LINGUIST List 25.1945

Fri May 02 2014

Diss: Ancient Greek, Historical Ling, Morphology, Syntax, Typology: Zinzi: 'Dal greco antico al greco moderno ...'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <>

Date: 02-May-2014
From: Mariarosaria Zinzi <>
Subject: Dal greco antico al greco moderno: alcuni aspetti dell'evoluzione morfosintattica
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Institution: (MIUR) Ministero dell'Istruzione Università e Ricerca
Program: Università degli Studi di Firenze, Dottorato di ricerca in Linguistica
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Mariarosaria Zinzi

Dissertation Title: Dal greco antico al greco moderno: alcuni aspetti dell'evoluzione morfosintattica

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Greek, Ancient (grc)

Dissertation Director:
Alberto Nocentini

Dissertation Abstract:

From Ancient to Modern Greek: a perspective on the morphosyntactic evolution.

The dissertation analyses four main innovations of Modern Greek as compared
to Ancient Greek, namely the genitive-dative syncretism, the loss of the
infinitive, the creation of a periphrastic form of the perfect and the
dislocation of clitics. It focuses on Late Greek, a label that defines the
language spoken in a period running approximately from Hellenism to the
Muslim conquest of Egypt. The introduction deals with the previous studies
on the history of Greek language and offers an overview of the testimonies
suitable for an investigation of Late Greek. Each chapter is dedicated to a
specific innovation.

The research is based on a corpus of 300 non-literary papyri, specifically
private letters, collected and translated by the author: the documents date
from IV b. C. to, at latest, VIII a. D., and they all come from Egypt.

Why is the research based on letters on papyri? Literary texts in Late
Greek were composed in a language characterized by a fictitious,
classicising uniformity. From the Hellenistic period onwards, Greek
differentiated into two varieties, namely spoken Greek, which underwent
phonological, morphological and syntactical changes, and a sort of
crystallized Classical Greek, or rather Attic dialect, used for literary
and administrative purposes. The aim of the dissertation is to provide a
survey and, as far as possible, an explanation of the innovations that
brought to linguistic changes in Modern Greek: private letters on papyri
allow the researcher to get the closest possible to the spoken language,
since they represent a dialogue in a graphic form.

The analysis showed that, while the weakening of the dative, and its
resulting syncretism with the genitive, is a development starting in the
first centuries of our era, the loss of the infinitive and the creation of
a periphrastic form of the perfect, attested for the first time in the
latter part of the Byzantine period, must be dated to the Medieval period.
Changes in the disposition of clitics cannot be noticed in Late Greek. At
any rate, by the seventh century at the latest most of the structural
changes in morphology and syntax had already taken place.

Furthermore, papyri clearly show that, in spite of its geographical
extension, Greek has always remained one and the same language, since it
undergoes the same innovations in Egypt as in homeland.

Lastly, a resemblance between Latin and Greek developments must be noticed,
but a parallel drift of the two languages seems to be more likely than
assuming that one of the two languages had the leading role in the
linguistic change.

Page Updated: 02-May-2014