Book Review: Two Volumes on Greek Prepositions

Luraghi, Silvia. On the meaning of prepositions and cases: Semantic roles in Ancient Greek. Studies in language companion series 67. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2003. (Amazon)

Bortone, Pietro. Greek prepositions from antiquity to the present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. (Amazon)

Many thanks to both Oxford University Press and John Benjamins for their generosity in providing review copies of these two magnificent volumes.

1. Introduction

With the publication of Pietro Bortone’s recent book, Greek prepositions, there are now two major monograph length studies of Ancient Greek prepositions following Silvia Luraghi’s On the meaning of prepositions and cases, published in 2003. These two volumes are both extremely similar and also extremely different. Bortone and Luraghi are both interested in how metaphorical extension drives the polysemic nature of Greek prepositions and, in turn, semantic change Also, They each approach the question of Greek prepositions from the perspective of cognitive linguistics.

But despite their use of the same theoretical framework and similar goals, there are a number of major differences between the two books. Bortone spends a large portion of his monograph dealing with issues of linguistic theory, specifically prototype theory and cognitive semantics and how they relate to the study of prepositions. Luraghi limits her parallel discussion to just under 40 pages compared to Bortone’s 104 pages. Their corpuses are quite different. Bortone is interested in the entire history of the language. Luraghi has Homer and the Classical period as her focus. The result of this is that although both books are roughly the same length, Luraghi ends up provided a more detailed and systematic description of the prepositions in her corpus. Her account essentially function as two synchronic descriptions—one of Homer and one of the Classical period—tied together. Conversely, Bortone focuses on specific issues of semantic change and his discussion generally functions more like a survey of the data for each period with a primary focus on the major changes and developments in the prepositions.

This review will be divided into three parts, with this being the first.

Part I : Introduction
Part II: Luraghi
Part III: Bortone & Conclusion

Parts II and III will focus on summarizing Luraghi and Bortone’s contributions to the subject followed by a brief conclusion offering some comparative observations.