Use of Greek in Plauto: a sociolinguistic tile in representation of identity
- Latin-Greek bilingualism,
- historical pragmatics,
This paper investigates how lexical Graecisms are used by Plautus to modulate his characters’ identities and to position different ‘selves’ in the local context of interaction, with the aim of identifying the import of contextual, pragmatic and sociolinguistic factors. As known, the use of Greek pointed to a precise socially low identity in 3rd-2nd cent. BCE Latin, and is typically found in Plautus in the speech of men of low social status like cooks, parasites, slaves. A corpus-based research based on the DiSCIS corpus, which allows to search for contact phenomena and to intersect their distribution with sociolinguistic features, however, reveals some new insights. Through the discussion of illustrative examples, I will show that Greek is exploited by Plautus to construct identity positions, to modulate temporary and interactionally specific ‘selves’ also of socially high characters and to linguistically express context-bound reversal of roles and identity changes. Also in an ancient language like Latin, therefore, identity appears to be an interactional construct that emerges and acquires meaning in communicative and social exchanges, where it can be constantly (re)shaped and (re)negotiated.