Antika alfabetsreformer: alfabetet i förändring på den apenninska halvön
Tidsperiod: 2016-01-01 till 2019-12-31
Projektledare: Karin Westin Tikkanen
Budget: 2 440 000 SEK
Why do people begin to write, and how do they know how and what to write?The project considers the development of the early alphabets in use by the various pre-Roman languages on the Apennine peninsula, from the first inscriptions in Greek down to the prominency and dominion of Latin. Focus lies on the determining the levels of phonetic awareness and knowledge required in a an early society to master the principles of script to the extent that an adopted script can be re-shaped to accommodate the special requirements of the new language.On the early Apennine peninsula existed a number of different languages, such as non-Indo-European Etruscan along with Latin and the closely related Faliscan, early South Picene, Oscan and Umbrian, all of which were Indo-European. All of these languages had their own phonetic set-up, sometimes with language-specific sounds that required particular consideration when it came to adapting a script for the purpose of writing them down. Since all of the mentioned alphabets on the Apennine peninsula stem from ultimately the same source, the Western Greek alphabet from the island of Euboea, brought to the peninsula in the context of early 7th century colonization, the Apennine scripts are similar to one another, but not two are fully alike. For example, the scripts differ in the number or shapes of attested sibilant letters, in the number of vowels distinguished, in the categorization of velar sounds, and in the representation of the sound /f/, to only name a few.A script is not a representation of language per se, but represents an agreement between speakers of said language for a method to denote a language content by way of written signs. If such an agreement is to be valid, it must be accepted by a large enough number of the population for written information to be understood, otherwise the function of the chosen script becomes void. In terms of the languages on the Apennine peninsula, the knowledge of script initially spread in an informal manner, from a speaker of one language to a speaker of another, and thus the shapes of letters and the content of the alphabetic row at the receiving end at first remained identical to that which was originally taught. As time went on, however, and as more and more people encountered script and its uses, the discrepancies between what could be written and that which people wanted to write became felt, and thus there arose the need for conscious spelling reforms, and the invention on new letter signs.The project aims to consider the concept of early writing on the Apennine peninsula in terms of the progression of the various alphabets in use, as a series of successive changes prompted by both internal and external factors. The ultimate goal of the project is to describe ancient spelling reforms in terms of decipherable phonetic awareness among its speakers, and the ways in which an alphabet is accommodated to adhere to the principles of a spoken language. By way of theoretical background, the project also considers modern attempts at renewing spelling, for example the various suggestions concerning modern English.