Language norms from below. The Greek language in Graeco-Roman Egypt



After the conquest of Alexander the Great, the city of Alexandria became an important place for scholarly debate during the Hellenistic period (323-31 BCE). Alexandrine grammarians studied Greek literature and the Greek language. During Roman times (31 BCE -284 CE), the so-called Atticist grammarians tried to define the norms for 'correct Greek' based on Classical Attic literature from hundreds of years earlier. These conservative norms have influenced the surviving post-Classical Greek literature. However, their impact on everyday writing has hardly been studied.

During this project I will study the post-Classical Greek language in documentary sources from Graeco-Roman Egypt, such as writing on papyrus and potsherds. I will use an important new resource, namely linguistic revisions by ancient scribes. Did the writers of these non-literary texts follow linguistic norms? And if so, what kind of rules did they follow? How far did the influence of the Atticist grammarians reach?
The project will be executed at the Universities of Ghent, Leuven and Oslo.