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Introducing Lucien van Beek

Lucien van Beek studied Comparative Indo-European Linguistics at Leiden University, focusing on Ancient Greek. As of February 2015, Van Beek will be project manager at Ineke Sluiter’s Greek-Dutch dictionary project.


In December 2013, Lucien van Beek obtained his PhD, also at Leiden University, for a dissertation on the historical development of the sounds called ‘syllabic liquids’ in Greek. Van Beek: “How and when exactly did these sounds disappear from Greek, and into which sounds did they develop in the different dialects of Ancient Greek? In the course of my research, this question appeared to be of the utmost importance for establishing the origins and development of the language of the Greek epic tradition, of which Homer is the oldest and best-known representative.”


New dictionary

Since September 2012, Van Beek has held a teaching position at LUCL in the Linguistics programme, and in 2014, he also taught several courses within the Classics programme at LUCAS.
Isn’t teaching far more exciting than producing a dictionary? Not according to Lucien van Beek:
“In my view, academic teaching can only be inspiring if the teacher is able to bring across a fascination for the unknown, by which all research is ultimately driven. I am therefore very glad to be able to combine teaching with a project in which the entire Ancient Greek lexicon, one of my primary research interests, is described afresh. I also look forward very much to working with the other project members on a topic of common interest.”

Apart from creating and editing new entries, his work will consist mainly of coordinating the work of the various specialists involved in the project: the authors of individual entries, student volunteers, the editors-in-chief Ineke Sluiter and Albert Rijksbaron, as well as the Digitaal Productiecentrum at the University of Amsterdam, where the dictionary’s online edition is prepared.

There are already several Greek-Dutch dictionaries, so why make a new one? Lucien van Beek explains: “First of all, the new Greek-Dutch dictionary is the first one to be published online. This will make it an indispensible study tool for students and teachers of Ancient Greek in secondary education. About a quarter of the dictionary can already be consulted online in a pilot version. One of the main assets of the online edition is that by pressing one button, the user can easily switch from the full version of an entry to an abridged version that allows for a quick overview.
Secondly, all existing dictionaries use archaic or out-dated words in their translations, and these have to be modernized. For instance, a translation such as gispen, found in most older dictionaries as a suggested translation for Greek ψέγω (censure, reprove or the like), is not part of the vocabulary of most current users. It will therefore be replaced with modern equivalents like bekritiseren or terechtwijzen.”


Van Beek’s research interests are twofold. On the one hand, by comparing the oldest language phases of Greek with those of other Indo-European languages, he studies the historical development of the Greek language from its reconstructed ancestor Proto-Indo-European. On the other hand, he is interested in describing the Homeric and Classical Greek lexicon, especially in connection with the use of formulaic language in Greek poetry. During his PhD research at LUCL, he was already able to combine both interests, historical linguistics and lexicography, as he assisted Leiden emeritus Prof. Beekes with his work on the Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Brill, 2010), a book that Van Beek co-authored.

After the dictionary has been published, Van Beek would like to continue research into the historical and prehistoric developments of the Ancient Greek language. He is currently thinking about follow-up projects to his dissertation, dealing with the origins and development of the Homeric epic tradition and its language. 

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