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How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  53 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
In How to Kill a Dragon Calvert Watkins follows the continuum of poetic formulae in Indo-European languages, from Old Hittite to medieval Irish. He uses the comparative method to reconstruct traditional poetic formulae of considerable complexity that stretch as far back as the original common language. Thus, Watkins reveals the antiquity and tenacity of the Indo-European p ...more
Paperback, 640 pages
Published May 17th 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 1995)
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Oct 09, 2015 Evan rated it liked it
A specialist textbook overusing academic language? Well I never! See:

He compared the identical Greek cadence known as the paroemiac or 'proverb' verse, from its frequency as proverbial utterance occupying the second half line or hemistich of a dactylic hexameter, and proposed as Indo-European metrical prototype a 'gnomic-epic decasyllable'.
But it's interspersed with fascinating little tidbits such as:

The Hittite Law Code prescribes capital punishment for bestiality with pig, dog, or cattle, but
K.V. Johansen
I found this a fascinating read. I don't have the background to follow all his arguments, and certainly lack the quantity of languages to do so, thus having to take his discussion of Hittite cognates, for instance, on trust, but all in all it was very thought-provoking. I'd like to go back and read some parts of it again, with a Greek dictionary on hand, when I have time.
Jun 21, 2013 Aleksandra rated it really liked it
Shelves: greek-roman, academic
For a classicist, interested in literature and mythology, but not specializing in linguistics, it was a difficult and very demanding read. Watkins' work is dense and multi-layered, it required of me a long and careful reading process and a lot of attention, but it was definitely worth it.
Jan 07, 2013 Diana rated it really liked it
This has the most arresting title I've ever seen on a linguistics book. It's well worth the read as the author explicates ancient poetic language, showing how it derives from Proto-Indo-European.
Jun 09, 2011 Maya rated it really liked it
Shelves: indo-european
Please see my review at Celtic Scholar
Nov 02, 2008 Alfred rated it liked it
Recommended to Alfred by:
An overly academic, for my purposes, analysis of Indo-European storytelling, including the structure and content.
Apr 14, 2012 Ben marked it as to-read
Shelves: melrose-years
Very dense. Not for light reading. May need to come back to it...
Jim Bisso
Jun 20, 2008 Jim Bisso rated it really liked it
A masterwork from one of the last of the Indo-European philologists.
Feb 05, 2013 Renée rated it it was amazing
This is a masterwork but sometimes for someone only vaguely familiar with metrics quite difficult to get through. I must admit I skipped some chapters (I hate that I wasn't taught Greek!) in order to advance more than 1 or 2 pages per 30 minutes ;-)
Professor Watkins is of course a genius in his field and it is a pity that there doe not exist a Nobel prize in this category.
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