Bortone studied Classical, Medieval, and Modern Greek (B.A., King's College London), Linguistic Theory (M.St., Oxford), Comparative Philology (M.Phil., Oxford), Scandinavian Studies (UCL), and Greek Philology (D.Phil., Oxford). Besides teaching for Oxford's Faculty of Classics and Faculty of Modern Languages, he has lectured at numerous universities in the US, continental Europe, and Africa, and has worked as an etymologist for the Oxford English Dictionary. He has received several scholarships and awards and won Fellowships from Princeton, Harvard, Berlin's Wissenschaftskolleg, Uppsala's Collegium for Advanced Studies, Rhodes University of South Africa, the Onassis Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Bucharest, among others. Bortone has published articles in philology and linguistics and the acclaimed book Greek Prepositions from antiquity to the present (OUP). He has also worked extensively on the role of languages in social identities. Two more books of his are about to be published, and more are in preparation.
Bortone's subjects of teaching are Classics, Modern Greek Studies, and Linguistics. His research topics, besides the development and structure of a number of languages, include: adpositions; explanations for semantic shifts; the interrelation between language and claims/attributions of ‘identity'; the uses of the term ‘identity' and their implications; nationalist discourse.