Between migration and linguistics (MSCA-IF project)

How did Greek migrants in Renaissance Italy contribute to grammar as a multilingual discipline?

“The apotheosis of Manuel Chrysoloras” – Laurens van der Wiel (painter & photographer)

About the project

Despite today’s concerns about the challenges posed by migration, history reveals how migration presented new opportunities and had a positive impact.

The migration flow from the Byzantine Greek empire during the Renaissance and particularly after the fall of Constantinople in Europe (1453) represented a major brain drain from the East to the West. Western Europeans met a new culture and a language with a rich cultural and grammatical tradition.

The project “Between migration and linguistics: Greeks in Western Europe and the emergence of contrastive grammar in the Renaissance (c.1390–1600)” will study the impact migrants had on the transformation of grammar. From a monolingual Latinocentric specialised knowledge domain, to a multilingual discipline taking into consideration that the teaching of the Greek language stimulated a contrastive approach to language studies.


Objective A

  • When and how did contrastive Latin-vs.-Greek descriptions originate in the Renaissance?
  • How did Greek migrants contribute to the transfer of grammatical knowledge from Greece to the Latin West and the concomitant transformation of grammar into a multilingual discipline?
  • How did grammar constitute cultural capital for the Greek migrants?

The role of the invention of printing, which opened up new possibilities in presenting linguistic data in a contrastive way, will also be assessed.

Objective B

  • To what extent was the appearance of Latin-vs.-Greek grammars a written codification of humanist teaching practice, in which Greek-to-Latin translation played a major role?
  • In what setting did the teaching of Greek through Latin usually happen?
  • Was this the same for educated men, the usual target audience of the Greek migrants, and the comparatively limited number of women who learned Greek, including I. Sforza (the Duke of Milan’s daughter), I. d’Este, C. Gonzaga, and Th. More’s daughter M. Roper?
  • Or did teachers go about it differently when dealing with women, who were usually tutored individually rather than in groups?

Objective C

  • How were grammar writing and the study of language diversity influenced by the emergence of contrastive grammar?
  • What was the intellectual legacy of the Greek migrants on the level of language analysis, considering that contrastive, multilingual grammars were increasingly produced from the end of the 16th century onwards, soon including vernacular languages as well?
  • To what extent did Greek migration and teaching activities enhance the comparative turn in language studies which began in the 16th century and culminated in 19th-century historical-comparative linguistics?




This project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska Curie grant agreement nr. 890397.

%d bloggers like this: