Alexander Nikolaev (Boston University): Greek etymology in the 21st century

On February 16, Alexander Nikolaev (Associate Professor of Classical Studies and Linguistics at Boston University) will speak on the challenges currently facing Greek etymological research—and faced by scholars and students who seek reliable information on etymology of Ancient Greek words.

All subscribers to the klassisk-seminar list will receive a zoom link for this talk. Please subscribe or contact Boris Maslov if you wish to attend the talk.


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The year 2010 saw the publication of Etymological Dictionary of Greek (EDG) by Robert S. P. Beekes. Written in English by one of the leading practitioners of Indo-European studies and published by Brill, this 1800-page dictionary was bound to become the standard reference work for classicists who will rely on it for their knowledge of the history of Greek vocabulary. At the same time, it has been pointed out on multiple occasions that this dictionary is deeply flawed; unfortunately, for a sobering assessment of the EDG interested classicists should go to professional journals that may lie outside of their purview. This talk is addressed to classical scholars interested in Greek etymology who are unsure whether or not the EDG has now replaced Chantraine’s or Frisk’s dictionaries.

In this talk, Prof. Nikolaev will first discuss specific methodologically significant drawbacks of the EDG illustrating problematic areas with examples, and then present a selection of new etymologies from his forthcoming volume Greek Etymological Notes.

As the talk will demonstrate, contrary to Beekes’ “Pan-Pre-Greek” approach, the traditional comparative method still has a lot to offer for the study of the origins of Ancient Greek vocabulary.

Professor Nikolaev obtained his doctorate degree from Harvard University in 2012 and has published profusely on Greek, Latin, Luwian, Hittite, and Indo-European etymology. His work appeared in GlottaIndogermanische ForschungenDie SpracheClassical PhilologyAmerican Journal of Philology,  Journal of Hellenic StudiesIndo-European Linguistics and Classical Philology, among other venues.


[Note that due to the pandemic restrictions, the talk will be held entirely on zoom. Please plan to have your cameras on, if possible.]


Boris Maslov
Published Jan. 30, 2021 1:02 PM - Last modified Feb. 4, 2021 9:32 AM