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PURism in Antiquity: Theories of Language in Greek Atticist Lexica and their Legacy

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PURA (PURism in Antiquity: Theories of Language in Greek Atticist Lexica and their Legacy)

Reporting period: 2022-07-01 to 2023-12-31

PURA studies the theories of linguistic purism of Greek Atticism and their legacy in later ages. Linguistic purism is a recurrent phenomenon in periods of societal crisis, when issues of cultural or national identity are at stake or being redefined. It responds to the anxiety that a language is decaying, dying or ‘threatened’ by other languages and multilingualism. Such attitudes are common in contemporary societies and have marked the history of European culture at several stages (Italy, Greece and Germany being some prominent examples). Yet their roots can be traced back to antiquity: an antecedent that remains mostly unknown outside Classics and that has never been studied from a multidisciplinary perspective.
PURA seeks to build a bridge between ancient and modern purist theories by producing the first diachronic study of Greek purism, the texts which upheld it, and their legacy in later ages. We have three objectives.
Our first objective is to make the theories of these intricate texts accessible outside the traditional format of critical editions and more approachable for non-experts. PURA has achieved this objective by creating the Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism ( a web-based open-access platform which collects the output of our linguistic, philological and paleographic study of Atticist lexica.
Our second objective is to comprehensively map Atticist theories. To achieve this objective PURA is performing a diachronic linguistic analysis of the lexica which studies the history and evolution of Atticist features across the whole history of the language: Ancient, Medieval and Modern Greek. This part of our work informs the lexicographical articles of the Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism and will feed the first two volumes of the project monograph: The Roots of Atticism (to appear in 2024) and The Age of Atticism (to appear in 2025).
Our third objective is to study the intellectual and cultural legacy of Atticism in the Middle Ages and early modern age. We are charting the history of the main Atticist lexica as books: from the production of manuscripts at Byzantium to their arrival in Humanist Italy down to their first circulation in print across Italy and the rest of Europe in the Renaissance. This part of our work will be published in the codicological articles of the Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism from 2024, in a series of journal articles, and in vol. 3 of the project monograph, The Legacy of Atticism (to appear in 2025).
In Year 1 PURA started the analysis of entries from Atticist lexica, to feed the Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism and later the project monograph. We created the Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism, in collaboration with the Venice Center for Digital and Public Humanities. We achieved the milestone of 50 lexicographical entries for DEA. We began participating in conferences and seminars to start disseminating PURA’s research. We created the project’s website and ran an outreach project with secondary schools on linguistic purism (“Linguisti in erba”). We published one article in the prestigious Cambridge Classical Journal; three more were accepted by other journals.
In Year 2 the team was completed. In October 2022 we opened DEA to the public with the 50 entries produced in 2021. The site has received praise and good responses. We produced a further 50 lexicographical entries, to be published in 2023. Our line of research on the Byzantine reception of Atticism has produced entries with a focus on Byzantine lexica. We started work on the legacy of Atticism by beginning the mapping of the manuscript tradition of Pollux’ Onomasticon. This year PURA held its two first workshops, on Phrynichus’ Eclogue and Praeparatio sophistica respectively. The results achieved in Workshop 2 have led us to describe a new methodology to approach this lexicon, its structure, and a prospective new critical edition. This will be the topic of a forthcoming edited volume for De Gruyter (New Insights in Phrynichus’ Praeparatio sophistica). In the second half of the year work began on vol. 1 of the project monograph. In the spring PURA hosted a visiting researcher, who gave four seminars. We participated in conferences in Potenza and Cologne. Other output produced in this period includes two book chapters and two articles (all forthcoming).
In the first 6 months of Year 3 we published 26 entries in DEA (a further 24 will come in December). We’re working on a further 50 entries (to be published in 2024) and have begun work on the Lexicographers&Works section of DEA. Research on the Onomasticon produced two articles and a forthcoming volume preparing a future edition of the Onomasticon. Work on the monograph’s vol. 1, The Roots of Atticism, is close to completion. Work on some chapters of vol. 2, The Age of Atticism, has also begun. We’ve participated in workshops and seminars in Amsterdam, Oxford, and Venice. PURA has hosted two visiting scholars, confirming its attractiveness.
PURA’s progress and expected results concern four areas.
Philological study of Greek lexicography. PURA’s cross-textual approach is enabling the study of Greek lexica and their linguistic theories in a more in-depth and organic manner than has been attempted before. By the end of PURA, we will have produced a significant number of lexicographical entries on Atticist lexica which will enable important advances in the understanding of the relationship between individual lexica and how this tradition was received in the Byzantine age. Many of these insights will also be made available in the second part of vol. 1 of the project monograph and in vols. 2 & 3. We also expect to propose a new model for the critical edition of some of these materials.
Extrapolation of linguistic theories from lexica. PURA is mapping the contents of Atticist lexica by linguistic level (phonology, nominal and verbal morphology, word formation, syntax, the lexicon). By the end of PURA, we expect to have achieved a complete description of Attic Greek according to the Atticists. Through DEA and the project monograph we will produce the first full study of the linguistic theories of Atticism and the first to consider them under the sociolinguistic category of language purism.

The manuscript tradition. The mapping of the manuscripts of Pollux’ Onomasticon is producing significant advances, leading to a re-definition of the relations between manuscripts and their families, and making the case for a new critical edition. By the end of PURA, we will have extended this approach to two further lexica (the Eclogue and Moeris). This will be the first comprehensive study of the tradition of Atticist lexicography from a cultural and historical perspective. It will open new interpretative possibilities, among which new ways to edit these works in the future.
Digital approaches to Greek lexicography. PURA has designed a research infrastructure for the annotation and commentary of Greek lexica. DEA has become a reference resource in Greek lexicography and historical linguistics. By the end of the project, DEA will host no less than 200 lexicographical entries dealing with at least 630 lemmas from Atticist lexica plus many more from Byzantine and other sources. This corpus will be fully representative of the theories and many layers of Atticism, providing a non-static, evolving reference source which may well be further implemented after the end of the project.
Participants in the 1st workshops dt.19/01/2022
2 Workshop 26/09/2022
Seminars on linguistic purism
Seminars on linguistic purism
2 Workshop programme
Participants in the 1st workshops dt.19/01/2022
Workshop programme
Participants in the 2nd workshop 26/09/2022