Professor Martin Maiden awarded a Leverhulme Research Project Grant

The Faculty of Linguistics is pleased to announce that Professor Martin Maiden has  been awarded a Leverhulme Research Project Grant (2021-2024) 


“Vernacular mathematics in the Italian dialects: a history” 


Brief summary of the project 

By investigating the shaping of the language of vernacular mathematics in Renaissance Italy, Prof Martin Maiden and Dr Alessandra Petrocchi (Research Associate, University of Oxford’s Faculty of Linguistics) will examine how transfer of knowledge between registers, dialects, languages and cultures came about by linguistic means. Renaissance mathematics promises rich insights into a largely unexplored area of the history of the Italian vernacular languages: the linguistic expression of mathematical concepts. There are several aspects of the mathematical register of the time which make it particularly intriguing and suitable for linguistic research, such as language contact, semantic shift and the close relationship between the spoken and written word. Our mathematical corpus (1300‒1550 CE) includes handwritten manuscripts, early printed books and published transcriptions. We will reconstruct the linguistic history of selected mathematical terms and, to understand their semantic development, compare their usage as occurring in a wide range of non-mathematical sources of the time, such as administrative records, mercantile notebooks, vernacular works on different subjects and Renaissance grammars. We will adopt a comparative and cross-disciplinary approach and examine different types of original sources written in several languages. In examining a textual corpus that has received little attention from linguists, this interdisciplinary project attempts to: establish for the first time the linguistic history of the lexicons of arithmetic, algebra and geometry in Italo-Romance dialects; to examine rhetoric and discourse in mathematical pedagogy; to employ comparative linguistic and textual analysis to shed light on contexts of knowledge transfer; and to investigate the relationship between the mathematical lexicons of contemporary European cultures.

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