Language and Linguistic Contact in Ancient Sicily by Olga Tribulato, Dr Olga Tribulato

By Olga Tribulato, Dr Olga Tribulato

In the box of old bilingualism, Sicily represents a distinct terrain for research due to its particularly wealthy linguistic background, during which 'colonial' languages belonging to branches as different as Italic (Oscan and Latin), Greek and Semitic (Phoenician) interacted with the languages of the natives (the elusive Sicel, Sicanian and Elymian). the results of this historic melting-pot was once a tradition characterized by means of 'postcolonial' positive factors corresponding to ethnic hybridity, multilingualism and inventive and literary experimentation. whereas Greek quickly emerged because the major language, dominating professional conversation and literature, epigraphic resources and oblique facts express that the minority languages held their floor all the way down to the 5th century BCE, and in certain cases past. the 1st components of the amount speak about those languages and their interplay with Greek, whereas the 3rd half makes a speciality of the sociolinguistic revolution led to by way of the coming of the Romans.

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Language and Linguistic Contact in Ancient Sicily

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They tended to inhabit hilltop sites, which may have been part of larger territorial entities;27 close territorial control may be the reason for the political and cultural stability of these indigenous sites and their survival into the classical period. 28 Burial grounds are often vast (as in the case of those at Molino della BadiaMadonna del Piano in east Sicily and Santa Margherita Belice in the west) and show the coexistence of different funerary practices (inhumation in rock-cut chambers, jars and trench-graves, as well as cremation in some rare cases).

By becoming ‘Sicel’). Another fruitful field of enquiry has also been opened by postcolonial studies, which offer a different way of approaching the relation between natives and Greeks. In this respect, a distinction may be drawn between the eastern and western part of the island, particularly for the period before the fifth century. The area immediately behind Leontinoi, Syracuse and Camarina (see Map 1 for sites) was alternatively fraught with tensions and forms of interaction. No doubt, with its founding of Camarina in the sixth century Syracuse sought to establish another powerful stronghold on the southern shore of the island, in such a way as to control the triangle of land drawn by Syracuse to the east, Camarina to the south and the Syracusan subcolonies of Acrae and Casmenae to the north.

The second issue worth stressing concerns a general methodological question, namely: how far recorded ‘history’ may be regarded as a post factum invention addressing later needs. g. Snodgrass (1994: 2): ‘it is time to admit the likelihood that the Greek element was itself much more of a mixture – and not just in the joint ventures by more than one city – than the ancient historical accounts suggest’. This also significantly concerns the language of Sicilian authors such as Stesichorus and Epicharmus: see Willi (2008: 51–89).

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