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Macedonian
RegionMacedon
Era1st millennium BC[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3xmk
xmk
GlottologNone

Ancient Macedonian, the language of the ancient Macedonians, either a dialect of Ancient Greek, or a separate Hellenic language, was spoken in the kingdom of Macedonia during the 1st millennium BC and belongs to the Indo-European language family. It gradually fell out of use during the 4th century BC, marginalized by the use of Attic Greek by the Macedonian aristocracy, the Ancient Greek dialect that became the basis of Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Hellenistic period.[4]

While the bulk of surviving public and private inscriptions found in ancient Macedonia were written in Attic Greek (and later in Koine Greek),[5][6] fragmentary documentation of a vernacular local variety comes from onomastic evidence, ancient glossaries and recent epigraphic discoveries in the Greek region of Macedonia, such as the Pella curse tablet.[7][8][9] This local variety is usually classified by scholars as a dialect of Northwest Doric Greek, and occasionally as an Aeolic Greek dialect or a distinct sister language of Greek.

Classification

Due to the fragmentary attestation of this dialect or language, various interpretations are possible.[10][11] Suggested classifications of ancient Macedonian include:[12][13]

Properties

Because of the fragmentary nature of Ancient Macedonian, only a little is understood about the special features of the language. A notable sound-law is that the Proto-Indo-European voiced aspirates (/bʰ, dʰ, gʰ/) sometimes appear as voiced stops /b, d, g/, (written β, δ, γ), whereas they were generally unvoiced as /pʰ, tʰ, kʰ/ (φ, θ, χ) elsewhere in Ancient Greek.[25]

If γοτάν gotán ('pig') is related to *gwou ('cattle'), this would indicate that the labiovelars were either intact, or merged with the velars, unlike the usual Greek treatment (Attic βοῦς boûs). Such deviations, however, are not unknown in Greek dialects; compare Laconian Doric (the dialect of Sparta) γλεπ- glep- for common Greek βλεπ- blep-, as well as Doric γλάχων gláchōn and Ionic γλήχων glēchōn for common Greek βλήχων blēchōn.[28]

A number of examples suggest that voiced velar stops were devoiced, especially word-initially: κάναδοι kánadoi, 'jaws' (< PIE *genu-); κόμβους kómbous, 'molars' (< PIE *gombh-); within words: ἀρκόν arkón (Attic ἀργός argós); the Macedonian toponym Akesamenai, from the Pierian name Akesamenos (if Akesa- is cognate to Greek agassomai, agamai, "to astonish"; cf. the Thracian name Agassamenos).

In Aristophanes' The Birds, the form κεβλήπυρις keblēpyris ('red head', the name of a bird, perhaps the goldfinch or redpoll) is found,[29] showing a Macedonian-style voiced stop in place of a standard Greek unvoiced aspirate: κεβ(α)λή keb(a)lē versus κεφαλή kephalē ('head').

E. Crespo wrote that "the voicing of voiceless stops and the development of aspirates into voiced fricatives turns out to be the outcome of an internal development of Macedonian as a dialect of Greek" without excluding "the presence of interference from other languages or of any linguistic substrate or adstrate", as argued also by M. Hatzopoulos.[30]

A number of the Macedonian words, particularly in Hesychius of Alexandria' lexicon, are disputed (i.e., some do not consider them actual Macedonian words) and some may have been corrupted in the transmission. Thus abroutes, may be read as abrouwes (αβρουϝες), with tau (Τ) replacing a digamma.[31] If so, this word would perhaps be encompassable within a Greek dialect; however, others (e.g. A. Meillet) see the dental as authentic and think that this specific word would perhaps belong to an Indo-European language different from Greek.

A. Panayotou summarizes some features generally identified through ancient texts and epigraphy:[32]

Phonology

Morphology

Ancient Macedonian morphology is shared with ancient Epirus, including some of the oldest inscriptions from Dodona.[34] The morphology of the first declension nouns with an -ας ending is also shared with Thessalian (e.g. Epitaph for Pyrrhiadas, Kierion[35]).

Onomastics

Anthroponymy

M. Hatzopoulos summarizes the Macedonian anthroponymy (that is names borne by people from Macedonia before the expansion beyond the Axios or people undoubtedly hailing from this area after the expansion) as follows:[36]

Common in the creation of ethnics is the use of -έστης, -εστός especially when derived from sigmatic nouns (ὄρος > Ὀρέστης but also Δῖον > Διασταί).[32]

Toponymy

The toponyms of Macedonia proper are generally Greek, though some of them show a particular phonology and a few others are non-Greek.

Calendar

Further information: Ancient Macedonian calendar

The Macedonian calendar's origins go back to Greek prehistory. The names of the Macedonian months, just like most of the names of Greek months, are derived from feasts and related celebrations in honor of the Greek gods.[37] Most of them combine a Macedonian dialectal form with a clear Greek etymology (e.g Δῐός from Zeus; Περίτιος from Heracles Peritas (“Guardian”) ; Ξανδικός/Ξανθικός from Xanthos, “the blond” (probably a reference to Heracles); Άρτεμίσιος from Artemis etc.) with the possible exception of one, which is attested in other Greek calendars as well.[37] According to Martin P. Nilsson, the Macedonian calendar is formed like a regular Greek one and the names of the months attest the Greek nationality of the Macedonians.[37]

Epigraphy

Macedonian onomastics: the earliest epigraphical documents attesting substantial numbers of Macedonian proper names are the second Athenian alliance decree with Perdiccas II (~417–413 BC), the decree of Kalindoia (~335–300 BC) and seven curse tablets of the 4th century BC bearing mostly names.[38][39]

About 99% of the roughly 6,300 Macedonian-period inscriptions discovered by archaeologists were written in the Greek language, using the Greek alphabet.[41] The Pella curse tablet, a text written in a distinct Doric Greek dialect, found in 1986 and dated to between mid to early 4th century BC, has been forwarded as an argument that the ancient Macedonian language was a dialect of North-Western Greek, part of the Doric dialect group.[42]

Hesychius' glossary

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A body of idiomatic words has been assembled from ancient sources, mainly from coin inscriptions, and from the 5th century lexicon of Hesychius of Alexandria, amounting to about 150 words and 200 proper names, though the number of considered words sometimes differs from scholar to scholar. The majority of these words can be confidently assigned to Greek albeit some words would appear to reflect a dialectal form of Greek. There are, however, a number of words that are not easily identifiable as Greek and reveal, for example, voiced stops where Greek shows voiceless aspirates.[43]

⟨†⟩ marked words which have been corrupted.

Other sources

Proposed

A number of Hesychius words are listed orphan; some of them have been proposed as Macedonian[66]

Macedonian in Classical sources

Further information: Greek historiography

Among the references that have been discussed as possibly bearing some witness to the linguistic situation in Macedonia, there is a sentence from a fragmentary dialogue, apparently between an Athenian and a Macedonian, in an extant fragment of the 5th century BC comedy 'Macedonians' by the Athenian poet Strattis (fr. 28), where a stranger is portrayed as speaking in a rural Greek dialect. His language contains expressions such as ὕμμες ὡττικοί for ὑμεὶς ἀττικοί "you Athenians", ὕμμες being also attested in Homer, Sappho (Lesbian) and Theocritus (Doric), while ὡττικοί appears only in "funny country bumpkin" contexts of Attic comedy.[67]

Another text that has been quoted as evidence is a passage from Livy (lived 59 BC-14 AD) in his Ab urbe condita (31.29). Describing political negotiations between Macedonians and Aetolians in the late 3rd century BC, Livy has a Macedonian ambassador argue that Aetolians, Acarnanians and Macedonians were "men of the same language".[68] This has been interpreted as referring to a shared North-West Greek speech (as opposed to Attic Koiné).[69] In another passage, Livy states that an announcement was translated from Latin to Greek for Macedonians to understand.[70]

Quintus Curtius Rufus, Philotas's trial[71] and the statement that the Greek-speaking Branchidae had common language with the Macedonians.[72]

Over time, "Macedonian" (μακεδονικός), when referring to language (and related expressions such as μακεδονίζειν; to speak in the Macedonian fashion) acquired the meaning of Koine Greek.[73]

Contributions to the Koine

Further information: Ancient Macedonians

As a consequence of the Macedonians' role in the formation of the Koine, Macedonian contributed considerable elements, unsurprisingly including some military terminology (διμοιρίτης, ταξίαρχος, ὑπασπισταί, etc.). Among the many contributions were the general use of the first declension grammar for male and female nouns with an -as ending, attested in the genitive of Macedonian coinage from the early 4th century BC of Amyntas III (ΑΜΥΝΤΑ in the genitive; the Attic form that fell into disuse would be ΑΜΥΝΤΟΥ). There were changes in verb conjugation such as in the Imperative δέξα attested in Macedonian sling stones found in Asiatic battlefields, that became adopted in place of the Attic forms. Koine Greek established a spirantisation of beta, gamma and delta, which has been attributed to the Macedonian influence.[74]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary (1989), Macedonian, Simpson J. A. & Weiner E. S. C. (eds), Oxford: Oxford University Press, Vol. IX, ISBN 0-19-861186-2 (set) ISBN 0-19-861221-4 (vol. IX) p. 153
  2. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (1976), Macedonian, USA:Merriam-Webster, G. & C. Merriam Co., vol. II (H–R) ISBN 0-87779-101-5

References

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Further reading