Thursday, October 24, 2013


Gilles van Heems (ed.), La variation linguistique dans les langues de l'Italie préromaine. Actes du IVe Séminaire sur les langues de l'Italie préromaine organisé à l'Université Lumière-Lyon 2 et la Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, le 12 mars 2009. Collection de la Maison de l'Orient, 45. Série linguistique et philologique, 7. Lyon: Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée – Jean Pouilloux, 2011. Pp. 185. ISBN 9782356680211. €23.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Markus Hartmann and Alfredo Rizza, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (;

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

This interesting book about linguistic variation in the ancient languages of Italy is complete with indices of words, sources and notions. In the introduction the editor (G. van Heems, "De la variation et des langues anciennes") explains that scholarly attention to variation has always played a significant role in the discipline of linguistics, at least since the beginning of dialectology. As the editor points out clearly, there are aspects beyond geographical and chronological factors to be investigated, such as all the possible variations that may depend on the speaker (social identity, age, discourse register, gender) or on the medium used to convey the message. The aim of the studies collected here is to try to critically apply this field of study to dead languages, known to us only through written and not always perfectly understood documents.

The book is divided into three sections: onomastics ("onomastique"); Etruscan ("linguistique étrusque"); Latin and Italic ("latin et langues italiques").

The first essay of the section about onomastics treats different variants of the name of Segesta (L. Dubois, "Autour du nom de Ségeste"). The most striking variation in the name of Segesta is the alternation of two forms: one with and one without the initial /s/. This phenomenon is described and traced back to specific regional phonetic developments. Interestingly enough, further variations, like "Acesta" in Vergil, can be explained by considering both phonological and literary reasons. In the second article of the section ("C. Pontius Herenni filius. Remarques sur la désignation du vainqueur des Fourches Caudines chez Tite-Live") D. Briquel puts forward an interesting hypothesis to explain why the Samnite general C. Pontius is referred to by Livy as C. Pontius Herenni filius, with the clear indication of the father, a system otherwise never used. He suggests that the Romans kept an official document, a treaty stipulated after the defeat. Official documents of the Samnites, in fact, do report names with patronymics.

Both articles in this section exemplify the methodology and the possible outcomes of studies on linguistic variation that consider not only the alternative forms within a specific linguistic system, but also the aims, the environment, the possible traditions, and the genre of the documents, so that variations which are otherwise insignificant become important tools to promote a better understanding of ancient texts.

In her article "Problemi di vocalismo etrusco arcaico. La geminazione di ii", V. Belfiore attempts to establish, by close scrutiny of the linguistic material, that the Etruscan spelling ii in the onomastic word forms -niia(-), -niie(s), -riia, -riie, -riiu, -sii(a), -siie, -iia, -iie and -iiu does not indicate preceding palatalized consonants, aberrant regional or social writing practices, or results from a gemination of /i/; rather, that it is the notation of a real phonetic value resulting from a diachronic development */a/, */e/ > /i/ before or after i, e. g. *alśaalśa-ia-na-si, Cr 3.15, turn of 7th to 6th century B.C.; alśiia, AT 2.41, archaic; *acrieacrie-na-s, AT 2.6, 6th century B.C.; acrii-na, Cm 2.47, 5th century B.C. This new explanation, if accepted, also entails a revision of the gender of several male proper names, as they would have to be considered female as a consequence. Belfiore concludes with a list a list of relevant words cited and dated according to Rix's Etruskische Texte and a bibliography.

In "Variación y cambio en etrusco. Los genitivos Arnθ(i)al y Larθ(i)a", I.-X. Adiego deals with the phonetic/morphological variation in the genitives of the names larθial ~ larθal, arnθial ~ arnθal. Adiego concludes that this variation is due to an analogical spread of -al to the detriment of -ial in order to differentiate gender more clearly: -ial for feminines, -al for masculines. Inscriptions from Volsinii and Perusia show virtually no signs of it. Adiego, following Pauli (Etruskische Studien 2. 1880), reasons that in these regions there was no need to differentiate masculines from feminines better, as the feminines there already ended distinctively in -ia, gen. -ias.

In the last paper of this section, "Essai de dialectologie étrusque: problèmes théoriques et applications pratiques", G. van Heems offers first a reflection on the possibility of an Etruscan dialectology. In the first part of the essay ("problèmes théoriques") the author notices that very few attempts at dialectological study of the Etruscan documents (pp. 69-71), if one leaves aside the studies that established the existence of an archaic phase of Etruscan and the studies that recognized graphic and linguistic horizons separating a northern from a southern Etruria. The author then describes the various types of sources that might show traces of dialectal variation (pp. 71-77). What makes this study most interesting is the attempt to look for conscious choices made by the Etruscans themselves in order to signal a dialectal specificity. Among the indirect sources on Etruscan history, van Heems gives some emphasis to Liv. X 4.5-10, where we can see categories such as lingua, referring to the linguistic reality of the whole Etruscan territory; sermo, referring to the sociolinguistic levels, and sonus linguae, referring to the "accent". Van Heems denies that what Livy here narrates can really be traced back to original Etruscan categories that single out a pan-Etruscan linguistic identity vs. regional and social identities (pp. 72-75). To find out if such categories could really be operative in the time of the Etruscan epigraphic production, one has to find the peculiarities of a group of documents that can be, in different but coherent ways, analyzed together. One major obstacle could be represented by scribal and orthographic rules that may delete the evidence (pp. 75-76). The second part of the article tries to collect and critically revise possible peculiarities of a Volsinian dialect. Various specific phenomena are considered (pp. 79-87). To cite just one, the variation among gentilicia in ia (l) vs. ea(l), attested diachronically and synchronically in, e.g., funerary inscriptions can be explained as sociolinguistic if one observes the nature of the medium carrying them. Rich and majestic tombs select only -ial while simple epitaphs may prefer -eal. Having evaluated these phenomena, van Heems concludes that there is indeed evidence for a conscious use of linguistic variations among the Etruscans, even if it is quite difficult to be discovered and interpreted precisely.

After a noteworthy methodological introduction to the limitations of Siculian language and linguistics (pp. 93-98), V. Martzloff, in "Variation linguistique et exégèse paléo-italique. L'idiome sicule de Montagna di Marzo," focuses on the inscription of Montagna di Marzo (early 6th to 5th century B.C.). He first presents the traditional word division and its shortcomings (pp. 98-102)



in order to then present his own new division of the scriptio continua (pp. 102-118):

tam|ura|abes|aked|qoi|aves|eurumakes|age|pipo|ked|lutim| be


as well as the translation of the first line showing a symposial context:

tam (1) ura (2) abes (3) aked (4) qoi (5) aves (6) eurumakes (7) age (8) pipo (9) ked (10) lutim (11) be (12)

'There actually(1) is a drink(2). You are far(3). Come near(4), you who(5) desires(6) (to drink)! Eurymachus(7), go(8), drunkard(9), pass(10) the mug(11); drink(12)!' (p. 118).

Martzloff concludes by pointing out the poetic elaboration of the first line of the inscription (pp. 118-120).

Martzloff does not attempt to interpret the second line. It thus remains to be seen if his new reading of the first line will gain general acceptance, as the linguistic argumentation of Martzloff does not and—for methodological and documentational reasons—cannot really differ all that much from the previous argumentations. And Martzloff himself (pp. 93-98) has pointed out the argumentative limitations concerning the extremely small Siculian text corpus. [M. H.]

In "u. surur, lat. item: adverbe de manière, connecteur discursif", E. Dupraz considers the Umbrian adverb surur in comparison to Latin item. The two terms are not etymologically related but they appear to have the same functional extension, at least, within the same kind of texts. The functional equivalence between surur and item most probably goes back to a common general system recognizable in prescriptive documents, probably a juridical κοινή uniting Umbrian and Latin. The use of item, however, is different once we consider other textual genres. The difference is substantial. Item is almost never used as an adverb of manner, it does not contribute to the semantics of the predicate, but connects the predicate with a preceding event marking an identical, or almost identical, kind of association between theme and rheme.

In "La variante falisque", J. Hadas-Lebel returns to the question of how Latin and Faliscan relate to each other. Via alphabetic (pp. 156sq.), phonetic (pp. 157-161), morphological (pp. 162-165) and lexicological (pp. 165sq.) reasoning, Hadas-Lebel concludes that the Faliscan "language" is a mere Latin dialect on the same level as, e.g., the Prenestinian dialect.

Overall the book is a useful tool not only for the understanding of the languages of Ancient Italy, but for the evaluation of methods in variational linguistics in the study of ancient languages.

Table of Contents

Gilles van Heems, De la variation et des langues anciennes, 9
Laurent Dubois, Autour du nom de Ségeste, 17
Dominique Briquel, C. Pontius Herenni filius. Remarques sur la désignation du vainqueur des Fourches Caudines chez Tite-Live, 31
Linguistique étrusque
Valentina Belfiore, Problemi di vocalismo etrusco arcaico. La geminazione di ‹ii›, 41
Ignasi-Xavier Adiego, Variación y cambio en etrusco: los genitivos arnθ(i)al y larθ(i)al, 61
Gilles van Heems, Essai de dialectologie étrusque: problèmes théoriques et applications pratiques, 69
Latin et langues italiques
Vincent Martzloff, Variation linguistique et exégèse paléo-italique. L'idiome sicule de Montagna di Marzo, 93
Emmanuel Dupraz, U. surur, lat. item: adverbe de manière, connecteur discursif, 131
Jean Hadas-Lebel, La variante falisque, 155
Index, 171
Liste des contributeurs, 185

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