The TBL Project

Project description

This website has been developed as part of the TBL Project, whose goal is to investigate different kinds of bilingual phenomena resulting from contact between Greek and Latin in Late Latin texts, and to create a corpus of annotated texts.

The investigation of ancient bilingualism involves many challenges: when examining ancient languages, we do not have access to the data necessary to assess the competence of a ‘speaker’ of such languages (including a bilingual speaker) across the whole spectrum of his/her language. The only possible way to meet these challenges is to examine textual bilingualism as a distinct type of sociolinguistic phenomenon, the analysis of which requires specific theoretical and practical tools and well-defined methods. One of the most innovative features of the TBL Project lies in its attempt to achieve this task and thereby to take a further step towards creating a new approach to ancient bilingualism.

Our point of departure was J. N. Adams’ landmark book Bilingualism and the Latin Language (Cambridge University Press, 2003), which offered the first large-scale treatment of bilingualism in the ancient Roman world. Adams provided an extensive survey of contact phenomena between Latin and other languages in the Roman period, from the early Republic to the Late Empire (ca. the 4th century). However, his corpus is primarily made up of epigraphic material (such us papyri, inscriptions and ostraca), and does not include literary texts (with a few exceptions). The TBL project primarily seeks to remove the need for an extensive range of “bilingual data”, from both a quantitative and a qualitative point of view: when completed, this corpus will include Late Latin literary texts of different genres covering a long period of time (from the 3st to the 7th century AD). The analysis of Greek-Latin bilingualism is made possible through the creation of a corpus specifically annotated according to contact phenomena that draws on recent achievements in the field of Digital Humanities. Among the future goals of this project will be to enrich the corpus quantitatively and chronologically by applying the analysis also to Classical Latin literary texts.


a) Main aims of the project

The main aims of our project are the following:

  1. to create a large corpus of stylistically and chronologically differentiated Latin texts that attest different kinds of bilingual phenomena;

  2. to expand the existing annotation in order to create a specific TEI language for bilingualism: this will make it possible to mark specific bilingual phenomena in the texts belonging to the corpus;

  3. to identify, interpret, explain and classify the contact phenomena found in our corpus by taking into account different levels of analysis, including morphological and syntactical levels, which have received less attention in the study of ancient bilingualism;

  4. to classify the different types of textual bilingualism and to provide a complete assessment of the ‘degree’ of bilingualism involved in each text;

  5. on the basis of this large chronologically and stylistically differentiated corpus, to offer a comprehensive account of bilingualism in Latin in linguistic and sociolinguistic terms, but also in literary terms.


b) Methodology

From a methodological point of view, the TBL Project brings together different but complementary types of expertise, making for an integrated approach to corpus data based on the interconnections between linguistics, literature, philology, history and digital computing, and jointly employing models and instruments developed in these distinct but potentially communicating fields. Theoretical models and results of general linguistics and sociolinguistics are taken as the starting point for examining written documents in ancient languages. At the same time, competence in philology, language and literature is the essential pre-condition for the reading and inspection of texts. Moreover, this project draws inspiration from recent challenges, ideas and research developments within the realm of Digital Humanities.

Our team is composed of experts in these different research fields and thus fulfils the need for an interdisciplinary approach as described above.



During the start-up phase of our project, financed by the Compagnia di San Paolo, we were able to use the computer resources and rich database of Late Antique works and authors provided by the digilibLT Project (Digital library of late-antique Latin Texts: digiliblt.uniupo.it). This project is directed by Raffaella Tabacco (the supervisor) and Maurizio Lana, who are also members of our team, and was first established at the University of Eastern Piedmont in 2010, thanks to a grant by the ‘Regione Piemonte’.