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Multilingual literary practices in a multicultural world, from Archaic Greece to the Byzantine Empire
November 14th-15th, 2023
Belgian Academy in Rome

Multilingualism in the ancient world has been of great interest to linguists and literary scholars alike. Linguists investigate borrowings and structural convergences between two or more languages and explore broader sociolinguistic questions such as regional diversification and linguistic ideologies (e.g. Adams et al. 2002; Bentein 2016; Clackson et al. 2020; Hogeterp 2018; Kaimio 1979). Literary scholars look into the socio-cultural context within which literary works were produced and received and the linguistic background that Greek-speaking and writing authors had – including the linguistic norms and standards that they tried to uphold in the Greek language itself – framing it in the broader question of (the struggle for) cultural identity (Adams 2020; Andrade 2013; Bozia 2018; Goldhill 2011, Lee at al. 2014). For both research strands, Archaic Greek dialectal variety and its literary manifestations, as well as multidialectal and multilingual contacts in Classical Greek, have been of interest. Similarly, the Post-classical period (including the Hellenistic, Roman, and Late Antique periods) has been of particular relevance as a time of particularly intense language contact.

Scholars working in these two research strands tend to focus on different types of sources – literary and non-literary sources such as papyri and inscriptions – and adopt different methodologies, focusing on different types of research questions. The main aim of this conference is to bring together researchers, methodologies, and sources with the objective of developing a more integrated approach toward multilingual practices in various ways:

(i) by developing a diachronic approach to the study of Greek and its contact languages, from the Archaic to the Byzantine period,

(ii) by including types of sources traditionally neglected, such as translations and bilingual
metalinguistic sources like grammars & dictionaries,
(iii) by situating multilingual literature in its socio-cultural context, looking at people with multilingual competencies, the intellectual communities in which they operated, and the factors driving particular linguistic and literary choices,
(iv) by integrating new theoretical approaches, such as cognitive and socio-pragmatic ones, to create a framework for the study of multilingualism in the ancient Greek

The general goal of the conference is to understand better what the linguistic repertoire of multilingual speakers and writers looked like, how and why writers brought together features (ranging from specific linguistic patterns to larger and more abstract cultural forms such as genres) from different cultural traditions, and what the intended effect was, or, vice versa, why they consciously resisted them. Importantly, under ‘multilingual competencies,’ we also understand the existence of different linguistic registers and dialects inside a single language.

Finally, the conference focuses on literary sources, but it is also interested in overlaps with genres that have traditionally been defined as ‘non-literary,’ a distinction that recent research has problematized (e.g., Fournet 2013).

Topics may include but are not limited to the following:
ü Systematic studies of multilingualism in the ancient Greek and Byzantine worlds:
o Cognitive and socio-pragmatic approaches to ancient Greek, its evolution, and contact languages
o (Re)-definitions and applications of concepts of linguistics and sociolinguistics on Greek linguistic competencies

ü Consideration of different forms of multilingualism (translations, “errors” in translations,
lexica, etc.)
ü Studies of linguistic varieties in different literary genres (such as dialectal varieties) as forms of multilingualism
ü Analysis of multilingual lexica/grammars
ü Studies of private writings and others meant for public consumption to determine levels
of multilingualism
ü Considerations of multilingualism in literature in conjunction with
multiculturalism (lexical and social variations, multilingual literary practices alongside
multicultural ones)
ü Insights into the reception of ancient texts through translations.
A thematic issue with selected contributions will be published by The Journal of Literary
Multilingualism. Leiden: Brill.
Keynote Speakers:
James Clackson, University of Cambridge
Mark Janse, Ghent University
Arietta Papaconstantinou, University of Reading
Interested scholars are invited to submit proposals (500 words max) by December 15th, 2022 to
Eleni Bozia (, Klaas Bentein (, and Chiara Monaco

Adams, J. N., Mark Janse, and Simon Swain. 2002. Bilingualism in Ancient Society: Language
Contact and the Written Text. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Adams, Sean. 2020. Greek Genres and Jewish Authors. Negotiating Literary Culture in the Greco-
Roman Era. Baylor University Press.

Andrade, Nathanael J. 2013. Syrian Identity in the Greco-Roman World. Greek Culture in the
Roman World. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bentein, Klaas. 2016. Verbal Periphrasis in Ancient Greek: Have- and Be-Constructions. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
Bozia, Eleni. 2018. “Immigration as acculturation: voluntary displacement in the Roman
Empire.” In D. Arroyo (ed.) Displacement in language, Literature and Culture - 2016 CMLL
Symposium, Selected Proceedings. Benalmádena, Málaga, Spain. 49-82.
Clackson, J., Patrick James, Katherine McDonald, Livia Tagliapetra, and Nicholas Zair. (eds.)
2020. Migration, Mobility, and Language Contact in and around the Ancient Mediterranean.
Cambridge University Press.
Fournet, Jean-Luc. 2013. “Culture Grecque et Document Dans l’Égypte de l’Antiquité Tardive.”
Journal of Juristic Papyrology 43: 135–62.
Goldhill, Simon. 2011. Being Greek under Rome. Cambridge, GBR: Cambridge University Press.
Hogeterp, Albert L. A. 2018. Semitisms in Luke’s Greek: A Descriptive Analysis of Lexical and
Syntactical Domains of Semitic Language Influence in Luke’s Gospel. Wissenschaftliche
Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament 401. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
Kaimio, Jorma. 1979. “The Romans and the Greek Language.” Commentationes Humanarum
Litterarum 64: 1–379.
Lee, B.T., Ellen Finkelpearl, and Luca Graverini (eds.) 2014. Apuleius and Africa. Routledge.

Organizing Committee:
Eleni Bozia, University of Florida
Klaas Bentein, Ghent University
Chiara Monaco, Ghent University

Call for Papers