Completed PhD: Dr Harry Tanner (2023)

Ancient Greek Lexical Semantics: Word Meanings as a Function of Contex

The history of vocabulary in Classics has often been concerned with how to model the mental lexicon (Clarke 2010), involving psychological discoveries such as the prototype theory model (for overview see Rosch 1988 and Lewandoska-Tomaszczyk 2010). Outside of Classics, two general theories of semantic change have been developed with a background in so-called ‘cognitive linguistics’, one in German (Blank 1997) and one in English (Geeraerts 1997). Both describe semantic changes in terms of extension on the prototype, through either metaphor or metonymy.

The questions the thesis will explore, using case studies from Greek, are: 1) What factors modulate the change in use of a particular linguistic sign? 2) What constitutes ‘context’ and how can Classicists accurately reconstruct it? 3) What is the relationship between polysemy and homonymy in semantic change?

Supervisor: Prof. Michael Clarke