The Edinburgh Companion to Ancient Greece and Rome

By Edward Bispham; Thomas Harrison et al. | Go to book overview

7.
Philology and Linguistics

Philip Burton


Definitions

The terms ‘philology’ and ‘linguistics’ refer to the systematic study of language. The term ‘philology’ (Greek philologia) originally referred more generally to the study of language and literature. The Graeco-Latin hybrid ‘linguistics’ is not attested before the 1850s. In English use, the term ‘philology’ is relatively rare, though consecrated in the names of certain societies, journals and university chairs, and still used sometimes to refer to the historical study of certain languages or language families (e. g. Greek, Celtic, Romance, Germanic philology).

The position of linguistics vis-à-vis classics is not unlike that of archaeology. Both arose largely from the study of classical antiquity; both have subsequently become independent disciplines, whose interests may now be some way removed from the classical world. The following branches of linguistics are particularly important for the formal study of Greek and Latin.


Phonetics, phonology, morphology,
lexicology and syntax

Phonetics is the study of the sounds of language. Our assumptions on how Greek and Latin were pronounced are based on three main sources. First, the evidence of ‘daughter-languages’ (modern Greek, the Romance family); second, explicit statements by ancient writers on language; third, the evidence of puns, of language games and of instances of mishearing. The value of these sources varies considerably. Word-plays may be very hard to interpret (what makes a good pun?). Explicit statements by grammarians differ considerably in quality. The orator Quintilian’s description of a letter pronounced ‘with a barely human voice … by blowing out through the gap between the teeth’ is distinctly impressionistic; however, the /f/-sound is instantly recognisable from the fourth-century Marius Victorinus’ statement that it is pronounced ‘by putting the upper teeth on the lower lip, and breathing out gently’. (/f/ is an instance of the modern typological means of expressing a phoneme; see below.) Reconstruction based on subsequent forms of the language is in many ways the best evidence we have. This is not a simple retrojection of more recent states of language into the past. Most linguists would see it as scientifically acceptable to reconstruct the value /kw/ for the Latin letter q not only in words where the /kw/ sound is well attested in Romance (for instance, Latin qualis ‘what sort’ > Italian quale, Spanish cual), but also where the Romance languages have a /k/ (Latin quid ‘what?’ > Italian che, Spanish qué). But even such a simple example raises intellectual issues. What we have reconstructed is arguably not classical Latin, but a notional ancestor of Italian and Spanish; and that is before we consider other Romance languages. More radically, some linguists would argue that we cannot reconstruct any phonetic value at all; we can only say that the sound represented in Latin by q was different from that represented by c.

Phonology seeks to distinguish patterns in the distribution of sounds in a language and to draw inferences from them about the way these sounds are systematised in the mind of the speaker. Central to phonology is the concept of contrast

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The Edinburgh Companion to Ancient Greece and Rome
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Part One- Classics and the Classical World - A. Classics in the Twenty-First Century 1
  • 1 - The History of the Discipline 3
  • 2 - History 9
  • 3 - Archaeology 15
  • 4 - Religion 21
  • 5 - Economy 24
  • 6 - Gender 27
  • 7 - Philology and Linguistics 30
  • 8 - Literature 35
  • 9 - Philosophy 41
  • 10 - Art History and Aesthetics 49
  • 11 - Classical Legacies 57
  • B - The Regions of the Ancient World 65
  • 12 - The Ancient near East 67
  • 13 - Iron Age Europe 72
  • 14 - Regions of Antiquity 78
  • C - Periods 85
  • 15 - The ‘Dark Age’ of Greece 87
  • 16 - Archaic and Classical Greece 92
  • 17 - The Hellenistic World 98
  • 18 - The Roman Republic 102
  • 19 - The Roman Empire 108
  • 20 - Late Antiquity 114
  • Part Two - Material Culture 121
  • 21 - Landscape 123
  • 22 - Marine Archaeology 135
  • 23 - Sites and Features 146
  • 24 - Buildings and Architecture 160
  • 25 - Coinage 173
  • 26 - Sculpture 183
  • 27 - Painting, Stucco and Mosaic 194
  • 28 - Pottery and Metalwork 206
  • 29 - Gems, Jewellery and Glass 217
  • 30 - Dress and Textiles 226
  • 31 - Arms and Armour 231
  • 32 - Papyri 238
  • 33 - Manuscripts 251
  • 34 - Inscriptions 262
  • Part Three- Texts and Genres 275
  • 35 - Greek Epic 277
  • 36 - Roman Epic 282
  • 37 - Greek Tragedy 288
  • 38 - Roman Tragedy 295
  • 39 - Greek Comedy 299
  • 40 - Roman Comedy 309
  • 41 - Greek Lyric Verse- Melic, Elegiac and Iambic 313
  • 42 - Latin Poetry Other Than Epic and Drama 323
  • 43 - The Novel 329
  • 44 - Letters 335
  • 45 - Rhetoric 339
  • 46 - Literary Criticism 351
  • 47 - Grammar and Linguistics 355
  • 48 - Philosophy 361
  • 49 - Greek Historiography 377
  • 50 - Roman Historiography 384
  • 51 - Geography and Ethnography 391
  • 52 - Mythology 396
  • 53 - Christian Literature 402
  • 54 - Science and Mathematics 407
  • 55 - Music 413
  • 56 - Medicine 423
  • 57 - Greek Legal Texts 428
  • 58 - Latin Legal Texts 433
  • 59 - Technical Writing 439
  • Part Four - Essential Information and Systems of Reference 445
  • 60 - Politics 447
  • 61 - Names and Naming Systems 465
  • 62 - Measures, Weights and Money 471
  • 63 - Writing Systems 477
  • 64 - The Ancient Calendar 485
  • 65- Metre 489
  • 66- Time-Charts 495
  • 67- Maps 520
  • 68. Glossary of Ancient and Modern Terms 530
  • 69 - Resources 545
  • 70 - Abbreviations 559
  • Contributors 582
  • Index 588
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