Multilingualism and Minority Languages in Ancient Europe

Project Participants

  • Project Leader
    University La Sapienza
    University for Foreigners of Siena
    Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
    Ghent University
    Leiden University
    The Netherlands

The present Collaborative Research Project aims at shedding light upon some very important defining features of past and modern European identity, such as multilingualism,languages in contact and the various types of cultural interaction involved, as well as prestige and 'transnational' languages and their impact on minority languages. These features are often perceived as a typical problem of contemporary Europe, linked to globalization and recent migrations, rather than a constitutive part of our identity since its foundation. However, the most ancient written documents found in the European continent already show traces of multilingualism and intense language contact, both in areas under the authority of a single and cohesive national power, such as the Hellenistic kingdoms or the Roman Empire, and in regions at the boundary between two or more nations or populations, such as ancient Phrygia and Anatolia at large, North-Western Greece and the Balkans, plus most areas of pre-Roman and Roman Southern Italy. One of the main problems is that in antiquity transnational and prestige languages such as Greek and Latin tended to replace in writing various local languages, which as a consequence are poorly attested and are usually classified as Restsprachen.

Each of the five Research Units will focus on different aspects of multilingualism in Ancient Europe, especially by studying specific poorly documented minority languages and/or exploring different types of language contact. As a result, various superficially studied or unpublished documents written in Phrygian, Lydian, different dialects of Ancient Greek, Latin, Messapic and Cappadocian Greek will be edited, commented upon and examined in their historical context. At a more general level, each Research Unit will reflect, both with regard to its specific field and in cooperation with the other Units, on the sociolinguistic dynamics underlying the new philological, linguistic, historical and cultural data that will be disclosed during the project, in order to achieve a better understanding of the linguistic and cultural identities of nowadays Europe.

As a matter of fact, a more complete picture of multilingualism in the Ancient European territory will allow to realize to what extent such European distinctive (and enriching) features as contact among languages and integration of cultures, as well as the concepts of inclusion, multiple identities and unity-in-diversity, are likely to reach back to a very ancient past - a kind of knowledge that can be used as a means for a more in-depth understanding of modern situations of language and culture contact.

Associated Partners: 

AP 1: Mario Capasso, Associazone Italiana di Cultura Classica (AICC)

AP 2: Dr. Marloes Deene, Nederlands Klassiek Verbond

AP 3: Dr. Johann Vandewalle, Orientaal: Centrum voor Oosterse Talen & Culturen (Centre for Oriental Languages & Cultures)

AP 4: Theofanis Issakidis abd Vassiliki Papadopoulou, Panhellic Association of Cappadocian Unions

AP 5: Dr. W.H.M. Huppertz, Allard Pierson Museum

AP 6: Prof Ioannis N. Kazazis, Ministry of Culture, Education and Religous Affairs - Centre for the Greek Language

AP 7: Pierre Ducrey and Gary Vachicoura, Foundation Hardt

AP 8: Mauro Tulli, Associazone Italiana di Cultura Classica - Delegazione di Pisa

AP 9: Prof Salavatore Caruso, Liceo Classico G. Galilei

AP 10: Dott.ssa Paola Fasano, Liceo Classico Machievelli in Florence

AP 11: Alessandro Bechini, Oxfam Italia Intercultura

AP 12: Prof. Emilio Crespo Guemes, Fundación Pastor de Estudios Clásicos