Greek is a unique language for linguists in its chronological scope. Documentary Greek papyri, ranging from ca. 300 BCE to 700 CE, can be contrasted with literature: these papyri preserve us the language as the ancient writer composed it and lead us close to the colloquial contemporary language. The nonstandard variation in documentary texts is where language change can first be detected, making the papyrological corpus an important source for diachronic study of Greek. The new Grammar of Greek papyri will answer such questions as how much bilingualism affected Greek in Egypt and when and where it was a dominant feature of the society. The papyri will partly be treated as big data; the whole corpus will be morphologically tagged. This will enable e.g. phonological analyses to be performed in greater accuracy than has been possible before through eliminating the confusion between inflectional morphology and phonological variation.
As a result, the Digital Grammar will bring the language used in the Greek papyri openly available to the scholarly community in an unforeseen manner. It will include new, more exact analyses of the phonology and morphology of Greek in Egypt, as well as a possibility to search both phonological and morphological forms, in combination or in separation, in the whole corpus. The syntactically annotated corpora will form a smaller but constantly expanding corpus of selected papyri, which yields to a wider range of searches on morphosyntax.
The project “Digital Grammar of Greek Documentary Papyri” (PapyGreek) at the University of Helsinki will run from March 2018– February 2023 and is directed by Dr. Marja Vierros. It is funded by the European Research Council (ERC-Starting Grant 2017). The project creates a digital grammar of Greek documentary papyri.