Friday, February 26, 2016

The sounds of the past

I stumbled across two interesting blog posts this past week, both concerned with recovering or reconstructing ancient languages. Back in 2010, Open Culture ran a piece on ancient Akkadian (an early Mesopotamian language, one of the first written down anywhere). A short piece of the Epic of Gilgamesh was included. Have a look! And while you are at it, read up on the completion of the Akkadian dictionary produced by the Oriental Institute in Chicago -- over the last 90 years.

Best thing about the dictionary? If you are content to have it in electronic form, it's FREE, FREE, FREE! And if you have a bundle to spend, you can have it in a very nice printed set.

Now there is scholarship for you.

About the same time, I ran across this article on ancient Greek music. Everyone who cares to know it knows that the ancient Greeks were world champions in their time in both painting and in music. But in both cases, just about none of it is left.

Just about!

Back in 2013, the BBC ran (in its business section!?) a detailed piece on how some of that music must have sounded (at least in a minimal "unplugged" form).

Revelation (for me at least): "In ancient Greek the voice went up in pitch on certain syllables and fell on others (the accents of ancient Greek indicate pitch, not stress)."

Wow! Does this mean that speaking ancient Greek was similar to singing?

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