Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Grammar of Medieval Greek project

A new Grammar will be the first comprehensive description of the medieval and early modern Greek language.

For the past five years, a team led by Professor David Holton of Cambridge University has been gathering, analysing and organising linguistic data for a new Greek Grammar. Co-directed by Professor Geoff Horrocks, the project is staffed by two full-time research associates, Dr Notis Toufexis and Ms Marjolijne Janssen, and two honorary consultants, Dr Io Manolessou and Dr Tina Lendari, and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Greek is one of the world’s oldest recorded languages, with a documented history spanning 34 centuries. Although scholars have analysed and described the Greek of the Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods in detail, the linguistic situation is much less studied after the end of Antiquity. At around 1100 AD the beginnings of the modern vernacular first became evident, and over the next 600 years the language underwent significant changes, with the medieval vernacular gradually acquiring the morphological and syntactic features that are characteristic of Greek today.

Fortuitously, 1100–1700 is also a period in which texts in the vernacular are available in sufficient quantities for researchers to observe trends and identify the factors that influence variation. ‘But, despite the increasing availability of this material, there has been no systematic and detailed account of the development of the Greek language during this crucial period,’ said Professor Holton. ‘The Grammar aims to fill a serious gap in the history of Greek. This standard reference work will underpin a growing interest in medieval and early modern Greek literature and its historical, social and cultural context.’

The Grammar spans a geographical area from southern Italy to the Black Sea, encompassing written texts of all kinds, and giving a full account of linguistic developments within this period. It is a high-tech project, using electronic databases and digitised corpora to store and sort a mass of information.

The Grammar will contain a full description on all levels (phonology, morphology, syntax); information about the distributional patterns of variant forms and old vs. new formations; spelling and orthographic conventions of the period; and dialectal variation. It will also examine crucial diachronic issues, giving a full account of linguistic developments within the period, with information on the dating, first appearance and spread of various phenomena (looking both backwards to Ancient Greek and forwards to Modern Greek). Past linguistic scholarship on Medieval Greek will be re-evaluated; textual documentation and bibliographic guidance will be given for each phenomenon examined.

Once completed, the Grammar will be published by Cambridge University Press. For more information, please go to the Grammar of Medieval Greek Project website.