I’m very excited to announce the publication of my book Oscan in Southern Italy and Sicily. The editor very kindly dropped the first copy round to my house last night, and I’m really pleased with how it has turned out.
This book started life as my PhD thesis (pictures of its journey from thesis to book below). In it, I explore the Oscan language in the toe of Southern Italy, especially in Lucania, Bruttium and Messana. Even though the language of the texts is fairly easy to understand (because Oscan is quite closely related to Latin), there are usually only a handful of texts from any one archaeological site, though there are more being dug up every year. A lot of the most interesting texts that survive – mostly on stone, bronze, lead and ceramics – have been discovered only in the past few decades. Taken together, the patchy survival and recent discovery of the Oscan texts meant that no one had ever put all the linguistic evidence together before.
So, I decided to look at all of the South Oscan texts together and see what I could find out. I was particularly interested in the Greek influence on the Oscan language and, as a sociolinguist, I mostly wanted to know how the Oscan language could help us to understand pre-Roman societies and communities. In this region, Oscan was almost always written using the Greek alphabet, though it was written with a different alphabet (derived from Etruscan) further north. Despite the use of the Greek alphabet, scholars had been very hesitant to see any Oscan-Greek bilingualism or language contact. So one thing I’ve done in this book is bring together all the available evidence for Oscan-Greek bilingualism, and suggest what kind of bilingualism would have resulted in people writing these kinds of texts. In general, I think the historical and linguistic evidence points towards this being a highly bilingual region for most of its history, with both Oscan and Greek remaining in use until the spread of Latin in the second or first century BC.
If you’d like to know more about the book and where to buy it, click here for the book’s dedicated page on this blog. I hope to keep this updated with corrections or additions as time goes on – please send me an email or write a comment below if you think there’s anything I should add to the page. The book should be in stock from the middle of next week, but you can pre-order it now, and it will also be available in e-book format.