Between etymology and enigmatography: in search of the game-playing foundations of linguistics

Alberto Nocentini

Between etymology and enigmatography: in search of the game-playing foundations of linguistics

may sat 28, 2016 - 12.00
piazza dello Spirito Santo
 admission euro 3.00


The early days of linguistics were dominated by two main activities of a practical nature: the invention of writing and etymological research.

The invention of writing was based on the rebus method, through which writing evolved from pictography to ideography and then on to using syllabaries and alphabets, thanks to other playful methods, using homonyms and acronyms. Etymology also relies a lot of homonymy to give meaning to the most important names, starting with our own.

Enigmatography is based on homonymy and double meanings, forming nothing more than a cryptic message where the apparent meaning hides the real message. Encryption is the Laterculus or magic tablet, an extremely ancient puzzle game: the talk will examine a famous example from Pompeii, trying to discover its key.

Alberto Nocentini has been a professor in glottology and general linguistics at the University of Florence for more than 45 years (a position held by his maestro Giacomo Devoto) and is director of the Centro di Eccellenza in Linguistica. He has published more than 150 works on various linguistic topics: comparison, typology, dialectology, history of language, etymology and the origins of language. These include the manual L’Europa linguistica. Profilo storico e tipologico (2004), the dictionary L’Etimologico. Vocabolario della lingua italiana (2010), the collection of essays Lingua e divenire (2014) published by Le Monnier, and the recent La vita segreta della lingua italiana. Come l’italiano è divenuto quello che è (Ponte alle Grazie, 2015). He is a member of the Accademia della Crusca and co-director of the Archivio Glottologico Italiano, Italy’s oldest magazine on linguistics. He edits the etymological update of the dictionary Devoto-Oli for publishers Le Monnier.