Since time immemorial the Mediterranean basin and the neighbouring regions in Europe, Asia and Africa have provided an area where peoples, cultures and languages of rather diverse character meet, influence each other and sometimes even fuse. The migrations of today have a long list of predecessors which have shaped the Mediterranean as the cultural mosaic it is at present. These contacts are relatively richly documented in contemporary historiography and related disciplines. However, there is still no comprehensive account of what has happened on the linguistic side of the Mediterranean “melting pot”. Knowledge of languages, multilingualism and borrowings have been important throughout the entire history of the Mediterranean where migrations and changing borders have always raised the question of integration via language.
The Mediterranean is an extraordinarily rich laboratory of language contacts not only because its linguistic history can be traced back until 3000 BC, but also because languages of different genetic affiliation and typological classification have been exposed to mutual contact. These peculiar conditions make the Mediterranean interesting per se, so that a basic heuristic aim should be to inquire what the Mediterranean was and is, and not whether the Mediterranean matches some abstract model posed in an aprioristic way.
In this perspective, the principle underlying our school is to further our understanding of the common cultural history of three continents. Of course, it is a well-known fact that languages past and present have been in contact with each other in the Mediterranean. However, as yet, there is no systematic stock-taking of the linguistic phenomena involved (e.g. overt borrowing and covert calquing) and hence we do not exactly know how far this mutual influence has changed the languages. Likewise, it is still a matter of debate which levels of language, word-classes, grammatical and/or lexical categories, construction types, etc., are affected by, and which forces determine the processes of contact-induced change in the Mediterranean.
Furthermore, the school also intends to promote the study of the patterns of diffusion of linguistic features in space with special focus on the interrelationship of diffusion type and communication media and/or conditions of communication (something that has changed dramatically over time from face-to-face interaction via the written word to modern non-physical interaction).
It remains to be seen whether or not the Mediterranean language contacts are in line with extant general theories of language contact. As a matter of fact, it has been pointed out that the Mediterranean is the largest internal sea in the World and that it is very close to the fluvial nucleus where the most ancient civilizations flourished and spread. Therefore, it cannot be completely ruled out that the Mediterranean evidence will call for some revision of those theories on language contact whose empirical basis consists mainly of languages located outside our area of interest.
The effects of language contact are often effaced by purism or other linguistic policies based on some ideology, which is strongly active in ‘standard’ languages. That said, the school will pay particular attention to non-standard varieties (dialects, social varieties, jargons etc.).
According to the above-mentioned principles, every edition of the school will focus and describe a long-lasting Mediterranean linguistic tradition. In this edition, the focus is on the Latin-Romance tradition. Due to the school’s empirically based scientific approach, the courses devoted to language description play a central role in the teaching program.
The Mediterranean has also witnessed the genesis of contact languages such as the lingua franca and is thus linked with the research traditions of Pidgin and Creole Studies. The area also hosts a sizable number of extreme cases where one language has been reshaped according to the structure of the more powerful prestige language (Turkish, Greek etc.), as, for example, Cappadocian Greek, Kormatiki Arabic and a variety of other diaspora languages.
Finally, the school aims to promote the elaboration of some systematic account of such phenomena in terms of language-contact studies and to put them into a historical perspective in order to explain their coming into being. This endeavour requires large-scale international cooperation which must include both experts in all Mediterranean languages, synchronically and diachronically, and specialists in the field of Mediterranean history and cultures, history of religions, and anthropic geography.