Orality and Performance in Classical Attic Prose: A Linguistic Approach

ISBN : 9780198795902

Alessandro Vatri
352 Pages
135 x 216 mm
Pub date
Mar 2017
Oxford Classical Monographs
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This study discusses the question of whether there is a linguistic difference between classical Attic prose texts intended for public oral delivery and those intended for written circulation and private performance. Identifying such a difference which exclusively reflects these disparities in modes of reception has proven to be a difficult challenge for both literary scholars and cultural historians of the ancient world, with answers not always satisfactory from a methodological and an analytical point of view. The legitimacy of the question is first addressed through a definition of what such slippery notions as 'orality' and 'oral performance' mean in the context of classical Athens, reconstruction of the situations in which the extant prose texts were meant to be received, and an explanation of the grounds on which we may expect linguistic features of the texts to be related to such situations. The idea that texts conceived for public delivery needed to be as clear as possible is substantiated by available cultural-historical and anthropological facts; however, these do not imply that the opposite was required of texts conceived for private reception. In establishing a rigorous methodology for the reconstruction of the native perception of clarity in the original contexts of textual reception this study offers a novel approach to assessing orality in classical Greek prose through examination of linguistic and grammatical features of style. It builds upon the theoretical insights and current experimental findings of modern psycholinguistics, providing scholars with a new key to the minds of ancient writers and audiences.


List of figures
List of tables
Abbreviations and editions used

1 The Orality of Attic Prose
1.1 A manifold concept
1.2 Oral language(s) and oral style(s)
1.3 From composition to performance

2 Contexts of Reception
2.1 Texts and communication
2.2 Reading
2.3 Public and private situations

3 The Writing of Attic Prose
3.1 From composition to reception
3.2 Setting the scene (1): literacy and reading in classical Athens
3.3 Setting the scene (2): genres and written texts
3.3.1 Epic poetry
3.3.2 Monodic poetry
3.3.3 Choral poetry
3.3.4 Drama
3.3.5 Ionic prose
3.4 The circulation and use of Attic prose texts
3.4.1 Historiography
3.4.2 Philosophy
3.4.3 Oratory

4 Comprehension
4.1 The domains of clarity
4.2 Precepts and examples
4.3 The psycholinguistics of sapheneia
4.3.1 Language comprehension: an overview
4.3.2 Sentence processing
4.3.3 Sentence length
4.3.4 Sentence structure
4.3.5 Word order
4.3.6 Vocabulary
4.4 Paralinguistic and non-linguistic elements
4.4.1 Prosody
4.4.2 Gesture
4.5 Reading the native mind

5 Processing Attic Oratory in Performance: An Experiment in Reconstruction
5.1 Design
5.2 Methodology and limitations
5.3 'I like drinking water', or: indifferent interpretations
5.4 Results
5.4.1 Lys. 1
5.4.2 Lys. 12.1 50
5.4.3 D. 22.1 47
5.4.4 Antipho 1
5.4.5 D. 9.1 40
5.4.6 D. 15
5.4.7 Hyp. 6
5.4.8 Pl. Ap. 17a 24a4
5.4.9 Antipho 4
5.4.10 Isoc. 6.1 44
5.4.11 Isoc. 7.1 33
5.4.12 Th. 2.35SH 46
5.4.13 Pl. Mnx. 236d 44b
5.4.14 Isoc. 9.1 43
5.5 Discussion

6 Conclusion and Future Directions
Appendix Notes on Linguistic Dependencies in Classical Greek

About the author: 

Alessandro Vatri is a Research Assistant in Comparative Philology at the University of Oxford and Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College. He completed a DPhil in Classical Languages and Literature at Oxford in 2013, having received his MA in Classics from Sapienza University of Rome. His research focuses on Ancient Greek linguistics, rhetoric, oratory, and cultural history, and he has published several articles in these fields as well as co-convened the international conferences 'The Language of Persuasion' (UCL, 2014) and 'Language in Style' (Oxford, 2016) and the seminar series 'Systems of Style' (Oxford and UCL, 2015). As well as his teaching and research in these areas, he is also actively interested in the development of tools and methods for the study of language through digital text corpora.

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