Thursday, February 26, 2009


Roger Wright (ed.), Latin vulgaire--latin tardif VIII: actes du VIIIe Colloque international sur le latin vulgaire et tardif, Oxford, 6-9 septembre 2006. Hildesheim/New York: Olms-Weidmann, 2008. Pp. xiii, 623. ISBN 9783487135328. €98.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Rolando Ferri, Università di Pisa (

Table of Contents

The volume under review contains the proceedings of the eighth Conference on Vulgar/Late Latin. The series started in 1985 and the proceedings, in the course of time, have considerably grown in size. The present volume collects 68 of the 89 original papers delivered at the conference, and reaches over 600 pages although printed in hideously small print. The pieces are organized in chronological order of topics, and cover a period from early Latin and Italic to Dante and 15th-century metalinguistic uses of the word "Latin". The quality of the papers is uneven, from very expert and illuminating to perplexing or irrelevant, but the majority make the book definitely worth having. In the following paragraphs, I give brief presentations of what I thought were the most striking contributions, or at least those from which I learned most. Exclusion from this sample does not reflect necessarily on a given contribution's individual worth.

For clarity's sake, I have attempted to discuss the book's contents by object of study and areas of methodology, rather than follow the chronological succession of the pieces as in the volume. The three areas which I think help us best to envisage the volume's most interesting features are 1) lexical novelties, typically extracted from inscriptions, but also from unfamiliar texts and documents from Late Antiquity or the Early Middle Ages, or reconstructed from a comparative perspective; 2) new approaches to grammatical, typological, pragmatic topics relating to Latin with the help of modern synchronic linguistics; 3) 'vertical communication', i.e. studies devoted to the issue of the intelligibility of Latin to illiterate or barely literate audiences.

In what I call group 1, the single most outstanding paper is Solin's ("Vulgar Latin and Pompeii", 60), a preview of the forthcoming supplement to CIL IV, the Pompeii and Herculaneum inscriptions, on which Solin and others have been working for several years. Solin discusses several graffiti, correcting previous editors' readings on the basis of his own inspection in situ. Here the contents are naughty, the scholarship impeccable. I shall simply attach some marginal notes on details. The syncopated perf. ending -aut in CIL IV 1391 exmuccaut '(she) dried (me) clean of mucus/snot' (i.e. semen), has several parallels in Väänänen's Le latin vulgaire des inscriptions pompéiennes, p. 45; several more can be found in city of Rome's inscriptions: cf. my review of CIL 6.6.3 in CR 58.2 (2008), 532. On CIL IV 2178a NICA CRETEISSIANE Solin suggests NICA C(H)RE(S)TE ISSIME "long may you live, Chrestus, yourself'. If the new reading is correct, the superlative issime from ipse, with the phonetic 'popular' spelling -ss-, is a very important acquisition, and means not 'yourself' but 'master'. Solin's reading thus gives support to a rare form of respectful address which we knew only from Petronius up to now (ipsimus= dominus, but not in address: cf. 69.3 solebam ipsumam meam debattuere 'I was wont to batter my mistress'). For isse, issa as honorifics in Pompeian inscriptions cf. CIL IV 8364 SECVNDVS | PRIME SVAE VBI|QVE ISSE SALVTE, CIL IV 8954, HABITVS ISSAE SALVTEM. On CIL IV 4874, VITALIO BALIAT CAR EST MUSICUS 'long life to Vitalio, because he is a musician', one might consider punctuating 'why? (because) he is a musician', although Väänänen had indeed included a similar case of a possible causal QVARE, op. cit. p. 126. For the treatment in Pompeian inscriptions of word initial qu- cf. e. g. como = quomodo in CIL IV 9251.

Several other valuable papers deal with items of the lexicon in the lower registers of Latin. One of these is Cam ("Nomenclature des realia de la vie rurale: étude du vocabulaire des installations et des équipements de l'écurie dans les textes latins de médecine vétérinaire", 281), on hippiatrics and horsekeeping generally, in which a great deal of technical vocabulary is aptly discussed and convincingly interpreted, starting from a chapter in Vegetius' Digesta artis mulomedicinalis. I found of particular interest Cam's discussion of the 'vulgar' word for 'stable, fold' in Veg. Mul. 1.56, zaca (cratis, quae et zaca uocatur a uulgo), against the concurrent readings/ conjectures iacca (also in TLL) or occa. Cam supports zaca on the basis of a Greek passage in Theophanes, Chronographia, PG 108, 533c, so far ignored by scholars in this connection, where the hapax ζάκα (accusative) occurs with the same meaning. In addition to this and other significant linguistic acquisitions (I mention only the interpretation of the Lt. neologism pontile 'wooden stable floor' and the Greek loan-word bruncarius 'muzzle'), the paper is useful also for its discussion of various Realien of horsekeeping in antiquity, with clarifying, and much needed, drawings.

Béla Adamik ("Remarks on the Changes of Consonantism in Pannonian Latinity as Evidenced by the Inscriptions", 103) shows that consonant change in Pannonian Latin was in step with contemporary trends in other Latin-speaking areas until the perhaps modest-sized Romanized population was either swallowed or forced to move out by mass migrations from East. In this context, the paper is also notable for some persuasive interpretations of substandard inscriptions, and particularly of the names TEOTIGINOS < THEOTECNOS, and IODOROS < DIODOROS, exhibiting respectively yodisation of 'e' in hiatus and the reduction of [dy]+ vowel> [y]+ vowel.

A strong point of the Conference, traditionally, is the search for evidence of spoken Latin at the transitional period from the comparative evidence of the Romance languages in their earliest documented stages. A strong paper is offered by E. Nieto Ballestrer ("Sustantivos latino-romances derivados en -toriu y en -toria en la toponimia de Huesca", 261), whose research concentrates on the linguistically conservative area of Northern Aragon, so immune from common linguistic evolution that even voicing of intervocalic Latin occlusives has not occurred in the local dialect. The local toponomastic allows to recapture items of Latin -orium derivatives which must have been current in the spoken Latin of the area. Similarly impressive is J. Trumper on "Latino Sommerso", Substrate, and the Composite Nature of Late Latin" (301), devoted to fish names in Polemius Silvius, the author of the Laterculus, a kind of Latin Concise in the form of lists of names arranged by thematic areas (edition by Mommsen in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Chronica minora saec. IV.V.Vi.VII (Berlin, 1892), p. 544 (nomina natancium); more recently, Polemius has been discussed in some detail by J. N. Adams, The Regional Diversification of Latin (Cambridge, 2007), 295-9, as a source of Gallic regionalisms. Trumper, an expert in Italian dialectology of the Veneto area, tries to identify fish species in the list, against the background of the rapidly changing fish vocabulary of Late Latin, as a result of language contact. The conclusion to which Trumper reaches is that in the fifth century little Germanic influence is noticeable in the fish names of Polemius' list. M. Loporcaro, in a formidably dense, closely argued paper challenging the belief in open-syllable tendency in Late Latin ("La tendenza alla sillaba chiusa in latino tardo", 336) seeks and finds confirmation from Italian dialectology for the hypothesis that in Late Latin muta cum liquida was heterosyllabic, i.e. made position, at least as a diatopic and diastratic variant, against the Classical Latin norm. M. Lörinczi ("Ideologia linguistica e fondamenti di storia della lingua sarda", 548) makes a persuasive case against M. L. Wagner's view that the treatment of inherited voiceless labiovelars in Campidanese Sardinian was b rather than qu (i.e. Campidanese abba for Lt. aqua). R. Sornicola ("Nominal Inflection and Grammatical Relations in Tenth-Century Legal Documents from the South of Italy (Codex Diplomaticus Amalfitanus)", 510), highlights the tension between the written and the spoken register in the Codice diplomatico amalfitano, a collection of notarial Latin charters and documents going back to the tenth century. These documents, Sornicola claims persuasively, continue lexical and phraseological usages of the ancient Roman legal tradition, and often reflect 'vulgar' usage of very long standing.

In group 2, and one of the best papers, though neither on Vulgar nor on Late Latin is R. Ashdowne's on the 'pragmaticalization' of Latin oaths ("E-vocative Invocation: on the historical morphosyntax of Latin "Oaths"", 13). Ashdowne looks at the gradual weakening of oath phrases from performatives ('I swear to Jupiter this to be true') to asseverative formulas, indicating non-neutral speaker attitude to what is being said ('help me god/heavens! what a naughty thing have I done today!'). The author persuasively interprets the pragmatic function of many (pseudo)-vocative and interjectional formulas in Roman comedy and Cicero (such as hercle, edepol, per deos) -- a topic long overdue for study with up-to-date methodology. However, I am not sure that the author is right to explain the origin of phrases such as (1) per te... obsecro / deos immortalis or (2) per deos atque homines ego te obtestor "I beseech you in the name of god (and man)" from the basic oath form as he takes it to be, e. g. (3) per Iouem iuro (med esse) (Pl. Amph. 435) 'I swear by Jove that (I am that person)'. (1) and (2) are, I think, requests based on the belief that the gods mete out just retribution to the good and the compassionate, i.e. 'before the gods' is used because of the belief that they will remember a good deed. In other words, what proves that (2) is a weakening of the (3) oath form, rather than an independently evolved request?

Another paper in which a general linguistics approach offers important insights is Fruyt and Orlandini on the evolution of the Latin verb ("Some Cases of Linguistic Evolution and Grammaticalisation in the Latin Verb", 230), focussing mainly on grammaticalization and neutralization processes. They start from imperative periphrases such as i et, noli, caue and fac followed by either the infinitive or the subjunctive. I agree with their conclusion that fac is grammaticalized as a polite variation for the imperative, as can be seen clearly from polite phrases in Apul. Met. 1.23 fac libenter deuerseris in nostro 'make yourself at home in our lodgings' and Tab. Vindol. 2.291 iii Idus Septembr[e]s soror ad diem sollemnem natalem meum rogo libenter facias ut uenias ad nos 'on the third before the Ides of Sept., my sister, I have the pleasure to ask you to come to our birthday celebration'. Their next point is a discussion of coepi as a verb focalizer, gradually losing its lexical meaning of 'beginning to' (though the dividing line between the lexical and the focalizing meaning is somewhat obscure to me). Moving on to the quasi-auxiliary usage of habeo with the infinitive, Fruyt/Orlandini discuss instances in Tertullian which seem to pave the way for the Romance conditional, esp. the 'future in the past' function of the conditional, as in habebat reuelari 'was to be revealed' or prouenire habebat "had to happen". (The same topic is discussed from a different angle in another good paper, V. Bourova, "Les participes futurs en -urus / -ndus combinés avec un temps passé de esse en latin tardif. Un conditionnel non abouti?", 271, on the Latin 'failed' constructions for the later conditional). Fruyt/Orlandini then discuss neutralization of perfect participle forms, and weak causativity with iubeo and facio. They argue that iubeo has weak semantic content in stereotyped polite formulas such as iubeo te bene ualere, but I doubt if it is necessary to go back to a supposed pre-literary inherited meaning 'to encourage': in politeness contexts, iubeo is used to reassure the addressee of the speaker's interest in his/her well-being and the mock-assertiveness is part of the politeness 'scenario' of conversation. Facio too can be used with weak semantic content, as an all-purpose expression, typically in the lower, colloquial registers, as one can see from the following parallels: Vetus Latina, Ev. Ioh. 6.21 facta est nauis ad terram 'the ship came near the shore', Sch. Cic. Gron. p. 436.20 Orelli dicimus: fac ad manum illum codicem 'we say, pass that book'. Indeed, commenting on Ter. Ad. 916 quid cessas ire ac facere?, Donatus qualifies the use of facere as ἰδιωτικῶς, that is, probably, 'colloquial'.

Natalya Stolova ("From Satellite-Framed Latin to Verb-Framed Romance: Late Latin as an intermediate stage", 253) studies the transition from Latin to Romance in a typological perspective, focussing on verbs expressing directionality and movement. Romance languages, she argues, have lost most Latin prefixed movement verbs, such as abscedere, abire, deuenire, with few (she lists five) exceptions. She reads the change in the context of Leonard Talmy's typological theory and she finally argues that the cause of the change was an attempt to foreground, in terms of cognitive salience, the path/movement element, as can be seen in the loss of Latin ascendere to Late Latin (in fact only a reconstruction) *MONTARE, It. montare, Fr. monter, in which the mons element is immediately recognizable.

As in previous volumes of the series, 'vertical communication' (my group 3) has produced some important papers. Among these, I single out Biville, who presents a little known grammatical treatise by Cassiodorus on orthography ("Normes "orthographiques" et oralité dans la latinité tardive: le latin du De Orthographia de Cassiodore", 381) and Van Acker ("Dans les méandres de la communication verticale mérovingienne: connaissances passives et perte d'informations", 463). The problem of 'vertical communication' in Cassiodorus' work is in evidence from the start, where in a sort of metaliterary preface the author has his Vivarium brethren interrupt his scriptural exegesis with the outcry: "what's the use of learning all that the Ancients have done, and all the knowledge Your wisdom has taken the trouble to collect for us, if we cannot write it, nor repeat correctly what we don't understand in writing?" -- an excerpt from which it is easy to grasp the rich interest of the following piece. The treatise is also original in contrasting 'modern' and 'ancient' Latin usage, and in assigning precedence, at least for the practical purposes of teaching the monks, to the former. Van Acker attempts to outline the passive Latin competence of Merovingian church-goers listening to the simple, but fully Latinate Passio Memorii (edited by B. Krusch in MGH, SRM 3, 101-4, Vita Memorii presbyteri et martyris), as well as the varying degrees of difficulty presented by different excerpts (in terms of lexicon, sentence length, structure etc.), against the background of the supposed 'spoken language' of the time. My only query is about the clearly high-register dramatic phrase in paragraph 5, ad ille sacer unda sanguinis suis perfusus est ('And that holy man was drenched by his own overflowing blood"), where suis, sic in the MS, is not the genitive. It may be true that a general idea was conveyed by the formularity of the phrase, and by the survival of some left-branching in old French, but was the pseudo-genitive suis, [suwes], really what the old preacher read out?

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