Communication disorders in the ancient world

This project will assemble and assess the evidence for language-related disorders in the ancient world.

Department: Classics

Supervised by: Prof. Peter Kruschwitz

The Placement Project

Speech and language therapy is a relatively new aspect to the medical profession. They are concerned with the management of speech, language, and communication disorders, whether these defects are congenital or a result of a trauma at a later stage in a person’s life. The fact that this is a relatively new branch of the medical profession, however, must not distract from the obvious truth that speech and language disorders are by no means a new phenomenon: they are as old as humankind. There are some well-documented cases from the ancient world, most notably the famous Greek orator Demosthenes and the Roman emperor Claudius, who were said to have suffered from such disorders, and for Demosthenes even a form of treatment has been recorded. Nevertheless, to the present day this whole area has not undergone systematic scrutiny. The proposed subject therefore aims to establish, in an inclusive way, the range of evidence available from Graeco-Roman sources. Based on this, a substantial article will be written, discussing, classifying, and analysing the material in terms of typology, attitude and discourse, and responses and treatment. The project is a new, stand-alone project under the umbrella of Reading’s Language, Text, and Power research initiative (for further details please refer to It builds on the PI’s longstanding interest in Ancient linguistics and the CI’s specialism in Language Impairment. It will allow the successful candidate to engage in a cross-disciplinary, cutting-edge research project, from its earliest stages to preparation for publication.


The student will be responsible for the collection and arrangement of the data as well as for a first draft of the paper (in close discussion with the PI/CI). This includes initial guided research on ancient linguistics and language/speech disorder (2 weeks), collection of the evidence from ancient sources (both in terms of verbal evidence and more general discourse; 2.5 weeks), resulting in an extensive, annotated collection of data. A final 1.5 weeks will be spent on the writing-up process, which then will be the basis for a joint publication

Skills, knowledge and experience required

The successful candidate ideally has at least some fundamental understanding of Latin and/or Greek. Bibliographical and IT skills are mandatory. An already existing interest in linguistics or speech and language disorders is desirable, but not essential.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

This placement will result in developing a wide range of generic and specific skills. First and foremost, it will result in second authorship of a scholarly publication, which will fundamentally enhance the student’s employability through a realistic work experience and give a sense of unique achievement during UG study. Secondly, the placement will give a fully-fledged insight into how a research project is undertaken from its early stages to publication (framing of research question, generation of data, arrangement and interpretation of material, writing up) through a collaborative, hands-on approach. Since the student will take full part in this process and can give his input at all stages, this will create a strong sense of student ownership. Thirdly, the project will be helpful to the student for the BA dissertation and beyond, as s/he by the beginning of the third year will have got an idea of how actual research is structured and conducted, whether or not the student decides to remain in Classics. Finally, as for the generic skill set, this project will develop further bibliographical and IT skills and expand an area of research in Classics that is not normally taught in the degree programme

Place of Work


Hours of Work


Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 01 July 2013 - Friday 09 August 2013

How to Apply

Suitable candidates should send their CV and a covering letter to

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