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Literary Criticism Ancient & Classical

Greek Forms of Address

From Herodotus to Lucian

by (author) Eleanor Dickey

Oxford University Press
Initial publish date
Apr 1999
Ancient & Classical
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Apr 1999
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How did an Athenian citizen address his wife? His children, his slaves, and his dog? How did they address him? This book is the first major application of linguistic theories of address to an ancient language. It is based on a corpus of 11,891 vocatives from twenty-five prose authors from Herodotus to Lucian, and on comparative data from Aristophanes, Menander, and other sources; the data are analysed using techniques and evidence from the field of sociolinguistics to shed light on some long-standing problems in Greek. A separate section discusses the theoretical problems which arise from the attempt to reconstruct conversational Greek on the basis of written texts and concludes that this enterprise is indeed possible, provided that the right sources are selected. Analysis of the Greek address system leads to a reconsideration of the meaning of individual addresses and thus of the interpretation of specific passages; it also challenges the validity of some alleged sociolinguistic 'universals'. In particular, Professor Dickey examines some of the idiosyncratic aspects of Socrates' language, offering an exceptionally interesting and novel contribution to to the problems of the 'historical Socrates'. Highly original, lucid, and jargon-free, this book offers may significant insights on both the literature and language of ancient Greece,

About the author

Contributor Notes

Eleanor Dickey is at University of Ottawa.

Editorial Reviews

'' Religious Studies Review

'Amongst this book's very many merits is the author's clarity about her intentions and results ... this book deserves a place ... on the shelves of all who love and wish to understand better the delectable intricacies of the Greek language.' Victor Bers, Classical World, June 2000

Dickey's presentation is admirably clear, given the detail and complexity of the data. Her inferences about terms are always reasonable...The book provides nonspecialists with a valuable introduction to a growing subfield of linguistic inquiry and is an important resarch tool for specialists.

'offers much interesting material on tragedy and comedy ... excellent analyses and observations.' Victor Bers, Classical World, June 2000

'impressive book ... Dickey's book is the first full-scale treatment of vocatives in prose, and the first to be thoroughly informed by the principles of modern linguistics ... despite its technical nature this is an attractively written book, informed by a real sense of intellectual excitement about the study of language. Dickey is widely read in recent sociolinguistics (and draws an interesting range of comparisons with other languages throughout the book), though she has obviously pondered everything critically for herself and is never second-hand in her thinking ... an absorbing work whose immaculately accumulated data and findings deserve to be consulted and pondered by all advanced students of ancient Greek prose literature ... a scrupulous piece of sociolinguistic argument.' Stephen Halliwell, Echos du Monde Classique, XLIII- NS 18, 1999

'This splendid book, a revised version of an Oxford doctoral thesis, fills a major gap in the study of the ancient Greek language and greatly benefits students of Greek manners, commentators on all Greek texts which contain dialogue or apostrophe (and that is a lot of Greek texts!), and sociolinguists in general ... This is a welcome and timely book, lucidly written, and extremely rich in content. It brings order out of chaos. One hopes that it will stimulate further study.' David Bain, Phoenix 52 (1998) 1-2

'The overall issue of data collection and reconstruction of conversational material in dead language is intelligently discussed. Greek forms of address is based on meticulous research, is lucidly written and offers significant insights into the study of literature and language of ancient Greece, especially into the system of address, The findings present an interesting challenge to sociolinguistic universals.' Maria Sifianou, University of Athens, Journal of Sociolinguistics, 1/3