Dialect in Aristophanes and the Politics of Language in Ancient Greek Literature

Dialect in Aristophanes and the Politics of Language in Ancient Greek Literature

Dialect in Aristophanes and the Politics of Language in Ancient Greek Literature

Dialect in Aristophanes and the Politics of Language in Ancient Greek Literature

Synopsis

Did the Greeks find it amusing, irritating, or threatening when they heard another Greek speaking in a different dialect? This book exploits the evidence of ancient Greek comedy in an attempt to answer some of the questions about ancient language attitudes. Colvin draws conclusions from a comparative study of the language of dialect speaking characters and other foreigners in Old Comedy, and on an examination of linguistic attitudes in other genres of Greek literature.

Excerpt

Variation and innovation in language are generally seen as decline, and dialects (social or regional) as imperfect approximations to a norm, instead of parallel varieties with linguistic histories which are just as complex and structured as the prestige dialect. in other words, the language of dialect speakers is often assimilated to that of 'foreigners' (i.e. people who make mistakes as a result of having a different mother tongue), and an idiom which is socially unacceptable is mistakenly categorized as linguistically incorrect. This attitude towards language is bound up with an array of political and historical circumstances; there is no reason to suppose it is a sociolinguistic universal.

When characters in the novels of Tobias Smollett and Walter Scott describe the Scottish dialect of English as 'Doric', they are using the term in a sense which was alien to the ancient Greeks. Nevertheless, it is not coincidental that in both cases it is Scots English that is being assimilated to Doric and not, say, West Country English; there is an interesting assimilation of Scottish and Doric mores in the popular imagination. This book attempts to explore (and contrast) the relationship between real and literary dialect, and attitudes toward linguistic variation in ancient Greece. It contains a discussion of the use of dialect in literature (including English literature); an analysis of the use of dialect and barbaric language in Greek literature; and a comparative grammar of the epichoric dialects as reproduced in Aristophanes and the fragments of Old Comedy. the comparative grammar is for reference: readers who prefer not to plough through every paragraph may consult the summaries at the end of each section and refer to individual headings as necessary.

I have many debts to friends, colleagues, and teachers; in particular to Anna Morpurgo Davies, who supervised the doctoral thesis at Oxford on which the present work is based, and was . . .

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