Online lecture: Language contact, multilingualism and global languages in the ancient world

Speaker: Professor Calortta Viti (Professor, Research Centre for History and Culture [Beijing Normal University - Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College])


Time:2022/4/1 Friday 16:00-17:30

Zoom ID:938 7710 9210

Abstract: This paper examines the development of language contact in the ancient word. Languages such as Latin and Hellenistic Greek, for example, can be considered as authentic global languages, especially in the Western and in the Eastern parts of the Ancient Mediterranean, respectively–with very different language policies. Besides, numerous other languages were spoken in these domains with widespread phenomena of language contact. Firstly, multilingualism is often attested between different languages, e.g. the bilingualism between Sumerian and Akkadian in the Fertile Crescent in the 3rdmillennium BCE, or the linguistic league of Anatolia in the 2ndmillennium BCE. Secondly, we may have different dialects of the same language, as can be seen in Archaic and Classical Greek. Thirdly, the very same language may show language variety and diglossia effects, as in the distinction of Eme-gir and Eme-Sal in Sumerian, the standard language and the women’s language. On the one hand, we will see how these linguistic phenomena may give us insights into the social and cultural traditions of ancient civilizations, which were much more heterogeneous than traditionally assumed. On the other, our analysis of multilingualism in antiquity can help us to solve some controversial questions about historical language contact.

This is the sixth lecture of the Online Lecture Series: New Perspectives on the Old World (2021/10-2022/6), which is co-organized by the HKBU Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology, the Institute of Oriental Studies (IOS), Russian Academy of Sciences, BNU-HKBU United International College (UIC) and Research Centre for History and Culture, Beijing Normal University.