Ascoli, Graziadio Isaia

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ASCOLI, GRAZIADIO ISAIA (1829–1907), Italian philologist and linguist from *Gorizia. Ascoli was very closely connected with the Jewish cultural milieu of Abram Vita Reggio, Samuel David *Luzzatto, and Filosseno Luzzatto; from 1850 to 1852 he was president of the Jewish community of Gorizia. Ascoli devoted himself to the promotion of scientific philology in Italy. At the age of 16 he published Sull'idioma friulano e sulla sua affinità con la lingua valaca. Schizzo storico-filologico (1846), a comparative study of the Friulan dialect and the Wallachian tongue. In 1861, on the basis of his research on Turkish and Oriental languages, Studii orientali e linguistici (Gorizia, 1854–61), he was appointed professor of linguistics at the Regia Accademia Scientifico-Letteraria of Milan. He held the chair for over 40 years and influenced many Italian philologists of his own and succeeding generations. His Lezioni di Fonologia Comparata del Sanscrito, del Greco e del Latino (Turin, 1870) and Studi critici (Turin, 1877) wrought a revolution in comparative Indo-Germanic philology.

Ascoli made important contributions to the field of comparative linguistics, including the theory that the different Romance dialects had been influenced by Celtic dialects before the period of the Roman Empire and the spread of Latin. He was the first scholar to formulate many of the laws of phonetic change. His outstanding work on Romance philology, Saggi ladini, was published in the journal Archivio glottologico italiano, which he founded in 1873, and was awarded the Bopp Prize by the Berlin Academy in 1874.

In addition, Ascoli published Die Ziegeuner in Europa und Asien (Halle, 1865), Studi Ario-Semitici (1865), Lettere Glottologiche (1879–85), and Il Codice irlandese dell'Ambrosiana (Turin, 1877). Ascoli also devoted himself to Jewish historical research and published papers on the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek inscriptions on early medieval Jewish tombstones in southern Italy. The greater part of Ascoli's scientific papers were published in the Archivio glottologico italiano, of which 15 volumes had appeared up to 1900. Ascoli received many honors and scientific appointments in Italy and in Europe (mainly in Germany) and he was a member of the Academies of Science at Paris, Leningrad, Vienna, and Budapest and of the Italian Council for Higher Education. In 1889 he became a senator of the Italian Kingdom. His son, moisÈ ascoli (1859–1921), was a distinguished physicist.


M.E. Loricchio, Graziadio Isaia Ascoli biografia di un intellettuale (1999); A. Casella and G. Lucchini, Graziadio e Moisè Ascoli. Scienza, cultura e politica nell'Italia liberale (2002).

[Federica Francesconi (2nd ed.)]