify”, p. 513 “studies ... can boast about the same scholarly quality”.

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