BMCR 2021.07.29

Synchrony and diachrony of ancient Greek: language, linguistics and philology

, , , Synchrony and diachrony of ancient Greek: language, linguistics and philology. Essays in honor of Emilio Crespo. Trends in classics - supplementary volumes, 112. Berlin; Boston: De Gruyter, 2021. Pp. xxxv, 492. ISBN 9783110718621 $149.99.

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[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This volume contains thirty-six studies by prominent Hellenists, collected for the occasion of Professor Emilio Crespo’s retirement. As one of the editors, Georgios K. Giannakis, points out in his synopsis of the accomplishments of the honorand, Crespo’s scholarly work, which amounts to nearly two hundred entries, spans an impressive range of topics, from epic poetry to sociolinguistics, dialectology to syntax. This wide range of linguistic and philological topics is reflected in this volume, where we find contributions ranging from questions of Greek syntax to the linguistic applications of comparative mythology, from poetic meter in Proto-Indo-European to discourse markers in the Lord’s Prayer. What these have in common is that they all expertly bring to light, evaluate and analyse various problems concerning the Ancient Greek language.

The contributions are divided into five sections. Part I groups together the papers which concern epigraphy and dialectology. Of note is the excellent paper by Christos Tzitzilis, which examines the possibility of tracing a dialect continuum between the ancient and modern Megarian Greek dialects. In this paper, the author successfully detects, through morphological and phonological analysis, the presence of an ancient dialect substratum in the modern Megarian dialect, and suggests that more use should be made of evidence from the Modern Greek dialects in the study of Ancient Greek dialectology. As the title of the volume suggests, both diachrony and synchrony are needed for linguistic analysis, and the paper by María Luisa del Barrio Vega, also focussed on dialectology, favours a more synchronic analysis, as the author looks at the dialectal features of the inscriptions found in the Phocaean colony of Lampsacus. One of the pervasive themes of this volume is how different fields complement each other, and this is particularly evident in this first section, which combines the separate but often interdependent fields of epigraphy and dialectology. This is demonstrated distinctly in Sara Kaczko’s paper, as the author uses both palaeographic and linguistic methods to reconsider the reading of the famous sixth-century Nicomachos epigram. Similarly, Sophie Minon makes use of epigraphy, onomastics and dialectology in her examination of the name of an Arcadian man found on a fifth-century inscription. Onomastics is a popular topic in this section, with both Panagiotis Filos and René Hodot focussing their studies on female names, in the Epirote and Lesbian dialects respectively.

The scope of the topics examined in this volume ranges from the broader issues at the crux of the field of Greek linguistics to the very specific minutiae of the language, and this is exemplified in Part II (‘Lexicon, Onomastics, Morphology and Morphophonology’). While Georgios Papanastassiou expertly treats the broad topic of Proto-Indo-European ablaut, and the main phonetic changes that caused vowel gradation to be obscured in Greek, Václav Blažek’s interesting contribution is concerned with one specific Greek word, δάρδα (‘bee’), and its potential origins. Similarly concerned with the minutiae of the Greek language are Alberto Bernabé’s study of the noun for ‘horse’ in Mycenaean, Julián Méndez Dosuna’s interesting and well-argued reading of a diminutive hapax in Sappho, and Michael Meier-Brügger’s succinct yet illuminating note on the Greek verb μνημονεύω. In this section, we see further evidence of different fields complementing each other, notably the fields of literature and linguistics, in Daniel Kölligan’s clear and interesting contribution on the Proto-Indo-European origin of the verb δύναμαι, which uses close textual analysis of the Homeric epics to shed light on an etymological question that has troubled Indo-Europeanists. Just as Kölligan uses literature to aid linguistic reconstruction, so Leonid Kulikov uses another field of classics, comparative mythology, to get to the etymological root of the word κένταυρος. In doing so, Kulikov opens up possibilities for the use of comparative mythology in linguistic reconstruction, as he successfully compares the Indo-Iranian and Ancient Greek myths, and their related words, to posit a PIE etymology for this hitherto uncertain word. Finally, John N. Kazazis’ paper on the potential uses of the Medieval Greek lexicon as a Modern Greek historical lexicon is an informative contribution that draws the reader’s attention to a specific tool of linguistic research.

The mix of synchrony and diachrony promised in the title of the volume is particularly evident in Part III, on ‘Syntax and Clause Structure’: we find on the one hand synchronic analyses of Greek syntax, such as Emilia Ruiz Yamuza’s paper on the past tenses of modal verbs in Attic verse, María Dolores Jiménez López’s paper on the use of the verb γίγνομαι in passive constructions, and Jesús de la Villa’s contribution on relative time and narrative in Herodotus and Thucydides. On the other hand, we also find Nikos Liosis’ very engaging and innovative paper on negation throughout the history of the Greek language, in which he shows through diachronic analysis that Greek is a good example of Jespersen’s cycle, despite previous scholarship arguing the contrary. A mixture of diachronic and synchronic analysis is found in the equally excellent paper by Antonio Lillo, in which the author looks at the uses of the oblique optative in Homer and Herodotus, comparing examples of the syntactic phenomenon in each author and, through this, showing its development in a relatively brief period of the Greek language.

Part IV of the volume deals with issues of pragmatics and discourse. It is framed by the contributions of Rutger J. Allan and Paolo Poccetti, which both discuss the evolution of Greek particles. The former presents an interesting diachronic study of the particle μέντοι and its polysemy, tracing its semantic development to show that it can be analysed as a process of scope increase. The latter focusses on the development of the intriguing particle πλήν, using a combination of synchronic and diachronic analysis to trace its path of evolution, from separation to exclusion to restriction to adversative function. The comparison of the semantic evolution of this particle to that of ἀλλά in this paper is particularly interesting. Both Rafael Martínez and Elena Redondo-Moyano look at discourse markers in Greek, and it is informative to read the two papers side-by-side, as they focus on very different texts and time periods. The former presents a particularly noteworthy contribution on the combination of conjunction ὡς and adverbial particle καί as a discourse marker, which is used in two occurrences in the Lord’s Prayer, but not taken into account in modern translations. The author demonstrates the importance of this discourse marker in guiding the interpretation of the text and prompting the correct inferences by showing the subsequent loss of meaning when it is omitted in translation. The latter focusses on a much earlier time period and genre, as Redondo-Moyano examines a varied corpus of verse from the Archaic and Classical periods in which the discourse markers ἔμπᾱς and ἔμπης appear, and finds that, from a syntactic point of view, ἔμπᾱς presents two innovations not found in Homeric ἔμπης. Pragmatics and discourse are under-researched fields in Greek linguistics, and Pierluigi Cuzzolin’s paper highlights the need for deeper investigation to understand adpositions in Ancient Greek, and to ascertain the difference between their use and function when employed in anastrophe and when not. Similarly, Raquel Fornieles shows that indefinite pronouns, which are commonly associated with politeness, can also be used as a mechanism of impoliteness. While she focusses on the prosecution speeches of Aeschines and Demosthenes to demonstrate this, this opens up the topic, and prompts the question of whether this is found in other Greek texts.

The final part of the volume deals with topics at the intersection of linguistics and philology. These vary from toponymy to poetic meter. Chris Golston’s paper adds to the rather limited scholarship on poetic meter in Proto-Indo-European, as the author proposes the reconstruction of a tetrameter, based on data from a variety of Greek verse, Classical Sanskrit, and the ninth century Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf. The contribution of editor Georgios K. Giannakis also focusses on Proto-Indo-European reconstruction, as it looks at the concept of ‘emphasis’ in Ancient Greek and Indo-European, and successfully demonstrates, through cross-linguistic analysis, how emphasis is achieved using a range of different techniques. This paper provides a very successful definition and categorisation of a frequently employed, yet very often vague term in language analysis. The intersection of linguistics and philology is brilliantly exemplified in the paper by Marina Benedetti, which examines a Euripidean fragment, and draws on both the form of the passage and indirect evidence in the literature and scholia to reach a clearer interpretation of the fragment, in the absence of a wider context. Similarly, Margalit Finkelberg uses both linguistic and philological methods to explain the presence of both early and late linguistic features of the toponym Ἦλις as it is found in Homer, and Mark Janse makes use of philology and textual criticism as he revisits a scene from Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, picking out a hitherto-ignored double entendre.

There are in addition a number of papers that provide us with a new argument or analysis. Some broach topics that have been treated before, and offer a new way of thinking about these. Homeric Greek phraseology and narrative structure, for example, has been looked at many times in the scholarship, yet the paper by Paola Dardano, on naming constructions using ὄνομα and ἐπίκλησιν in Homer, is a highlight of the volume, as it takes the original stance that these two constructions, which have previously been classified together, were in fact functionally different. Others shed light on new, unexamined problems. Araceli Striano’s paper on the Kalami documents, a set of graffiti found on the island of Thasos, is another highlight, as it addresses an unusual topic, that of evidence for a private lovers’ language in these graffiti. Also original is Lucio Melazzo’s contribution on the life of Pythagoras, as the author compares the Greek sources concerning the life of the philosopher to passages from the Avesta, providing us with another interesting take on an unusual topic. Luz Conti’s contribution, on complaints in Sophocles, provides us with a very good starting place for further study in this field, as it looks at applying modern linguistic methods to ancient texts, something that is becoming more and more prevalent in the scholarship on Greek linguistics. Finally, syntax remains a relatively underexplored field of Greek linguistics, but one to which the honorand of the volume has richly and systematically contributed. The large section devoted to syntax is therefore a welcome part of the volume, with the contributions by Vit Bubenik on the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European absolute constructions and by Silvia Luraghi on Ancient Greek argument structure constructions, and the influence of constructional polysemy and constructional homonym on these, being particularly illuminating.

A contents page, list of figures and diagrams, and list of tables at the beginning of the volume, as well as a handy general index at the end make this book easy to navigate. This is a useful feature as, due to the breadth of topics covered, the volume forms a useful reference work to dip into for specific topics concerning the Greek language. However, the selection of articles and the logical partition into five sections make it possible to read the volume cover-to-cover for an aperçu of the wide range of topics covered under the field of Ancient Greek language, linguistics and philology. The fact that both already prominent and new and original topics are treated makes this a multifaceted read. Read as a whole, this book exemplifies what Greek linguistics is all about- concerns about both the overarching ideas and the minutiae- and neatly ties these together, in a homage to a scholar who dedicated his work to both the larger picture and the smaller details of the Greek language.

Authors and titles

Georgios K. Giannakis- Emilio Crespo Güemes: The Man and the Scholar.
Georgios K. Giannakis- Publications of Prof. Emilio Crespo.

Part I: Epigraphy and Dialectology.
María Luisa del Barrio Vega- The Ionic of Lampsacus and the Month of Badromion.
Panagiotis Filos- Reflexes of Koineization in Ancient Epirote Feminine Names.
René Hodot- Women’s Names in the Lesbian Dialect.
Sara Kaczko- “Nicomachos Made Me!” Palaeography and Self-promotion in Late Archaic Greek Italy.
Sophie Minon- Αn Arcadian Man Called Βôθις, or Rather Βόθις?
Araceli Striano- Verba Volant. Notes on Some Graffiti from Thasos.
Christos Tzitzilis- Modern Greek Evidence for Ancient Greek Dialects: The Case of Megarian.

Part II: Lexicon, Onomastics, Morphology and Morphophonology.
Alberto Bernabé: The Noun for ‘Horse’ in Mycenaean and Some Related Terms.
Václav Blažek- Greek δάρδα, ‘Bee’.
Paola Dardano- On Some Naming Constructions in Homeric Greek.
John N. Kazazis- On the “Kriaras” Lexicon of Medieval Vulgar Greek: Issues of Substance (MGL).
Daniel Kölligan- Getting There? Greek δύναμαι, ‘Be Able’.
Leonid Kulikov- The Κένταυρος Controversy Revisited: An Old Etymological Puzzle in a Comparative-Mythological Perspective.
Michael Meier-Brügger- μνημονεύω.
Julián Méndez Dosuna- Sappho’s Little Cuddly Fawns: A Reply to an Alternative Proposal (Including a Few Remarks on the Semantics of the Adjectives in -ιος and -ειος).
Georgios Papanastassiou- Main Phonetic Changes in Ancient Greek Obscuring the PIE Ablaut.

Part III: Syntax and Clause Structure.
Vit Bubenik- Reconstructing (Late) Proto-Indo-European Syntax: Absolute Constructions. María Dolores Jiménez López- Γίγνομαι as the Lexical Passive of the Support Verb ποιέω in Ancient Greek.
Antonio Lillo- On the Use of the Oblique Optative Dependent on Verba Dicendi in Herodotus.
Nikos Liosis- On Negation, Jespersen’s Cycle, and Negative Concord in Post-Classical Greek.
Silvia Luraghi- A Construction Grammar Approach to Ancient Greek Argument Structure Constructions.
Emilia Ruiz Yamuza- Past Tenses of Modal Verbs: ἔδει and (ἐ)χρῆν in Attic Tragedy and Comedy.
Jesús de la Villa- Relative Time and Narrative in Herodotus and Thucydides.

Part IV: Pragmatics and Discourse.
Rutger J. Allan- The Grammaticalization of μέντοι. Genesis and Scope Increase.
Luz Conti- Off- and On-record Complaints in Sophocles: An Initial Approach.
Pierluigi Cuzzolin- A Note on the Anastrophe of περί with the Genitive in Classical Greek.
Raquel Fornieles- Impersonalization as a Mechanism of Impoliteness in Aeschines and Demosthenes: A Study of οὐδείς and μηδείς.
Rafael Martínez- Discourse Markers, Interpretation, and Translation in the Lord’s Prayer.
Paolo Poccetti- Evolution of πλήν.
Elena Redondo-Moyano- Discourse Markers ἔμπᾱς/ἔμπᾱν/ἔμπᾰ Compared with ἔμπης in the Archaic and Classical Periods.

Part V: In the Linguistics-Philology Interstices.
Marina Benedetti- “Love Teaches”: Echoes of a Fragment from Euripides.
Margalit Finkelberg- Elis in Homer: Language, Archaeology, Epic Tradition.
Georgios K. Giannakis- The Concept of ‘Emphasis’ in Ancient Greek and Indo-European.
Chris Golston- A Quantitative Tetrameter for Proto-Indo-European.
Mark Janse- Penis ex Machina as ‘Anticlimax’: ἐξέβαλ’, οἰῶ, τὸ ξίφος (Ar. Lys. 155–156).
Lucio Melazzo- Pythagoras and the Magi.