Achaemenid Texts and Contexts: Syntax, Stylistics and Text Linguistics

This panel unites include a series of common denominators from the research work of five major projects of the participants running since several years: the project "DARIOSH" of a critical edition of the Persepolis inscriptions at the University of Naples, the "Achaimenidika research group" within the international working cluster Multilingualism and history of Knowledge in Ancient Asia, the "Iranisches Personennamenbuch" at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Etymological Dictionary of the Iranian Noun prepared for the "Leiden Indo-European Dictionary Series" as well as the monograph "Indo-European Stylistics" for the "Indogermanische Grammatik" series at Heidelberg.

One of the accents of the panel is an overall analysis of multilingual Achaimenid inscriptions from the viewpoint of their textual semantic, stylistics, and pragmatics. Multiculturalism and multilingualism characterized the Achaemenid state: with the adoption, as a norm and not the exception, of multilingual display inscriptions for communication and diffusion of royal ideology, the Achaemenid kings conceived a new model of political discourse. This communication strategy, followed up to the end of the dynasty, was a mighty propagandistic device: in different kinds of Achaemenid multilingual texts we find textual units in different languages, generally, Old Persian, Achaemenid Babylonian and Achaemenid Elamite, simultaneously planned, broadly conveying the same message, connected by contents and function. We analyse syntactic, semantic and pragmatic divergences in contents between these texts, sometimes marginal but highly relevant, which have intrigued the scholars since the beginning of Achaemenid studies and still inspire afterthoughts on the literary relations between the different versions.– Further important topics are the relations between external syntax and word-formation, esp. the nominalizations of underlying syntactic structures to (appellative) nominal compounds, linguistic processes that lead to a broad spectre of results – from nonce formations, occasionalisms and idiolectisms to compounded attributives, (poetical) characterizations, ad-hoc and then constant attributes and epithets. The studies of this area in the field of Indo-Iranian so far have mostly been limited to the Rigvedic and Avestan material and some processes of lexicalization of epithets and ‘cognomina’ to theonyms and (personal) names. To enlarge this horizon, our research interest has been concentrated on the assessment of points of intersection between Indo-Iranian lexicon, poetical phraseology and word-formation of appellatives and anthroponyms, in formal, semantic and (con)textual comparison.

Thus, understanding our texts, with their phraseology, stylistics and various discourse strategies, we can move forward also in our understanding of the contexts with their pragmatics and socio-cultural impact.


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In the Royal Achaemenid documentation we find several lists (attributes [of God, King, etc.]; ‘creations' in the God evocation formulary; beneficiaries of divine protection; titles; ancestors; the King's qualities; subjected peoples/countries; rising up peoples/countries; lying kings; supporters; building materials and people contributing to the palace building, etc.)
All these verbal lists, having different roles in the text structure and sometimes iconographical counterparts in the monuments they are engraved on, may be interpreted as instances of the usage of enumeration as a figure of speech. The aim of the present paper is to pinpoint the salience of the list as a rhetorical device in the production of the Achaemenid celebratory, propagandistic multilingual texts (Old Persian, Elamite, Late Babylonian), emphasizing syntactic and stylistic implications in connection to the different language textuality, possible relations between verbal and visual lists, and analogies with similar strategies in the literary traditions from the wider Mesopotamian area.

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The focus of the present paper is laid on the relations between external syntax and word-formation. nominalizations of underlying external syntax and (poetical) phraseology into (appellative) nominal compounds, linguistic processes that lead to a broad spectre of results – from nonce formations, occasionalisms and idiolectal praeclara rara to established items of lexicon: compounded attributives, (poetical) characterizations, ad-hoc and then constant epithets of gods and persons. The studies of this area in the field of Indo-Iranian so far have mostly been limited to the Rigvedic material and some processes of lexicalization of epithets and ‘cognomina’ to theonyms and (personal) names. To enlarge this horizon, the phraseological combinatorics of the word for ‘pillar, column’, OPers. stūnā-, f., YAv. stūnā-, Ved. sthū́ṇā-, has been taken as a case-study object. Both in its everyday usage as well as in its metaphoric applications in texts of ritual character, the word seems to belong to a common stratum of Indic and Iranian and goes back to an inherited Indo-Iranian word. Beyond its appellative use, the noun is demonstrably attested as a (compositional) term in the onomastic area and has a good chance to represent a strong case of multiple correspondences between the domain of personal names and poetical phraseology, with a series of parallels other similar formations within Old Persian, Avestan and Indo-Iranian in general.

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The Old Persian genitive and 'ditransitive' phenomena are examined within the framework of Construction Grammar, (CG) and the usage-based model. The syntactic functions and/or semantic roles encoded by the Old Persian genitive do not coincide precisely with the uses of the genitive in other Indo-European languages. Indeed, the OP. genitive is a result of IE genitive-dative merging and it combines the functions of both cases comprising. At the clause level, the functional extension of the genitive covers a broad spectrum of functions and roles including subject, direct object and the second argument of intransitive verbs.
Given this linguistic complexity, the present study will adopt a constructional approach in line with the work of Adele Goldberg (1995, 2006) arguing that the selection and realization of verb's argument are largely taken care of by constructions.
The present paper has a diachronic-comparative scope, seeking to establish a basic range of argument realization constructions which may be reconstructed for the Old Iranian genitive.
Maria Carmela Benvenuto Flavia Pompeo

Goldberg, Adele E. 1995. Constructions: a construction grammar approach to argument structure. Chicago; London: University of Chicago Press.
Goldberg, Adele E. 2006. Constructions at work: the nature of generalization in language, [Oxford linguistics]. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.
Luraghi, S. 2009. Case in Cognitive Grammar. In Malchukov, A. L. & Spencer, A. (2009, eds.), The Oxford handbook of case. Oxford, pp. 136-150.
Nikiforidou, K. 1991. The meanings of the genitive: A case study in semantic structure and semantic change. Cognitive Linguistics 2. 2 (1991), pp. 149-205.
Pompeo, F. & Benvenuto, M. C. 2011. Il genitivo in persiano antico. Un caso esemplare di categoria polisemica. Studi e saggi linguistici 49 (2011), pp. 75-123