Library lunch talk - Laura Soffiantini: Studying formulaic expressions in Latin funerary epigraphy

On Tuesday 25 October at 12 CEST, Laura Soffiantini, TNA research fellow on the H2020 Computational Literary Studies Project, will present on “Yet there is pattern in’t!” Studying formulaic expressions in Latin funerary epigraphy. This talk is part of the Library Lunches hosted at Ghent University's Faculty Library of Arts and Humanities and also on MSTeams. Registeration for this talk can be completed here:

Talk: “Yet there is pattern in’t!”: Studying formulaic expressions in Latin funerary epigraphy" 

ABSTRACT: Romans inscribed hundreds of thousands of texts on stone. Laws, treaties, but also curses and love poems were written on rigid supports and displayed to the public. But the kind of epigraphic texts that most copiously came down to us are private inscriptions commemorating the loss of a loved one. Generally reduced to a few lines, Latin tomb texts conveyed biographical information about the commemorated person in a highly standardized form.

The content of funerary inscriptions is largely formulaic. The same expressions and vocabulary are repeated in hundreds of texts to express feelings of attachments, love, or grief. Some of the Latin formulas became so popular over the centuries that are still in use nowadays. Despite the apparent uniformity of the texts, a closer look reveals significant variations in the use and combinations of formulas. With my talk, I aim to illustrate the potentialities offered by computational methods to investigate large corpora of formalized texts. I will demonstrate that the use of text analysis techniques will permit to overcome the challenges posed by the redundant nature of epigraphic texts. Moreover, I will show to what extent the application of semantic network analysis provides a flexible approach to discovering communication patterns in Latin inscriptions. In conclusion, I will discuss the strategies to explore the dynamic relations between formulaic expressions in texts.

BIOGRAPHY: Laura Soffiantini is Transnational Access Research Fellow on the H2020 CLS Project ( August – November 2022. Laura specialized in Classics and Ancient History at the ‘Scuola Normale’ (Pisa), focusing on the self-representation of social groups and on the materiality of epigraphic writing. She did a Traineeship at KU Leuven University where she approached computational studies applied to the ancient world. At Ghent University, Department of History and GhentCDH she is pursuing a fellowship in Roman Epigraphy and Latin linguistics. Her project aims to investigate the use of formulaic language and abbreviations in Latin funerary inscriptions. The application of semantic network analysis will permit to explore the different combinations of formulaic expressions and abbreviations and understand their variations in texts.