Report on PhilSoc-funded summer school

written by Vaughan Pilikian (PhilSoc associate member 2371)

Comparative study of the ancient world can be approached in different ways. Linguistic genealogical connections are evident, for instance, between Indo-European languages like Sanskrit and Greek, or Semitic languages, like Arabic and Akkadian. In addition, the Greeks were in contact with Mesopotamian peoples for centuries, and it is tantalising to consider how these different groups might have influenced one another. Indeed, Akkadian was the language of a high literary culture for over 2,000 years and, as the main vehicle through which we have contact with Sumerian (a language isolate), its significance extends at least a millennium prior to this period. There are extraordinarily beautiful and mysterious poems written in both languages and a vast quantity of mostly untranslated prose. With a background in Latin, Greek and Sanskrit, I had been for some time on the lookout for an opportunity finally to edge my way into the ancient Near East. Generous support from PhilSoc and the Martin Burr Fund made this possible for me at last.

Manishtusu obelisk in Akkadian by unknown artist – Mbzt, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16898522

The Académie des Langues Anciennes is a utopian and brilliantly European endeavour, a peripatetic ten-day summer school offering courses in Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Hebrew and several of their lesser-known cousins. Currently it is resident on the campus of the Université de Pau et des Pays de L’Adour in the south of France, a beautiful and serene arrangement of wildflower meadows and ingenious architecture that somehow shields its occupants from the region’s often formidable heat. I was studying the dialect of Old Babylonian with Dr Victor Gysembergh, a scholar of ancient Greek and Akkadian at the Sorbonne, who took us patiently through an elegant, compact and as yet unpublished introduction to the language written by two eminent French Assyriologists.

2nd millennium BCE (c. 1600 – 1400) Old Babylonian / Kassite divination text. Incised clay, 14cm x 10.5cm x 2.4cm. Département des Antiquités orientales © RMN, Musée du Louvre https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010168332

The course was demanding and intensive but tremendously rewarding: the sinuous rhythms and sonorities of the Akkadian language are a true delight and Victor brought them potently forth. Of course, only a beginning can be made in a mere ten days. But the combination of ambition and rigour were bracing and there is always great advantage to working as part of a group when grappling with a new language. The one hundred or so students present at the Académie were mostly from France, as one might expect, but that need not be so. My own French is far from perfect: Victor was sensitive to the fact, and I found the organisers uniformly approachable and supportive. There was a single case of coronavirus while the school was in progress, but this was dealt with professionally and with minimal disruption. In sum, I can say that the entire experience felt like a blessing in these increasingly beleaguered times.

I am very grateful to the Society and to the Martin Burr Fund for supporting the trip. It was hugely stimulating, and it gave me the opportunity to take first steps into a topic I have been wanting to investigate for a good while. A new journey has begun.

In memoriam Professor Erik Charles Fudge

written by Keith Brown (University of Cambridge) and Nigel Vincent (University of Manchester)

We are sorry to report the passing of Erik Charles Fudge, member of the Society throughout his career and a member of Council from 1980-83. His first degree was in mathematics and modern and medieval languages at the University of Cambridge (1955). After graduating he spent some years as a school teacher, before moving to Indiana University to take part in a project on machine translation and information retrieval. He returned to Cambridge to undertake a PhD in linguistics (awarded in 1967), and in 1965 joined the newly formed Department of General Linguistics in Edinburgh as a lecturer in Phonology. In 1968 he was back in Cambridge, this time as lecturer in Phonetics and Phonology, before taking up the foundational chair in Linguistics at the University of Hull in 1974. During his time there he also served as editor of Journal of Linguistics (1979-84). The Hull department was a victim of the 1980’s university cuts and in 1988 he moved to a chair in Linguistic Science at the University of Reading where he remained until his retirement in 1999. A lifelong committed Christian, he had served as a lay reader in the Church of England from the 1960’s and was ordained priest in 1994.

The main focus of his research was syllable structure and word stress, as evidenced in a string of journal articles and his book English Word Stress (Allen & Unwin, 1984). He took a wide-ranging view of the relevance of different theoretical approaches to the study of language in general and phonology in particular, as can be seen in the volume he compiled for the Penguin Modern Linguistics series Phonology: Selected Readings (1973). He was the section editor for Phonology in the first edition of Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (Pergamon Press, 1993) and for Language and Religion in the second edition (Elsevier, 2006).

Latin-language Seminar on ‘Humanitas’

by Robin Meyer (University of Oxford)

The Oxford Latinitas Project promotes the fluent speaking of Classical Latin as an essential part of scholarship (and love) of the Litterae Humaniores. This week, the project will host visitors from the Accademia “Vivarium Novum”, Italy, for a seminar discussion of classic texts on the theme of ‘humanitas’, accompanied by musical settings of ancient poetry. Refreshments will be served, and thereafter those who wish may join us for dinner in the city centre.
The entire evening will be conducted in Latin. Active participation is of course encouraged, but those who simply wish to observe and listen are also most welcome! It will be an excellent opportunity to get a taste for this exciting way of approaching the classical works and the languages they were written in as living things.
In addition to the main event Friday evening, the Vivarienses will be taking over our regular weekly sessions: Lumen Litterarum, on Wedensday, 16 May, at 12:00 in Oriel, and the Familia Romana / Roma Aeterna sessions at Brasenose College, Friday, 18 May, at 12:30 PM.

Please do RSVP, indicating whether you would like to join for the seminar, dinner, or both, or if you would like to come to Lumen Litterarum; no need RSVP for FR / RA.

Conference announcement: mFiL 2018

by Sarah Mahmood (University of Manchester)

The Manchester Forum in Linguistics (mFiL) is an annual conference for early career researchers in all fields of linguistics. The aim of the conference, to take place on 26-27 April 2018 at the University of Manchester, is to share current work, results and problems and to provide information and advice for postgraduate students, post-doctoral scholars and others in the early stages of their scientific career. This includes the presentation of papers and posters, plenary talks and a careers panel, as well as a social programme including a conference dinner and informal drinks.

The mFiL, which is being organised now for the sixth time (last held in April 2017), is the successor of a postgraduate linguistics conference that ran in Manchester from 1992 until 2011 almost annually. The conference adheres to strict standards of scientific rigour: all abstract submissions are double-blind peer-reviewed by two experts, mostly professors and lecturers from various UK universities, and only submissions with a solid scientific contribution are accepted for presentation at the conference. Submissions that have implications for linguistic theory generally or that employ novel empirical methods are especially encouraged.

Submissions for oral and poster presentations in all areas of linguistics are welcomed.

Oral presentations should be no more than 20 minutes in length with an additional 10 minutes allocated for questions, comments and discussion. Poster presentations will be presented during a dedicated session on the schedule.

The deadline for submissions is 11 February 2018 (midnight GMT).

See the conference websitefor more details.

Happy New Year!

PhilSoc wishes all its members a Happy New Year and success in all their endeavours in 2017.

As the new year begins, here is a brief reminder for members about the annual subscription for 2017.

The annual subscription for ordinary members (i.e. not honorary, life, or student associate members) is £20, due on 1st January each year.

We are grateful to the many members who have already made arrangements to pay their annual subscription for 2017 either by means of a standing order or by having paid for a number of years in advance. Members who are uncertain whether this applies to them should contact the membership secretary (membership@philsoc.org.uk). Any members who have been paying by standing order for some years already are asked to check that they have amended their standing order to the correct rate.

Members who need to pay for 2017 are invited to do so as soon as possible in order to ensure that they continue to receive the Society’s publications and mailings.

  • Members who have UK bank accounts have the option to set up a standing order by completing a mandate form and returning it directly to their bank or by using the details given on the form to set up an electronic payment. The form can be found here.
  • Alternatively members may pay online via the Society’s website, where it is possible to make a single payment to cover between one and five years, or to set up a regular payment to the Society. The site accepts payments by common credit and debit cards as well as by PayPal account.

Whichever method of payment is used, it helps us greatly if members quote their membership number as a reference for the payment. This can be found on the address sheet or mailing label of every mailing from the Society. Please contact the membership secretary for a reminder of this if necessary.

Please note that we no longer send individual invoices for subscriptions.

Members who do not wish to renew their membership for 2017 are kindly requested to notify the membership secretary as soon as possible so that the mailing list for forthcoming publications can be adjusted accordingly.