Language and Literacy in Roman Italy

  • Kathryn Lomas
  • January 2016, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1002/9781118993125.ch11

What is it about?

Language is frequently accorded a privileged status in studies of identity. In Italy, however, languages play a more complex role in identity formation, both before and after the Roman conquest. In many areas of Italy, there is evidence of language contact and bilingualism well before the conquest. During the period of Roman expansion, indigenous languages remained significant identity markers, but are often linked to specific activities (e.g. ritual) and Latin co-existed with, rather than replaced, local languages for quite some time in some - although not all - areas of Italy. The many factors which influence its spread may include social status, gender, the context of usage, and many others. Since most of our evidence is epigraphic, it is difficult to disentangle linguistic history from the spread of literacy and the practices of writing. This chapter therefore examines both the role of language in shaping the identity of Italy after the Roman conquest, and the spread of literacy in Latin as a cultural phenomenon.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Kathryn Lomas