LINGUIST List 15.17

Mon Jan 12 2004

Diss: Text/Corpus Ling: Allison: 'Aeschylean...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. tallison, Aeschylean stylistics: A study of linguistic variation

Message 1: Aeschylean stylistics: A study of linguistic variation

Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2004 10:25:31 -0500 (EST)
From: tallison <>
Subject: Aeschylean stylistics: A study of linguistic variation

Institution: University of Michigan
Program: Department of Classical Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Timothy Brown Allison

Dissertation Title: Aeschylean stylistics: A study of linguistic

Linguistic Field: Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language: Greek, Ancient (code: GKO)

Dissertation Director 1: Ruth S Scodel
Dissertation Director 2: Benjamin Acosta-Hughes
Dissertation Director 3: Dragomir Radev

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation applies methods from sociolinguistics and corpus
linguistics to the task of determining what aspects of Aeschylean
style were part of the random 'Kunstsprache', and which were used for
stylistic effect. Specifically, I investigate the distribution of
-ois/-oisi, and find that the nurse has a statistically significant
low rate of the long form, while Apollo has a significantly high rate
of the long form. I find that postponed prepositions occur at a much
higher rate in the 'Persians' than in Aeschylus' other plays, which
suggests that this phenomenon carried some stylistic weight and was
manipulated for style. I show how the historic present is used in
characterization: characters who tend to use it in abundance are
closer to the story they tell. I study distributions of resolutions in
Aeschylus and find that in the 'Suppliants' and 'Oresteia' they tend
to cluster in scenes which anticipate events which will occur on
stage. I measure Yule's K in Aeschylus, Sophocles and Homer, and I
show that the 'Prometheus' has a higher lexical diversity than the
other plays. I also apply the cosine measure to show that there is a
greater difference between male and female speech than we would expect
at random, and I show that over the course of Aeschylus' career, his
plays become more Sophoclean and less Homeric. By this measure, the
'Prometheus' is much less like Aeschylus' other plays and about as
much like Aeschylus' other plays as a random passage from Sophocles
is. By applying a technique from corpus linguistics, I show which
words best distinguish male from female speech and messenger speech
from other trimeter language. I also discuss results from a
distributional study of conjunctions and negatives. I include in an
Appendix, a list of words which best distinguish Aeschylus' language
from Homer's and Sophocles'.
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