Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.08.30

Hubert Petersmann , Rudolf Kettemann (ed.), Latin vulgaire-Latin tardif V: actes du Ve Colloque international sur le latin vulgaire et tardif (Heidelberg, 5-8 septembre 1997).   Heidelberg:  Universitätsverlag C. Winter, 1999.  Pp. 567.  ISBN 3-8253-0877-4.  

Reviewed by Rolando Ferri, University of Pavia (
Word count: 3184 words

This volume collects the papers given by the participants in the Fifth Colloquium on Vulgar and Late Latin, the fifth in this series after the proceedings of Pécs (1985), Bologna (1988), Innsbruck (1991) and Caen (1994). [A sixth Conference, as announced in the Editorial Preface (dated October 1999), was held in Helsinki in 2000.] The series provides a meeting ground for older and younger scholars interested in Latin linguistics, with an emphasis on, though not exclusively, substandard and less formalized texts, such as medical treatises, inscriptions, letters, which form the backbone of the extant corpus of Late and Vulgar Latin. These meetings are by now well established, but references to them are not often found in bibliographies outside those of strict linguistic relevance--a pity, even from the viewpoint of mainstream Classics: Flobert's piece on tunc/tum in the Acts of the 1994 Conference (Traits du latin parlé dans l'épopée, 483-9), for example, has important implications for the text of Lucan and other Classical poets. Of particular relevance for editorial purposes is, in the present volume, R. Coleman's paper (345-56), discussing the problems posed to prospective editors by the vulgarisms which have found their way into the MSS of the Rule of St. Benedict, some close in date to the author.

The great emphasis of the series on spoken Latin, and on its representations in the higher registers (cf. the papers of P. Koch (125-44) and W. Oesterreicher (145-57) in L. Callebat (ed.) Latin vulgaire-Latin tardif IV [Hildesheim, 1995]), harmonizes with the growing interest in performance/orality as an important dimension of the production and circulation of ancient poetry at all levels. More generally, the need for an updated linguistic understanding of Classical languages with the conceptual tools of modern synchronic linguistics is now felt even across the disciplinary divide between linguistics and textual criticism, in the wake of the great progress made in many areas, such as metrics (thanks especially to A.M. Devine-L.D. Stephens, The Prosody of Greek Speech [Oxford-New York, 1994), and word-order (A.M. Devine-L.D. Stephens, Discontinuous Syntax [Oxford-New York, 1999]). A good overview of current trends in modern linguistic analysis of Latin can be found in Hannah Rosén, Latine loqui. Trends and Directions in the Crystallization of Classical Latin (München, 1999).

Epigraphy, in particular, is an expanding and promising area, and now the important International Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy is planned for September 2002 in Barcelona. In this volume, H. Solin illustrates (477-85) some new finds from the site of ancient Abellinum, prior to publication in the series of Inscriptiones Christianae Italiae (1985-). The Abellinum finds comprise mainly iv-vi century inscriptions, previously unknown, or known only from the reports of antiquarians and local experts. They are often inaccurate, with no important novelties regarding the history of Latin but with interesting clues as to the persistence of Classical onomastic habits as well as of old Roman gentilicia in this marginal area into the age of the Byzantine reconquest of Italy. R. Wachter (105-115) tests the notion of oral formularity on the corpus of Pompeian poetical inscriptions and graffiti, predominantly in elegiacs. There is undoubtedly an element of natural, i.e. not intentional or imitative, formularity in Latin poetry, especially in hexametric and elegiac composition, which takes the form of repetition of metrically convenient line-endings. Yet, the conditions of production, circulation and transmission within which this poetry came to fruition--even in ancient Pompeii--are so radically different from those of Greek orality, that the notion of formularity seems, to me at least, of only extrinsic operative value here. Tamàs Adamik also offers an important analysis of the coexistence of standard and substandard Latin in CLE 555-6 (157-68, with photographs), and with important acquisitions in the actual decipherment of the text. A. García Leal (365-73) surveys linguistic vulgarisms in the inscriptions of the Asturias.

An important section of this volume is devoted to the issue of the origins of the Romance languages, on the so-called proto-Romance, and on its relationship to normative, written Latin.

Mánczak (81-85) argues against the proposed derivation of the Romance languages from a state of Latin descending recta uia from pre-Classical Latin. Mánczak discusses especially the problem of accent position in the Romance inheritors of Latin muta cum liquida: cf. old fr. couléuvre, sp. culébra, sard. kolóra and it. int(i)éro, fr. entiér, sp. entéro (against Latin CÓLUBRAM, ÍNTEGRUM). In Classical Latin, these consonant clusters are treated as belonging to the same syllable; the preceding syllable is therefore open, and cannot bear the accent, except when its vowel is long 'by nature'. This treatment of muta cum liquida is uniform even in early Latin (the few exceptions being probably artificial imitations of Greek); yet the vocalism of integrum seems to indicate that in prehistoric Latin the central syllable was closed (teg- from an etymological -tag- as in tango, in the place of the expected *intigrum). This is not enough to establish a connection between early Latin and Romance: Mánczak is right to point out that the diphthongs in couleuvre and intiero show that the syllable preceding muta cum liquida was open even in proto-Romance, as in Classical Latin. Many explanations have been proposed for this accentual shift: an exhaustive review of the problem can be found in P. Tekavcíc, Grammatica storica dell'italiano (Bologna, 1979), 1.214-7. On the methodological problems posed by the identification of a precise phase, sociological and chronological, of Latin from which the Romance languages have originated, cf. A. Zamboni, Alle origini dell'italiano (Roma, 2000), 42-3, 78-9. Despite the occasional elements of continuity between pre-Classical Latin and proto-Romance, it is impossible to excise Classical Latin from the evolutionary process leading to Romance.

R. de Dardel, 5-10, shows how certain genitives attested by toponomastics could be explained as residual functional archaisms in proto-Romance, attesting a stage during which analytic and synthetic forms existed side by side, as proved by the parallel occurrence of Monghidoro [from Mons Gothorum] and Montigodi from Monte de Gothi, presumably coeval.

Bodo Müller (183-91) also focuses on submerged Vulgar Latin from the standpoint of current etymological research. Comparison between REW (Romanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch [Heidelberg, 19353]) and the slowly progressing Lessico etimologico italiano (LEI [Wiesbaden, 1979-]) and other more recent Lexica (e.g. the Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Dolomitenladinischen, EWD [Hamburg, 1988-]) yields an increase in the number of reconstructed lexical Latin bases, with a ratio of attested vs reconstructed forms of 100:25 in LEI, much higher than in REW. Müller's chosen example is the family of Latin aqua and its derivatives. AQVAEDVCTVS and the unattested, and erroneous, *AQVIDVCIVM, for example, were the only Latin predecessors of the extant Romance forms in REW. Today, progress in the collection of data leads to postulate six Latin bases, AQVAEDVCTVS, AQVIDVCTVS, *AQVADVCTVS, *ACADVCTVS, AQVAEDVCTIVM, AQVIDVCTIVM (cf. LEI, III.1 [1991], s.v.). The distribution of virtually equivalent forms across the whole Romance-speaking area suggests that a unified Roman denomination, if it ever existed, had given way to a variety of local realizations, and, more generally, that lexical fragmentation was more pronounced in late Latin than often assumed. Some caution is however needed here, as Müller points out, because of the diachronic distribution of these data: it is in many cases open to question whether these bases are genuine items of Vulgar-Late Latin or simply back-formations of Medieval Latin (vii-x, and later).

Several contributors concern themselves with the problem of whether such Latin as we have in extant documents and texts of the period between the iii-iv cent. AD and the Council of Tours (813) was understood, and across which social strata. The two opposing camps respectively uphold the theses that 1) Latin was only a cultural superstructure, with proto-Romance as the spoken language of both litterati and rustici of this age; 2) some form of Latin was generally understood, until a date which varies across the Romance region, with Northern France as the earliest area affected by the linguistic changes leading towards the establishment of the local Romance vernaculars as different languages.

R. Wright has famously, if controversially, argued (Late Latin and Early Romance in Spain and Carolingian France [Liverpool, 1982]) that such Latin as we have from the period pre-dating the Carolingian Reform should not be taken as a phonemic script (in which a given letter is tendentially assigned a given sound/phoneme), but rather as a kind of logographic system, whereby each Latin word is uttered with the vernacular pronunciation of the corresponding word in the evolved local vernacular. On this hypothesis, Latin aqua would have sounded, north of the Loire, ['ajge], that is aigue, or, south of the same line, ['agwa], a situation which presents some analogies with that of modern day English and French.

Alcuin and his followers would thus be responsible for the demise of Latin as a 'living' language, having introduced an orthographical and orthoepical reform which made the gulf between the high and low registers impassable and led in time to the emergence of independent vernacular scripts. In this volume, Wright analyses a xii century Spanish will (505-516) written in Latin but exhibiting conspicuous typological, grammatical, even lexical vernacular elements (cf. mea Maura prendat illa don Pelaio, with the anaphoric illa picking up the left-dislocated accusative mea Maura). In this text, the Latin patina is really only a disguise for the local vernacular, but the example has also, in view of its date, no bearing on the question of vertical communication of Latin before 813 and shows only that in Spain the reception of orthographic and grammatical reforms emanating from Carolingian France was erratic until the xiii century. The linguistic situation in Spain, in the transitional period between the Carolingian and the later local grammatical reforms, is also analysed by H. Böhmer (309-18).

The problem with this hypothesis is that Alcuin's own writings on this topic, De orthographia and De arte rhetorica, while insisting on the need for grammatical correctness, show no precise reference to pronunciation. Alcuin's stress on the importance of a clear enunciation is phrased in fairly generic terms picking up Cicero and Quintilian on oratorical delivery and need not reflect exactly the contemporary developments of langue d'oil (cf. Banniard, Viva voce, 364-7). Lüdtke's piece (41-48) is devoted to explaining 'aims and objectives' of this linguistic reform, as well as the reasons why no clear-cut evidence of its phonetic implications has survived, with also some theoretically important reflections on the linguistic implications of the whole process triggered by this reform.

There are many other problems with the theory advocated by Lüdtke and Wright. It has been observed, for instance, that even pre-Reform Latin exhibits consistent and considerable learned features (cf. Adams, LCM, 14 (1989), 34-7); even on the most vernacular delivery, typological, syntactical, lexical differences were such as to make comprehensibility nearly impossible (cf. T.J. Walsh, in R. Wright (ed.) Latin and the Romance Languages in the Early Middle Ages (London-New York, 1991), 206; in the same volume, cf. J. Herman on the awareness of the problems of vertical communication in the writings of some Church Fathers, 32-4). For some figures on the survival rate of Latin lexemes in the vocabulary of the Romance languages, cf. A. Stefenelli, Das Schicksal des lateinischen Wortschatzes in den romanischen Sprachen (Passau, 1992), 24-31. In the present volume, I. Fischer (11-17) has a piece specifically devoted to the process of nominal formation in late Latin. He focuses on the cases when a Latin noun and one of its derivatives have become synonyms (e.g. hiems/ (tempus) hibernum; dies/ (tempus) diurnum), a situation which often leads to the disappearance of the older term from the Romance lexicon. The literature on these topics accumulates with rapid pace: also of related interest is József Herman (ed.) La transizione dal latino alle lingue romanze. Atti della Tavola Rotonda di Linguistica Storica (Venezia, 14-15 giugno 1996) (Tübingen, 1998).

Even some of the simplest and poorest Latin documents of the Merovingian age, such as the Vitae Sanctorum, which were meant to be read aloud to the people (for instance the Vita Richarii sacerdotis Centulensis primigenia, MGH, SRM vii, 444-53, vii cent., or the Vita Goaris confessoris Rhenani, MGH, SRM iv, 411-23; cf. Banniard, Viva voce, 259-73), are at several removes from the earliest attestations of Italian, Old French, Provenc,al, etc., and from what Romanists speculate about the morphology and the lexicon of the spoken dialects emanating from whatever Latin the Romans brought to Western Europe. These documents, in spite of repeated insistence by their authors that they are composed to be understandable to all, exhibit far too many learned features beyond the putative reach of an uneducated audience, and preachers may perhaps be envisaged as the primary users of these collections. Vulgar and vernacular intrusions, even if conspicuous (such as the use of apud for cum, parabolare for loqui, the plural in -s for first and second declension nominatives, the cases of faulty concord, such as ad partem parochia Treverica [Vita Goaris, 3], which can be explained as residual synthetic constructions), are sparse, and are fused in a generally Latinate textual continuum, with a predominance of words and syntactical constructions which had certainly already disappeared from Romance usage. On Merovingian Latin, and especially on how far it can be taken to reflect the spoken vernacular, see also J. Herman, Sur quelques aspects du latin mérovingien: langue écrite et langue parlée, in Latin vulgaire-Latin tardif III (Tübingen, 1992), 173-86.

Comparison with the Latin which has resurfaced from Vindolanda, Karanis, Wâdi Fawâkhir, Puteoli emphasizes the greater degree of linguistic formality of the Vitae and of Merovingian Latin in general: cf. PMich VIII 471 Youtie-Winter, ll. 10-12 dico illi, da mi, dico, aes paucum; ibo, dico, ad amicos patris mei. item acum lentiaminaque mi mandavit; nullum assem mi dedit; ll. 19-23 deinde post paucos dies parit et non poterat mihi succurrere. item litem abuit Ptolemes pater meu sopera vestimenta mea, et factum est illi venire Alexandrie con tirones et me reliquid con matrem meam.

Even the hypothesis that the linguistic situation was one of diglossia (as argued in this volume by van Uytfanghe, 59-60, with reference to C.A. Ferguson, 'Diglossia' Word 15 [1959], 325-40), with such modern parallels as Greece, some Arab countries, and Switzerland, is not enough to prove that vii-viii century peasants in Gaul understood their preachers, when the latter read out to them the Latin of the Vitae Sanctorum or even the Bible. Modern situations of diglossia involve the ability to switch easily from one register to the other, or at least to be able to understand both, 'but the actual learning of H [the high variety] is chiefly accomplished by the means of formal education' (Ferguson, 331). Education is the missing element in the period under scrutiny. In Switzerland, Hochdeutsch and the Swiss dialect are perceived as two mutually intelligible registers of the same language, because speakers of the vernacular learn standard German at school and are generally capable of using it in a range of formal contexts. Yet, the assumption of a comparable familiarity with the higher register cannot be made for vii-viii century France, or for any of the other Romance areas, where the state of generalized illiteracy must have made Latin virtually impenetrable for the great majority of the speakers. The term 'diglossia' may perhaps describe the linguistic attitudes and perceptions of some members of the élite, but is irrelevant to the question of vertical communication.

The issue of bilingualism (also the theme of a 1998 Reading conference, and see now vol. 59 in the series of Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien, R.A. Kearsley, ed. [Bonn, 2001], devoted to mixed language inscriptions) comes to the fore in the paper of G. Calboli (331-44), who subjects to a searching analysis the Latin of the Tabulae Puteolanae, and especially the Latinity of C. Novius Eunus, focussing on linguistic (Oscan) interference, in the form of semantic extension (fateor for dico), and on syntactical vulgarisms. Béla Adamik (69-79) offers a contribution on the numbers of the Latin speaking community in Byzantium, with a persuasive new interpretation of Amalarius, Liber officialis, 2.1 (of Carolingian date), regarding the supposed bilingualism of the liturgy in Byzantium. Petersmann (529-37) dwells on sermo militaris, or castrensis, arguably one of the important sources for the spread of Latin across Europe, and in the Eastern part of the Empire, focusing on the origin of It. andare, which is seen as the inheritor, via the late Greek ambiteúein, of Lat. ambire, ambitare, which had acquired the sense of 'to march forward' in Army Latin, and may have been re-introduced to Italy by the Eastern Romans at the time of the Gothic wars.

Among other contributions, I found especially rewarding that of D. Langslow (169-82) on the use of connective particles in medical and technical Latin, with important lexicographical implications. Building on C. Kroon's distinction between a presentational and an interactional use of connectives, Langslow investigates the semantic and discourse-pragmatic functions and distribution of the pairs nam/enim, igitur/ergo, uero/autem, across a wide corpus and in a diachronic perspective, studying the factors, formal, grammatical and pragmatic, which condition their choice by a Roman writer. Also interesting are G. Haverling (235-49) on the aspectual nuances conveyed by verbal composition in Latin as seen in a diachronic perspective, and R. Hoffmann (251-65) on converbs, that is participial constructions which are dependent on the main verb but do not realize its semantic/syntactic valencies. Under the heading of 'Stylistique' the reader will find a useful survey by F. Biville on ancient Roman grammarians and their awareness of linguistic change and linguistic register (541-51), and R. Müller (553-60) on rusticitas, the Roman expression indicating substandard.

In a collection of essays covering so much ground it is impossible for an individual reviewer to do justice to all contributions, but I hope to have shown that the Proceedings of this Conference will be of great interest to Latinists of all denominations, from linguists to textual critics, and literary historians. Latin has almost no scope for new texts, and very few reasonably enough pin their hopes on the recovery of the library of the Pisones from the embers of ancient Herculaneum. Yet, if few novelties can be expected to alter the average Classics syllabus in the foreseeable future, familiar texts are bound to receive new light from a widening of the area available for comparison. Much can be gained, even for our understanding of the varieties of Latin at the time of Vergil, Seneca, Pliny the Younger, from the closer attention to epigraphic and other substandard documents which the Latin vulgaire-Latin tardif series tries to foster. The Vindolanda letters have shown, for instance, that some forms of Plautine and early Latin which disappear from view after Cicero, such as the adjectival use of ille reinforced with a deictic element, illic, ill(a)ec, are still in use in the first century AD (cf. J.N. Adams, JRS 85 [1995], 101). It has also emerged from the same dossier that the normal position of pronouns in ordinary i-ii century Latin was not the so-called Wackernagel position (second from sentence initial), which is familiar from the higher registers, but one next to the verb, anticipating clitic clusters typical of the Romance vernaculars (A.K. Bowman, J.D. Thomas, and J.N. Adams, Britannia, 21 (1990), 46).

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