Master’s Bursary from the Martin Burr Fund

written by Chris Watson (University of Oxford)

Originally a modern languages student, I was drawn into historical linguistics after stumbling across an article on the comparative method. This sparked off an interest in language change which quickly developed into a fascination, and so I chose to study Ancient Languages for my BA with a focus on Indo-European languages. This course gave me the opportunity to study Latin, Ancient Greek and Sanskrit (as well as a brief course in Hittite and a year of Ugaritic), but after graduating I was keen to take my study further and move into linguistics.

I was drawn to the MPhil in General Linguistics and Comparative Philology at Oxford as it would allow me to gain a grounding in theoretical linguistics while also giving me the chance to focus on historical linguistics and look specifically at the history of Latin. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to study, amongst other things, phonology, phonetics, syntax and linguistic typology, alongside the chance to take a range of classes and seminars on Latin and philology. For my final exams, I took papers in the development of the Latin language as well as a more general course in historical linguistics. To be able to learn about these topics through tutorials taught by leading academics in the field was invaluable, and has considerably broadened my knowledge.

Having been interested in early Latin for some time, I chose to look at the poet Ennius for my thesis. The thesis, supervised by Professor Wolfgang de Melo, examined whether the Latin of Ennius’ Annals is an accurate reflection of the language of the time. Though the language of the Annals has been much discussed, particularly since the publication of Otto Skutsch’s 1985 edition, I took a systematic approach to the text in order to ascertain just how much of the work that remains to us can be considered “early”. The Annals are fragmentary, which poses considerable problems when trying to gauge what the language of the text as a whole looked like; many lines are preserved by grammarians specifically because they contain non-Classical usages. The longer fragments that remain are likely to give a more accurate picture of the language of the Annals overall. In contrast to the linguistic oddities catalogued in the short fragments, the longer pieces of the work show a Latin that is barely distinguishable from Classical Latin, with only a handful of specifically “early” usages.

Without PhilSoc’s generosity, this research would not have been possible, and so I am immensely grateful for the Master’s Bursary, which has given me the opportunity to follow my passion. I am now moving into employment but hope to return to graduate study in the future.

TPS 116(2) – Abstract 4

Of Lambkins and Piglets in Old English and Beyond

by Patrick V. Stiles (University College London)

It is suggested that the Old English adjectives geēan and gecealf, each attested once in the same passage, could refer not only to pregnant livestock but also to mothers with their newborn young (as proposed by Osthoff in 1895). The twice occurring sequence gefearh sugu, which is usually taken to be a compound, is here analysed as consisting of a third such adjective used attributively before the noun; as the feminine nominative singular of a heavy‐syllabled adjective, it is endingless. This appears to be a return to an earlier view. A fourth example, gefol, recorded once, is also discussed. The formation of these adjectives is briefly treated, as is the PGmc noun *auna- “lamb” presupposed by the first adjective, together with its presumed relationship to Latin agnus and further cognates. Evidence for the derived class II weak verb *aunôn (reflected in OE *ēanian) in the Germanic languages is presented.

DOI: 10.1111/1467-968X.12121

Indo-Iranian Philology Day

by Robin Meyer (University of Oxford)


Wolfson College, Oxford, and the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at the University of Oxford are pleased to host an Indo-Iranian Philology Day on Saturday, 28 April 2018, at Wolfson College.

This day celebrates the long-standing tradition of teaching Indic and Iranian languages as well as Indo-Iranian Comparative Philology at the University, and will showcase the breadth of the field as well as the fascinating connections with other areas of study.

The day begins with a lecture introducing Indo-Iranian Philology. Thereafter,  the morning consists of three sets of short introductory classes in Vedic and Avestan language and texts, as well as a brief survey of Indo-Iranian and Indo-European Comparative Philology and Old Persian Cuneiform.

After a buffet lunch, four lectures by international and local scholars on a number of religious, historical, and literary topics relating to the Indo-Iranian world will round off the day.

The Indo-Iranian Philology Day, sponsored by the Lorne Thyssen Research Fund for Ancient World Topics and by the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics at the University of Oxford, is open and free to all who are interested. For catering and room booking purposes, we ask that you register on our Eventbrite site, where you can also find a full programme of the day.

Russian Evolution: Russian Reflections (Conference, October 21st, Senate House, London)

by Mary Coghill (Institute of English Studies, University of London)

I am arranging a conference on the work of the Russian Linguist and philologist, Yuri Rozhdestvensky (1926-1999), Professor at Moscow State Lomonosov University.

Russian Evolution: Russian Reflections
A Conference on the work of Yuri Rozhdestvensky: Diachronic Philology and his Contribution to Narratology in poetics

The conference is to be held at The Institute of English Studies, Senate House, University of London 21st October 2017.  Further details and booking facilities are available on the conference website, and also on the poster.

My own conference presentation is entitled:

Rozhdestvensky and the ‘image of the author’ explored with reference to his book General Philology (1996, Moscow)

Keywords: Yuri Rozhdestvensky; V V Vinogradov; Diachronic Philology; Roman Jakobson; Narratology

May I ask philologist bloggers two questions:

  1. Are there any member(s) who are especially interested in Russian philologists/linguisticians, especially Viktor V. Vinogradov and/or Roman Jakobson?
  2. What is ‘diachronic philology’?  Can it be defined as the study of philological development as a process to be studied in its own right?  I think (cautiously) that this is how I would define it.  I am not (so far) aware that it is defined at all.  It seems to me, that there are those who are interested in languages other than their native one and are engaged in comparative philology; those who study how a particular language alters over time and are engaged in a historical study; but who studies philology itself as a theoretical process – not as a study of the individual components of philology, as for example the history of the book – but as a quest for a theory of the process of the development of culture?

I would welcome any answers to the above and please do come to the conference; you can contact me at Mary.Coghill[at] .