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Call for papers

A corpus and usage-based approach to Ancient Greek:
from the Archaic period until the Koiné

(Riga, University of Latvia, April 12-14, 2018)

(Call for Papers as pdf)

It has been a long standing tradition in linguistics since de Saussure to distinguish between langue and parole. The former was considered to represent a self-sufficient system consisting of well-defined and distinct categories and sharp constraints that interact at different levels of language such as morphology, syntax or lexicon to produce grammatical utterances. For example, mainstream generative approach inherited this spirit of thinking from the earlier structuralists. This understanding of language consequently shapes the way the argumentation and analysis is carried out. The evidence must either corroborate the analysis or be assigned a different category. Fuzzy boundaries – a phenomenon widely discussed in the literature (inter alia, Ungerer & Schmid 1999: 23) – are not easily dealt with here, exactly as ongoing change (cf. Hopper (1987)’s “Emergent Grammar”) as well as aspects of actual usage.

This approach has been challenged by the usage-based approach to linguistics (Bybee 2010) in which parole becomes the subject of investigation as it is precisely the usage that shapes the linguistic structure. The latter is, in turn, considered to be constrained by general cognitive processes such as automatization, analogy or categorization as well as sociolinguistic factors. Language dynamics as observed from synchronic and/or diachronic corpus data provides here an important piece of evidence, since language development must be crucially shaped by language usage.

Since linguistic experiments or grammaticality judgments are not available to linguists working on Ancient Greek the research on it has been inevitably corpus-driven and crucially based on language use (and, e.g., not on constructed examples). Moreover, it is well-known in Classical Philology that different authors represent sometimes not only different dialects (as, for example, Herodotus with his Ionic based variety) but also different styles which orient themselves onto different stages of language development. The strong urge towards imitation of the previous literary tradition which was perceived as a model is a serious confounding factor for the linguistic research. For example, Plutarch – even though in principle belonging to the Roman period – imitates a number of features from previous periods. Furthermore, other factors may also obscure the study as, for example, the phenomenon of text reuse in the historiographical tradition where texts of earlier authors were repeatedly reused as sources and passages from them – sometimes with, sometimes without changes – were integrated into later works. This dialectally and socially based variation creates a serious confusion when analysing Ancient Greek from a grammarian’s perspective.

It seems, however, possible to overcome the potential inconsistency of the data with which we are confronted by exploiting tools and methods from usage-based approaches such as measuring statistically significant effects of a particular pattern for a particular period as opposed to other patterns and periods. This can allow us to gloss over the particular characteristics of the writings of individual authors, while still being able to establish trends that are typical for a particular period of Ancient Greek. This kind of approach has been successfully adopted in, for example, Bentein (2016) and Crellin (2012) in relation to diachronic trends in the Greek verb.

While unfortunately there is no linguistically oriented corpus of Ancient Greek for all its periods there are a number of linguistic small corpora focusing on particular authors or periods available that may successfully be used by linguists such as the collection of (automatically) annotated Ancient Greek corpora at INESS / “Ancient Greek” prepared by different projects/scholars such as the PROIEL project at U Oslo or Perseus Project at U Buffalo and U Leipzig. Of course, there is the largest and almost exhaustive corpus of Ancient Greek Thesaurus Linguae Graecae but, unfortunately, it is not open-access and it is not tagged for linguistic purposes.

The aim of this conference is to gather researchers that exploit statistical and corpus obtained data for their analyses and claims. Importantly, we do not conceive of corpus data as data that are obtained by some technical, “automated” tool, we are equally interested in the research based on manually collected samples or databases that may be used to identify specific trends which in turn are integrated into the analysis. This is all the more important since it is currently not always an easy task for a linguist or philologist to obtain corpus data. Moreover, in this workshop, we would like to focus on usage-based research into Ancient Greek while methodological and technical aspects are subordinate at this conference.

We call for submissions on any aspect of Ancient Greek (from the Homeric period until the Koiné) – including not only grammarians’ but also sociolinguistic and variational studies – that are based on corpus or statistical data.

References

  1. Bentein, Klaas. 2016. Verbal Periphrasis in Ancient Greek: Have- and Be- Constructions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Bybee, Joan L. 2010: Language, usage and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Crellin, Robert. 2012. The Greek Perfect Active System: 200 BC - AD 150. University of Cambridge Ph.D. Thesis.
  4. Hopper, Paul 1987: Emergent Grammar, Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society 13, 139-157.
  5. Ungerer, Friedrich & Hans-Jörg Schmid 1999: An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics. London: Longman.

Invited speakers (alphabetically):

  • Klaas Bentein (Ghent University)
  • Giuseppe Celano (Leipzig University)
  • James Clackson (University of Cambridge)
  • José Luis García Ramón (Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, Harvard University)
  • Chiara Gianollo (University of Bologna)
  • Dag Haug (University of Oslo)
  • Geoffrey Horrocks (University of Cambrigde)
  • Daniel Kölligan (University of Cologne)
  • Martti Leiwo, Sonja Dahlgren & Marja Vierros (University of Helsinki)
  • Amalia Moser (University of Athens)
  • Paul Widmer & Florian Sommer (University of Zürich)