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The Languages of AristophanesAspects of Linguistic Variation in Classical Attic Greek$
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Andreas Willi

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199215102

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199215102.001.0001

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Sophistic Innovations

Sophistic Innovations

(p.118) 5 Sophistic Innovations
The Languages of Aristophanes


Oxford University Press

Given the prominent role of language in sophistic culture, it is not surprising that language in repeatedly thematized in Aristophanes’ comedy Clouds. Throughout the play, there are scenes in which Aristophanes highlights various innovative features of word formation and morphosyntax, so as to create a sophistic ‘atmosphere’. None of these features is exclusive to Clouds, an in some way Aristophanes’ treatment of them seems paradoxical. However, this is only an apparent paradox resulting from a historical situation in which something like a sophistic Zeitgeist influenced Attic Greek as a whole deeply enough to bring along linguistic innovations. While the comic poet preferentially and consciously introduced such innovative features into a comedy depicting the sophistic world, where their growth had originated, he also started using them, unconsciously and like every speaker of Attic, in other unmarked contexts. This chapter first presents and discusses the relevant data for each phenomenon separately. It argues that all of them are symptoms of one general evolutionary trend in classical Attic Greek. It shows that Aristophanes’ impressionistic presentation of these features as ‘sophistic’ agrees well with a typological explanation of the general trend, and that the roots of the trend must be sought in the cultural revolution which Athens witnessed in the second half of the 5th century.

Keywords:   Aristophanes, language, Clouds, sophistic culture, linguistic innovations, comedy

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