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Title: Language contact in South Oscan epigraphy
Author: McDonald, Katherine Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 5351 5059
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines evidence for language contact between Oscan and Greek in the corpus of Oscan inscriptions from Lucania, Bruttium and Messana. These inscriptions were written in an adapted form of the Greek alphabet from around the fourth to first century BC, with a few of the latest texts written in the Latin alphabet; as a group, these texts are referred to as ‘South Oscan’. The work draws on modern sociolinguistic theory of bilingualism and language contact alongside previous scholarship on ancient linguistics, epigraphy and archaeology. It also suggests a series of general principles for dealing with small epigraphic corpora from a sociolinguistic viewpoint. After laying out these frameworks, this work gives an introduction to the sites of the region and past scholarship on language contact in this corpus. The main body of the thesis deals with the corpus of texts from a number of complementary angles. Firstly, the adaptation of the South Oscan alphabet from the Greek alphabet is explored in detail. In particular, the development of various signs for /f/ and the use of ‘extra’ Greek characters like chi, theta and phi are investigated as evidence of ongoing contact between the languages. The rest of the thesis deals with the corpus by genre or inscription type: this includes dedications, curse tablets, legal texts, official texts (including coin legends) and funerary texts. While some types of text, such as curse tablets, show pronounced influence and borrowing from Greek, other genres such as legal or official texts show far fewer contact phenomena, even within the same community. In other instances, language contact appears to have resulted in regional linguistic developments: for example, some of the formulae used in South Oscan dedicatory and funerary texts appear to be creative adaptations arising from a combination of influences from both Oscan and Greek, without fully adopting existing models from either language. This thesis therefore stresses that communities developed norms about the appropriateness of borrowing from Greek in various kinds of texts. In many instances, linguistic and epigraphic borrowing from Greek in written texts seems to be determined by individual choice and variation within these community norms, rather than the result of incompetence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Oscan ; Epigraphy ; Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics ; Italy ; Greek ; Historical sociolinguistics ; Language contact