Linguoconceptual Analysis of Deceit in Herodotus’ Histories

Author Information

Anna Polishchuk,
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine

DOI: 10.47298/comela22.1-5
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in the Mediterranean and Europe 2022


This research has been conducted in line with the long historical and cultural controversy over the ethnic and national identity of western and eastern civilisations and the ethno-specific perception of falsehood in ancient peoples mentioned in The Histories by Herodotus. Given the breadth and relative objectivity of information on the contacts of the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids with neighbouring nations in the Mediterranean region, Herodotus’ work is a unique resource for study which traditionally belongs to the prerogatives of modern comparative linguoconceptology. Despite the abundance of scholarship on falsehood and deception in Herodotus (Lateiner 1990; Harrison 2004; Mash 2010; Hollmann 2011; Wesselmann 2011), little has paid attention to the communicative entities within different ethnic groups and discursive areas. This study of the Ancient Greeks’ concept of deceit has used traditional semasiological methods in combination with cognitive methods of discourse analysis, metaphorical modelling, and axiological scaling. As a result of the semantic and stylistic analysis of 36 denotations of the concept, represented by cognates of ψευδ-, (ἐξ)απατ-, διαβαλ-, δολ-, μηχαν- etc., ‘the core’ and ‘the periphery’ have been singled out. These lexical means have been differentiated according to the frequency of use, variety of derivatives, types of connotative meanings, and discursive functions. Discursive distribution of the lexical items concerned the social sphere in the political, religious, and personal domain. A comparative analysis of deceit in different ethnic communities showed that representatives of the East were inclined to use non-verbal forms of trickery, while Greeks prevailed in verbal deception. Among verbal means, in Herodotus’ view, Asian peoples preferred misinformation – straight untruth through a complete alteration of the reality – while for the Ionians, Athenians, and other Hellenes, verbal tactics appear as more complex and demanding, since their misleading manipulations balanced between truth and untruth, so that they could not have been easily refuted. Quantitative parameters, as well as stylistic sensitivity, of lexical items have revealed these tendencies for the eastern and western oecumenes, with marginal peculiarities for the Trojans and Ionians, which seem to challenge some regional stereotypes concerning deception.

Keywords: Deceit, falsehood, concept, ancient Greek language, Herodotus, linguistic anthropology.


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