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Language and Chronology

Text dating by machine learning


Edited by Gregory Toner and Xiwu Han

In Language and Chronology, Toner and Han apply innovative Machine Learning techniques to the problem of the dating of literary texts. Many ancient and medieval literatures lack reliable chronologies which could aid scholars in locating texts in their historical context. The new machine-learning method presented here uses chronological information gleaned from annalistic records to date a wide range of texts. The method is also applied to multi-layered texts to aid the identification of different chronological strata within single copies.
While the algorithm is here applied to medieval Irish material of the period c.700-c.1700, it can be extended to written texts in any language or alphabet. The authors’ approach presents a step change in Digital Humanities, moving us beyond simple querying of electronic texts towards the production of a sophisticated tool for literary and historical studies.

The Precursors of Proto-Indo-European

The Indo-Anatolian and Indo-Uralic Hypotheses


Edited by Alwin Kloekhorst and Tijmen Pronk

In The Precursors of Proto-Indo-European some of the world’s leading experts in historical linguistics shed new light on two hypotheses about the prehistory of the Indo-European language family, the so-called Indo-Anatolian and Indo-Uralic hypotheses. The Indo-Anatolian hypothesis states that the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European family should be viewed as a sister language of ‘classical’ Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of all the other, non-Anatolian branches. The common ancestor of all Indo-European languages, including Anatolian, can then be called Proto-Indo-Anatolian. The Indo-Uralic hypothesis states that the closest genetic relative of Indo-European is the Uralic language family, and that both derive from a common ancestor called Proto-Indo-Uralic. The book unravels the history of these hypotheses and scrutinizes the evidence for and against them.

Contributors are Stefan H. Bauhaus, Rasmus G. Bjørn, Dag Haug, Petri Kallio, Simona Klemenčič, Alwin Kloekhorst, Frederik Kortlandt, Guus Kroonen, Martin J. Kümmel, Milan Lopuhaä-Zwakenberg, Alexander Lubotsky, Rosemarie Lühr, Michaël Peyrot, Tijmen Pronk, Andrei Sideltsev, Michiel de Vaan, Mikhail Zhivlov.

Towards a Theory of Denominals

A Look at Incorporation, Phrasal Spell-Out and Spanning


Adina Camelia Bleotu

In Towards a Theory of Denominals, Adina Camelia Bleotu takes a comparative look at denominal verbs in English and Romanian from various theoretical frameworks such as lexical decomposition, distributed morphology, nanosyntax and spanning. The book proposes a novel spanning analysis, arguing for its explanatory superiority to incorporation/conflation or nanosyntax in accounting for the formation and behaviour of denominals. It provides useful empirical insights, drawing from rich data from English discussed widely in the relevant literature, but also presenting novel data from Romanian not explored in detail before. Many interesting theoretical issues are also discussed, such as the (lack of) correlation between the (un)boundedness of the nominal root and the (a)telicity of the resulting verb, the verb/ satellite-framed distinction and others.

Cristina Guardiano and Melita Stavrou


This paper investigates aspects of adjectival modification in Romance and Greek of Southern Italy. In Italiot Greek, prenominal adjectives obey restrictions that do not exist in Standard Modern Greek, where all types of adjectives are allowed in prenominal position. As far as postnominal adjectives are concerned, in the textual tradition of Calabria Greek there is evidence of postnominal adjectives systematically articulated in definite nominal structures (henceforth DP s), in a structure similar to the so-called polydefinite construction that is typical of Standard Modern Greek (and of Greek in general since ancient times). Some residual evidence of such a construction is also found in Salento. Yet, in the varieties currently spoken in the two areas, postnominal adjectives are never articulated. The paper explores these patterns, with particular attention to the mechanisms potentially responsible for the loss of polydefiniteness.

Ezra la Roi


This paper challenges the commonly held view that the Classical Greek potential optative has a subjective epistemic semantics, the result of a conceptual confusion of subjectivity and epistemic modality inherited from our standard grammars. I propose that this view becomes less convincing when the optative’s unique interaction with the subjective particles ἦ and ἄρα is incorporated into the analysis. Rather, the potential optative has a non-subjective epistemic semantics presenting an epistemic judgment as interpersonally accessible to the conversational participants. Frequencies of combination with ἦ and ἄρα, linguistic tests for subjectivity on the potential optative, and contrastive contextual analyses corroborate this view.

From the editors

A new year, a new issue

Dag T.T. Haug, Brian D. Joseph and Anna Roussou

Francesco Mambrini


We study the distribution of the nominal and copular construction of predicate nominals in a subset of authors from the Ancient Greek Dependency Treebank (AGDT). We concentrate on the texts of the historians Herodotus, Thucydides (both 5th century BCE) and Polybius (2nd century BCE). The data comprise a sample of 440 sentences (Hdt = 175, Thuc = 91, Pol = 174). We analyze the impact of four features that have been discussed in the literature and can be observed in the annotation of AGDT: (1) order of constituents, (2) part of speech of the subjects, (3) type of clause and (4) length of the clause. Furthermore, we test how the predictive power of these factors varies in time from Herodotus and Thucydides to Polybius with the help of a logistic-regression model. The analysis shows that, contrary to a simplistic opinion, the nominal construction does not drop into irrelevance in Hellenistic Greek. Moreover, an analysis of the distributions in the authors highlights a remarkable continuity in the usage patterns. Further work is needed to improve the predictive power of our logistic-regression model and to integrate more data in view of a more comprehensive quantitative diachronic study.

Vedic Cosmology and Ethics

Selected Studies


Henk W. Bodewitz

Edited by Dory H. Heilijgers, Jan E.M. Houben and Karel van Kooij

How did ‘Vedic man’ think about the destiny of man after death and related ethical issues? That heaven was the abode of the gods was undisputed, but was it also accessible to man in his pursuit of immortality? Was there a realm of the deceased or a hell? What terms were used to indicate these ‘yonder worlds’? What is their location in the cosmos and which cosmographic classifications are at the root of these concepts? The articles by Henk Bodewitz collected in this volume, published over a period of 45 years, between 1969 and 2013, deal with these issues on the basis of a systematic philological study of early Vedic texts, from the Ṛgveda to various Brāhmaṇas, Āraṇykas and Upaniṣads.


Henk Bodewitz

Edited by Dory Heilijgers, Jan Houben and Karel van Kooij