Linguae nostrae

Me at Herculaneum
Me at Herculaneum, February 2015

Welcome to my blog! I’ve enjoyed blogging as part of the Greek in Italy project for the past year or so, and so I’ve decided to start this blog of my own as well. In general, I’m hoping this will become a place for me to write about on my research in progress, to discuss topics that might never quite make it into a book or article, and to tell people a bit more about my life as a researcher and academic as well as reflecting on my own practice.

In my head, I’ve given the blog the title Linguae Nostrae, or “our languages”. This comes from a group of phrases that is well-known in ancient linguistics: famously, the Roman Empire used both Latin (in the West) and Greek (in the East), and so the emperor Claudius referred to them as “both our languages” (utroque sermone nostro, Suetonius Claudius 42). In Roman administration, the phrase “in both languages” (utraque lingua) refers to Greek and Latin. So the phrase “both our languages” is immediately familiar to academics who think about the Roman Empire as a fundamentally bilingual place.

But as someone who studies many ancient languages, I would never want to limit myself to just “both” languages. I’d prefer to think of all of the dozens of languages of the Roman Empire as in some way “our” languages, and I feel that Classicists should make use of them more often. So I’ve not used either Claudius’ phrase or the Roman administrative wording exactly, in order to make the ancient world multilingual rather than just bilingual.

Because of my interest in Oscan (a language of ancient Italy), I did briefly consider naming the blog after something to do with the word for “language” in Oscan. This word – or rather, the word for “tongue”, which is what lingua literally means – does survive in two separate texts as fangva. I decided against it because fangva sounds both obscure and quite scary. Incidently, the original Latin word for tongue was dingua – a later change of /d/>/l/ happens in some Latin words. If there are any linguists reading, I think you should feel relieved that our field is not known as dinguistics.

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