Panel: Multilingualism and Social Experience in Pre-Modern Societies of Ancient Eurasia: Socio-Economic, Linguistic, and Religious Aspects


Räume: Kath Theol IV, Hochparterre, Johannisstraße 8-10 (Dienstag); F 104, 1. OG, Fürstenberghaus (Mittwoch)
Tag Zeit    
Di 13:30-14:00 Selz / Sadovski The language of Third Millennium Personal Names as Indicators of Status and Social Mobility - Abstract des Vortrags wurde von Velizar Sadovski vorgestellt
Di 14:00-14:30 Wagensonner What do glosses tell us about the social background of Mesopotamian scribes?
Di 14:30-15:00 Filippone Multilingual Achaemenid Inscriptions
Di 15:00-15:30 Panaino Multilingualism and Empire: Byzantium and Sasanian Persia
Di 15:30-16:00 Pause
Di 16:00-16:30 Rossi Sociolinguistics of the Achaemenid societies
Di 16:30-17:00 Sadovski Taxonomy and Social Knowledge in Ancient Iranian, Indic, and Greek literatures: linguistic, religious, and cognitive aspects
Di 17:00-17:30 Geller Multilingual Writing, Lists, and Social Experience in Mesopotamia
Di 17:30-18:00 Dietrich Multilinguale und interkulturelle Zeugnisse der ‘hohenpriesterlichen’ Bibliothek Ugarits am Ende des 13. Jh. v. Chr.
Di 18:00-18:30 Pompeo / Benvenuto Linguistic Representations of Identity between Greece and the East: Sociolinguistics Models and Historical Linguistics
Mi 09:00-09:30 Benvenuto / Sinisi The Greek in Parthian Empire: linguistic evidence from Arsacid coinage
Mi 09:30-10:00 Hatke Arabic and Sabaic in Late Antique and Early Islamic South Arabia - Abgesagt
Mi 10:00-10:30 Wiebusch The Roles of Classical Chinese, Vernacular Chinese and the Chinese Writing System in Multilingualism of the Chinese Empire


Velizar Sadovski

Beschreibung des Panels:

Ancient societies display, in varying degrees, a multilingual environment. Among the numerous studies dealing with this issue the social implications of multilingualism has not yet received much attention. We would like to discuss five major aspects:

(a)    cognitive aspects of the relation between language and social experience in the dialectic con­ditions of a multilingual state.

(b)   attempts to impose the language of the elite upon the dependant classes, including its appli­cation for “imperialistic” purposes;

(c)    studying the relevance of linguistic affiliations  for the questions of  social mobility within a specific socio-political system;

(d)   addressing the use and misuse of languages for establishing group identities, focussing on antagonistic social groups on various levels of a society.

(e)    religious experience and social pragmatics in the context of multilingual societies;

This panel is convened by the international Multilingualism Research Group as a part of a series of the­matic con­fe­r­ences and panels dedicated to problems of multilingualism and the hi­story of know­l­edge. Previous conferences concerning various aspects of these topics took place in Athens (2009), Vi­en­na (2009, 2010, 2011), Munich (2009), Ber­lin (2010, 2011), and in the framework of the last, 31st DOT at Mar­burg (2010). Vo­l­umes with a selection of re­le­vant proceedings are to appear in the publication series Sitzungsberichte der ÖAW of the Austrian Aca­demy of Sciences in Vienna as well as in the publication series of the Max-Planck-Gesell­schaft in Berlin.


Interdisziplinär (Indogermanistik; Altorientalistik und Vorderasiatische Archäologie)

Abstracts der Vorträge:

Dietrich, Manfried: Multilinguale und interkulturelle Zeugnisse der ‘hohenpriesterlichen’ Bibliothek Ugarits am Ende des 13. Jh. v. Chr.

Die nordlevantinische Hafenstadt Ugarit hat in der zweiten Hälfte des 2. Jahrtausends v. Chr. wegen der intensiven Beziehungen ihrer Handelsherren und ihres Herrscherhauses zu den nächsten und entfernteren Nachbarn, auch nach ‘Übersee’, kulturell eine hohe Blütezeit erlebt. Das bezeugen nicht nur die aufsehenerregenden materiellen Funde in den Ruinen von Ras Shamra und dessen Dependance Ras ibn Hani, sondern auch die literarischen Hinterlassenschaften der Tontafelbibliotheken und Archive aus dem 13. Jahrhundert v. Chr. Auch wenn die Forschung an den schriftlichen Zeugnissen noch weit davon entfernt ist, ein einigermassen klares Bild zu entwerfen, so kann doch heute schon gesagt werden, dass das, das die erfreulich umfangreichen Relikte der ‘hohepriesterlichen’ Bibliotheken und Archive im Schatten der beiden Haupttempel im Nordteil der antiken Stadt an den Tag legen, solwohl in linguistischer als auch in religions- und kulturgeschichtlicher Hinsicht unerwartet vielseitig ist.

Aus einer sicher grossen Zahl von Priestern und Schriftgelehrten ragen am Ende des 13. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. zwei namentlich bekannte heraus: Thabi-Ilu und sein jüngerer Kollege Ili-milku.

● Thabi-Ilu wirkte als Beschwörungspriester und war ein hervorragender Kenner der religiösen Literatur nicht nur aus den levantinisch-kanaanäischen Traditionen, sondern auch der aus den hurritischen und mesopotamischen. Seine schriftlichen Hinterlassenschaften sind dementsprechend interkulturell und multilingual.

● Ili-milku hat sich uns in seinen Kolophonen als Schriftgelehrter vorgestellt, dessen Werke (vor allem der Baal-Mythos und die Kirta- und Aqhat-Epen) uns nicht nur eine hohe Dichtkunst vor Augen führen, sondern uns auch einen klaren Einblick in die religiösen Gegebenheiten Ugarits seiner Zeit geben.

Panaino, Antonio: Multilingualism and Empire: Byzantium and Sasanian Persia

The direct antagonism between the “two eyes of the World”, the Byzantine and the Sasanian Empires gave birth to a particular condition of multilingualism. This phenomenon was evident not only in each one of these powerful and complex societies, but also in the framework of their mutual diplomatic, commercial and military relations.

In the so-called Byzantine Commonwealth, apart from the presence, e.g., of a certain number of Germanic, Slavonic and Celtic languages, the adoption of the Greek language and its dialectical relation with Latin had an enormous impact on the history of the East Europaean cultural history, but also on the development of the Christian theology, which assumed and standardized a certain lexicon, which in its turn was fundamental for the development of Eastern Christianity and for the theological (and Christological) controversies in the Persian lands, where Syriac was the basic language of the Christian Church. The translations from Greek in Syriac produced a number of semantic ambiguities which must be considered in the evaluation of the history of the duophysite tradition.

The Sasanian Empire, where three were at the beginning the official languages adopted by the first Kings of Kings of the new dynasty (Middle Persian, Parthian and Greek) in their inscriptions did not repress the linguistic richness; in fact, in the Eastern lands Sogdian gained a proper prestigious role along the Silk Road, and Bactrian and Choresmian knew their own local importance. But the presence of a Jewish Community, presumably speaking a sort of Judaeo-Pahlavi (then Judaeo-Persian) and that of a number of Aramaic-speaking communities played their role, in particular along the Frankincense Road, in the relation with the pre-Islamic Arabic world and in the international game between Persians and Romans. The two Empires, although an inevitable opposition, increased their mutual knowledge, which can be deduced from their diplomatic relations, and the redaction of international bilateral treaties, whose definition was not only a matter of agreement, but also the result of a detailed work on the definitive text. We must also consider the peculiar situation of the Caucasian area and the extraordinary role played by Armenian. In few words, the situation presents us with an intriguing map from the ethno-linguistic point of view, which show the intercultural dimension of two rival, but not impermeable, States.

Rossi, Adriano V.: ‘Sociolinguistics of the Achaemenid societies’

The Achaemenid administration provided some kind of unification for the communication among the conquered countries; nevertheless this did not implicate the disappearance of the local traditions, and on the alleged ‘tolerance’ (a term widely used but absolutely anachronistic) of the Achaemenid sovereigns one has insisted too much. The Achaemenid power played on two registers only in appearance contradictory: the political unification, and the maintenance of the difference.

Epigraphy documents the usage of different languages. Aramaic was gaining momentum as the most important vehicular language, while different local languages kept on being used in private texts, in the local administrations and in some official documents issued by the central authority.

Despite the diffusion of a so great number of languages, only three were (regularly) used by the Achaemenid kings for their monumental records: the Old Persian, the Elamite and Late Babylonian.

The Achaemenid state structure incorporated what are commonly called the ancient literate societies of Elam, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and others, and the external observers were impressed by the ethnic diversity of the Achaemenid oikumene, which was in turn an expression of the kingdom’s size. The typical Achaemenid approach to the relation centre-periphery was condensed in the Old Persian terms vispazana, “(with) all kinds (of people),” or paruzana, “(with) many kinds (of people)” (“mit vielen Stämmen” according to Rüdiger Schmitt).

The presentation will focus on how the multilingual documentation could allow inferences about such issues as linguistic affiliations vs the questions of social mobility within the specific socio-political systems of the satrapies; the importance of the use of different languages for establishing group identities etc.

Selz, Gebhard J.: The language of Third Millennium Personal Names as Indicators of Status and Social Mobility

The paper is based on the assumption that the language of early Personal Names (e.g. Sumerian Akkadian/Semitic and possibly Elamite) attested in Mesopotamia reflect the name-bearers’ dominant linguistic affiliation. The question is raised whether the different languages reflect distinct belief sy­stems or societal concepts. We will further discuss the possible connection of such names’ linguistic affiliation to status and attempt to connect thus with the issue of Social Mobility of entire groups.
[Abstract des Vortrags wird von Velizar Sadovski vorgestellt]

Wagensonner, Klaus: ‘What do glosses tell us about the social background of Mesopotamian scribes?’

This paper aims at investigating possible clues about the scribal sphere that can be gained from glosses, which accompany Sumerian literary texts dating, in particular, to the Old Babylonian period. The reason for the chosen time-frame is two-fold. On the one hand, in the first half of the second millennium BC we have not yet reached a period, in which texts have been translated into the vernacular Akkadian on a systematic level. Full or interlinear translations of Sumerian narratives are still relatively scarce. Therefore, the addition of (translation) glosses does not follow any systematic patterns, but reflect quite frequently the need for a respective scribe to render his copy more accessible. On the other hand, such glosses represent ad hoc additions. They were not prone to standardisation, at first. One lead example will be the copy of a literary text from Old Babylonian Ur, which contains a multitude of glosses, partly giving Akkadian translations, but also the readings of difficult Sumerian signs. Its duplicate originating from the same place and possibly from the same scribal environment omits these glosses.

Filippone, Ela: ‘Multilingual Achaemenid Inscriptions’

The paper presents a usage-based, brief account of paratactical and hypotactical strategies in the organization of discourse in the Achaemenid multilingual texts (Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian) from a crosslinguistic perspective. This analysis is conceived as a part of a larger project within the framework of the International DARIOSH Project, aimed at investigating the modalities of planning and editing the Achaemenid multilingual texts, tracing possible original written source texts, and recovering the translation techniques followed by the text composers.

Sadovski, Velizar: Taxonomy and Social Knowledge in Ancient Iranian, Indic, and Greek literatures:
linguistic, religious, and cognitive aspects

Following some reflections presented at the last Multilingualism Panel of the Deutscher Orientalistentag in Marburg (2010), the paper undertakes a parallel analysis of poetic catalogues and lists attested in archaic and classical Greek and Graeco-Roman texts of ritual, hymnal, and even magic poetry together with representatives of these genres in other ancient Indo-European traditions such as the Indo-Iranian – Gāthic and Young Avestan (Visprad, Vīdēvdād, Yašts), (Yajur-)Vedic (ritual Saṃhitās and their Sūtras), the multilingual Achaemenian inscriptions – or Anatolian (Hittite, Luwian, Palaic). Such cross-textual and cross-cultural endeavour, here focusing on lists and catalogues of sociological relevance, is able not only to extrapolate common cognitive structures that go far beyond “primitive parallels of human thinking” or “elementary structures of social patterning”: Both in cognitive linguistics and in religious history, in-depth research into the various forms of classification and systematization of social structures and hierarchies as reflected in the most archaic poetic texts used in ancient Indo-European solemn or private ritual traditions can show, moreover, highly interesting common features of social thinking and religious practice in the field of tension between “speech acts, mind, and social reality” (as put by John Searle), for what concerns the strategies of association and “structural identification” between the social microcosm and transcendental spheres of cosmology, theogony, and other mythological/ritual domains as reflected in the ancient religious texts. In some lucky cases of such common structures and strategies we can even find exemplary concept-by-concept (and rite-by-rite) correspondences which have good chance to go back to common Indo-European mytho-poetic heritage or, alter on, to intense mutual influence between the individual representatives of the cultural continuum between Asia Minor and the Ancient Middle East.

Geller, Mark: ‘Multilingual Writing, Lists, and Social Experience in Mesopotamia’

The Achaemenid period in the Near East represents the first real example of globalisation, during which time the most advanced cultural centres of that time, from Greece to Egypt to Afghanistan, were united under a single rule, with Aramaic serving as a common language highway connecting the vast empire. But globalisation does not occur in isolation or simply as a result of political changes; conditions need to be in place to pave the way for an agreed set of concepts and fundamental principles, in order for societies to share scientific ideas. A useful example of this process is the way medical knowledge advanced and spread in the ancient world, perhaps much farther than we suspect, but this can only be predicated on some kind of system of common languages which serve as conduits for technical knowledge.

Pompeo, Flavia; Benvenuto, Maria Carmela: ‘Linguistic Representations of Identity between Greece and the East: Sociolinguistics Models and Historical Linguistics’

This paper presents first results of the authors’ specific work within the larger project ‘Socio­linguistic dynamics under Greek influence: linguistic change, variation and contact’ carried on at the University “La Sapienza”, Rome. The Eastern area of Greek influence is represented, on the one hand, by the Anatolian area, where language contact is attested from the Mycenaean Age and goes on during the 1st millennium B.C., On the other hand, it reaches Iran – where the most important documentation goes back to the middle of the 1st millennium B.C. – and India – where language contact is attested after the expedition of Alexander the Great which gave rise the constitution of the so-called Indo-Greek kingdoms (last centuries B.C.). A parsed-inductive approach is the high road in order to obtain a stylistic/social classification of the contact phenomena emerging from the linguistic sources at our disposal.

Benvenuto, Maria Carmela: ‘The Greek in Parthian Empire: linguistic evidence from Arsacid coinage’

The aim of this study is to investigate the role of the Greek language in the Parthian Empire by examining the evidences from the development of the Parthian coin tradition. As it is well known, the considerable significance of Greek-Parthian linguistic interaction was determined by various circumstances such as the official character of Greek in the public/administrative use, the Hellenization of the local elites, the presence of Greek ethnic groups living in the empire. Certain aspects of the Greek linguistic interaction have been, to some extent, investigated, but there has been no systematic analysis of the issue. Therefore, in order to highlight the development of linguistic and socio-cultural dynamics of the Greek language in the Parthian empire, a general survey of its main features and phases is necessary. In this regard, we will analyze the linguistic clues emerging from the coinage (Sylloge Nummorum Parthicorum) that can be considered the most im­portant primary source for the history of Iran from the 3rd century BC until the end of Parthian rule in AD 224. They not only provide information about the succession of rulers but also can re­pre­sent the first attempt to produce a timeline of the Greek usage in the coin legends.

Wiebusch, Thekla: ‘The roles of Classical Chinese, vernacular Chinese and the Chinese writing system in multilingualism of the Chinese empire’

It is well-known that the Chinese empire has experienced different settings of multilingualism throughout history. These settings include both the presence of other ethnic groups speaking languages from a diversity of language families within China – including periods when China was under foreign rule – the existence of numerous dialects and local varieties of Chinese since ancient times, and multilingual situations in neighboring countries belonging to the tributaries of China.

The Chinese writing system as well as wenyan, a literary form of Chinese based on the language of pre-Qin China (mainly from the 5th to 3rd c. BCE), were major means of official communication, especially important in politics and administration. Their knowledge was indispensable for an official career through 2 millennia. It was widespread even within neighboring countries under Chinese influence, such as Korea, Japan or Vietnam. Several countries adopted the Chinese writing system or adapted it for their purposes. But also oral and vernacular forms of Chinese were used in multilingual situations, a well-known example being the introduction of Buddhism to China.

This paper will look into the different roles of the Chinese writing system, classical or literary Chinese (wenyan) as a “lingua” franca and vernacular Chinese in different multilingual contexts of imperial China. A focus will be on sociolinguistic and cognitive aspects of standardization and adaptation of languages and writing in different contexts.