A. Sherratt and S. Sherratt
For the last 200 years it has been recognized that languages such as Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit share regularities which indicate a close historical relationship (see
Robert G. Coleman
D. R. Langslow
R. H. Robins
Oswald John Louis Szmerenyi and Anna Morpurgo Davies
Historical linguistics studies how language develops in time; comparative linguistics (or comparative philology) uses linguistic comparison to establish that two or more languages are genetically related and descend from an earlier language which may or may not be attested. We know that the Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, etc.) are related and descend from a form of Latin, but we can also show that languages like Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Armenian, English, etc. descend from an unattested parent language. We can reconstruct the main features of this language which we call conventionally Proto-Indo-European (PIE) or simply *Indo-European (IE), and which must have been spoken before writing was developed. Similar techniques allow us to reconstruct Proto-*Semitic, the parent language of Hebrew, Arabic, *Akkadian, etc. or Proto-Algonquian from which a number of Amerindian languages in NE and central North America derive, etc. The question whether all languages descend from one language or many remains open. Within each family we can also establish different degrees of relationship. Greek, Latin, French, English, German are all Indo-European, but Greek and Latin belong to separate branches, English and German to the same branch (Germanic), while French descends from Latin. In general, comparative linguistics may provide evidence for prehistoric events such as the origin or movement of peoples but it also lengthens the history of the languages studied and throws light onto their features. We should not confuse this comparative linguistics, which aims at identifying genetic relationship, with the homonymous discipline which compares different languages (mostly unrelated) in order to establish language types and general features of language.
Anna Morpurgo Davies
H. C. Melchert
H. C. Melchert
Evidence for the Lydian language consists of more than 100 inscriptions, mostly discovered at the site of the ancient capital *Sardis. Only some two dozen of these are long enough and complete enough to be significant in elucidating the language. Aside from a few short imprints on coins, some of which may be as old as the 8th cent.
The texts vary in content: many are tomb inscriptions, others appear to be decrees of various kinds. Remarkably, some are in verse, with an accent-based metre and vowel assonance in the last words of each line.
Not all texts found at Sardis are in Lydian. Besides a few graffiti in Carian (see