Greek in Early Hellenistic Magna Graecia: Dialect Contact and Change in South Italy

Change log
Tagliapietra, Livia 

This doctoral thesis investigates dialect contact, identity and change in the ancient Greek colonies of Magna Graecia in the fourth and third centuries BC, as evidenced in the surviving epigraphic sources. South Italy is an area of the ancient Greek-speaking world in which a comprehensive investigation of the linguistic evidence has not previously been attempted. By considering linguistic questions within their broader socio-historical environment, I propose a radical redrawing of the dialect map of this area. I first present the historical context, the linguistic evidence and the methodological framework of my research in the introduction. In the first chapter I reject previous hypotheses about dialect contact in South Italy around 300 BC on the basis of both historical and linguistic arguments. I then propose a new and empirically better supported explanation for the development of the ‘severior’ long-vowel system in the dialect of the southern city of Locri, which previous studies have generally attributed to influence from the dialect of the important northern city of Taras and taken as evidence for Taras’ linguistic influence over the rest of Magna Graecia, and possibly also for the existence of a local Doric koina (i.e. a common dialect). In the second chapter I offer a new analysis of the inscriptional record from Locri and show that, in the absence of compelling evidence for influence from the dialect of Taras, a high level of prestige remained attributed to the traditional local dialect until at least the mid-third century. At the same time, the southern colonies in general, including Locri, can be shown to have been exposed to the koine before the northern ones, such as Taras, as a result of frequent contact with the Greeks of near Sicily in the fourth and early third centuries. In the third chapter I complete my investigation by assessing the use of dialectal features in literary texts produced in South Italy around the same period (both metrical inscriptions and literary works transmitted in manuscripts). The evidence of these texts, combined with that of documentary inscriptions, provides a deeper insight into matters of dialect identity and prestige in this area. After summarising the results of my research, I conclude my investigation with a brief discussion of the socio-historical reasons why a Doric koina did not develop in South Italy as in other areas.

Horrocks, Geoffrey
Ancient Greek dialects, Ancient Greek linguistics, Historical sociolinguistics, Magna Graecia, Ancient South Italy, Greek colonies of South Italy
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
This thesis was written as part of the ‘Greek in Italy’ project in the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge, with the generous financial support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK and of the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge.