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  • A History of Ancient Greek. From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity
  • Vit Bubenik
A.-F. Christidis. A History of Ancient Greek. From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. xli+1617. US $250.00. ISBN 9780521833073.

This massive volume (1617 pages) is a revised and augmented translation of the Greek edition Ιστορία της ελληνικής γλώσσας από τις αρχές έως την ύστερη αρχαιότητα, published by the Centre of the Greek Language and the Institute of Modern Greek Studies (Manolis Triandafyllidis Foundation), Thessaloniki in September 2001. The present volume was edited by the late Professor Anastassios-Fivos Christidis (1946–2004) with the assistance of Maria Arapopoulou and Maria Chriti, and is the product of international cooperation involving 81 scholars (linguists, philologists, historians, jurists, theological scholars and archaeologists) from 13 European and North American countries (Greece, Cyprus, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Austria, Germany, Northern Ireland, USA and Canada). It is organized into nine parts with three appendices; each of the nine parts is introduced by the editor Christidis:

  • Part I: The Language Phenomenon (8 chapters)

  • Part II: The Greek Language: Language and History (25 chapters)

  • Part III: The Ancient Greek Dialects (11 chapters)

  • Part IV: Ancient Greek: Structure and Change (15 chapters)

  • Part V: Greek in Contact with Other Languages (17 chapters)

  • Part VI: Translation Practices in Antiquity (7 chapters)

  • Part VII: Language and Culture (19 chapters)

  • Part IX: The Fortunes of Ancient Greek (9 chapters)

The volume as a whole is introduced by Christidis (1–23) with some thoughts on the historiography of the Greek language starting with D. Mavrofrydis’s Δοκίμιον Ιστορίσας της Ελληνικής Γλώσσης (1860) all the way down to the impact of modern linguistics (esp. in the study of syntax), achievements in Indo-European linguistics (the discovery of Tocharian, the decipherment of Hittite), and the study of the relationship between Modern Greek and the Balkan languages (the Balkan Sprachbund). [End Page 73]

Part I (27–152), written by the Greek scholars T.-S. Pavlidou, E. Kouvelas, S.L. Tsohatzidis, K. Kotsakis, D. Kati and K. Nikiforidou, is devoted to general issues of the phenomenon of language: its nature, the units and levels of its analysis, language and the brain, the acquisition of language and the nature and causes of its change.

In Part II (153–382), J.P. Mallory (Belfast) surveys in Chapter 2 (170–178) four general models which were proposed for the IE “homeland” and geographical dispersions: (a) the region from the southern shores of the Baltic as far as the Black Sea and the Caspian within the Mesolithic framework of 6000 B.C.; (b) Anatolia between 7000 and 4000 B.C., with the “wave of advance” of farming communities (famous Neolithic sites such as Çatal Hüyük are held as examples of PIE settlements); (c) the Danube region during the Late Neolithic Age; and (d) the popular “Kurgan” theory locating a homeland in the steppe lands of the Ukraine/South Russia between 4500–3000 B.C. The Indo-Europeanization of Greece could have taken place as early as between 3500–3000 B.C. (after the establishment of a Neolithic economy in Greece) or in the break between Early Helladic II and III (2300–2200 B.C.) or as late as the period immediately prior to the emergence of the Mycenaeans (ca. 1600 B.C.) According to Mallory, it is possible to correlate the hypothesis of the three successive “waves” of Achaeans, Ionians and Dorians with changes in material culture around 2200 B.C., 1600 B.C., and 1200 B.C.

Y. Duhoux (Louvain) examines the vexed problem of the rich linguistic substratum for the formation of the Greek language (Chapters 8–10) in terms of direct (inscriptional evidence in Cypro-Minoan, Eteocypriot, Eteocretan, the stele of Lemnos, Linear A tablets) and indirect evidence in the Greek lexicon: words with the endings -ινθοϲ (e.g., ἀϲάμινθοϲ; cf. Linear B a-sa-mi-to “bath-tub”), theonyms (e.g., Ἀθήνη; cf. Linear B a-ta-na-), toponyms and hydronyms with endings -α/ι/υνθοϲ, -ϲϲόϲ, -ττόϲ.

Ten chapters (15–25) in this part are devoted to the long history of the Greek language: Linear B (by J. Chadwick), the Dark Ages, the introduction and history of the alphabet, the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods, the rise of Koine, and the Greek world...


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