JORIE SOLTIC — The vernacular medieval Greek romances and information structure

The vernacular medieval Greek romances and information structure.

Jorie Soltic, Université de Gand

In my talk, I would like to present my PhD-research, which is about the language of the 14th−15th century Medieval Greek romances written in the metre of the politikos stichos.

It has been acknowledged that these so-called vernacular poems have deliberately adopted an « oral style »: the poets maintain the standards of oral poetry in an attempt to give the impression that they are composing the text on the spot, even if writing in isolated rooms (Sifakis 2001). The main reason for the adoption of this view has been the extensive use of formulas (ready-made « building blocks » always occupying the same position in the verse; cf. Homeric epics) (Jeffreys 1979; 1983 & 1986).

The language itself, however, has hardly been studied from this perspective. It is the aim of my research project to support the « oral style » hypothesis from a linguistic point of view. For this purpose, I adopt the modern linguistic theory of Information Structure. This framework has been developed on the basis of modern spoken languages, mainly to emphasize that we do not speak in complex syntactic sentences, but in short « chunks » of information which are linearly uttered and linked to each other by quite simple devices (Chafe 1994; Lambrecht 1994).

Although tape-recordings have not been preserved and we are thus left with the purely written testimonies, this framework is ideal for an analysis of the Medieval Greek romances, as their language contains several linguistic features which point to (the imitation of an) oral discourse. As such, nearly all clauses are short and simple and they are usually connected by the ordinary paratactic coordinator καί (« and »). Moreover, less obvious signals testifying to (the adoption of) an oral discourse can also be identified, such as grammatically incomplete sentences, « hanging » constituents signalling the topic of the subsequent utterance and a lack of agreement with coordinated postverbal subjects.