Dialect and Identity: The Ancient Greek view of Greek Dialects
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Ancient Greece is highly unusual for an ancient language because it preserved evidence for a variety of dialects. These dialects also, rather than being colloquial or informal registers, were associated with various governments or literary genres. They therefore carried a great deal of weight in Greek society. Their weight was closely connected to the political structure of Ancient Greece, in which there was no central authority that bound the various members together, and instead the unity was maintained through a careful balance of conflict, competition, and cooperation. Each government had its own dialect, which was a symbol of identity, and which facilitated cooperation with related dialects, as well as resistance to the attempted domination of others. One of the most important ways that dialect played into Ancient Greek political maneuverings was in the relationship between an individual city-state and the larger ethnic group it was a part of. Since the larger dialect families in Greek were parallel to the larger ethnic groups, dialect signified membership on both levels. This dissertation examines the relationships between Athens and its larger ethnic group the Ionians, Athens and other ethnic groups, Thebes and the Boiotians, Messene and the Dorians, and the various ethnic groups in Sicily. In all of these relationships, dialect can be seen as both reflective of the maneuvers and a tool or weapon in those maneuvers, as the various city-states attempt to change or create relationships, and they emphasize, change, or otherwise manipulate their dialects in their efforts.