Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.09.13

Andreas Bagordo, Beobachtungen zur Sprache des Terenz, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der umgangssprachlichen Elemente.   Göttingen:  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001.  Pp. 178.  ISBN 3-525-25229-3.  



Reviewed by Benjamin Victor, Centre d'études classiques, Université de Montréal (benjamin_victor@hotmail.com)
Word count: 1392 words

This monograph, a Göttingen thesis, undertakes a detailed study of certain unusual locutions found in Terence (and, usually, elsewhere in Latin literature). Chiefly at issue is whether they are colloquialisms and whether they result from loan-translation.

An introduction reviews scholarship and presents general considerations. Much space is given to the phenomenon of loan-translation--the creation of a new word or phrase from native elements but under the influence of a foreign language (giving naturalia from τὰ φυσικά, "iambic shortening" from Iambenkürzung, and so on). Latin idiom was of course shaped in this way by Greek throughout its history, and Terence was certainly an active player in the process, though details are difficult to establish, motives and reasons even more so. Bagordo considers loan-translation typical of the Roman upper classes; out-and-out Greek loan-words are taken to be more popular. The distinction is an interesting one: it may in part underlie Caesar's famous judgment of Terence (puri sermonis amator). Bagordo claims, too, that Terence was predisposed to loan-translation because his Latin was not native. This idea, the boldest of the book, is also the most incredible. Even if we choose not to take Suetonius' word for it, we must still assume that Terence was one of those slaves given the same education as free upperclass boys. As this was customarily begun before age twelve, Terence was in Rome, speaking Latin with natives, before puberty. Such a child is for all purposes a native speaker, indistinguishable from others. In any case chronological considerations (as Fenestella and Suetonius already understood) make it likely that Terence was a verna; so does the favoured treatment he received from his master. He will then have spoken Latin from the crib.

The bulk of the book is a commentary on individual passages containing expressions of interest. An initial section treats those considered by the author colloquial and not in origin loan-translations. Some very worthwhile observations are made there. Interesting parallels are cited to cantabat at Ht. 260 (pp. 37-38) so as to suggest that reference is primarily to moral proverbs. There are also good notes on bona verba as the equivalent of εὐφήμει (An. 204, pp. 44-46) and on noli used to cut another off (Hec. 109 et alibi, sometimes misunderstood by commentators, pp. 52-53). Weakest are the notes on noster, taken to express familiarity at Ht. 1061 (pp. 39-40: Bagordo has jumbled together different uses of the word--at Ph. 63 and Eun. 974 it means 'of our household') and on An. 45 (pp. 55-56) dic quid est quod me velis, called "Parataxe". (Where is the parataxis? Quod me velis is a noun-clause, the complement of est; the quid-clause is an indirect question with indicative.) A potentially valuable observation is made on forma bona at An. 119 (pp. 40-41) but not followed up. There the slave Sosia uses this rather bald expression of Glycerium while his master praises her beauty more elaborately; Bagordo adduces other passages where slaves speak of beautiful women much as Sosia does. Now why should they do so? It may be a matter of what slaves may decently say about things off limits to them, or perhaps the slaves are simpler and more direct than the citizen characters, or perhaps they have more emotional distance. In any case it has nothing to do with the distinction colloquial/literary.

A longer section takes up usages considered colloquial by earlier writers (usually J. B. Hofmann) but whose colloquialism is open to doubt. While a critical revision of Hofmann's work is indeed desirable, it should be done with more sensitivity and sense than are used here. For Bagordo colloquial language is incompatible with rhetorical ornament: should a passage of Terence contain the slightest alliteration or a balanced antithesis, then nothing in it can be colloquial. Would that it were so simple! An "emotional tone" is likewise taken to exclude colloquialism; so is attestation in certain texts (a tragedy, for example). The hard fact is that languages do not respect rigid categories in this regard: a given usage may perfectly well occur over a range of stylistic registers but come up more frequently in one than in another. Bagordo also has a weakness for parallels that are not parallel, and he has not always grasped the matter at issue. His handling of Ht. 642-643 (pp. 95-97) is symptomatic:

quid cum illis agas qui neque ius neque bonum atque aequom sciunt, melius peius, prosit obsit, nil vident nisi quod lubet?

Hofmann (Lateinische Umgangssprache, 3rd ed. Heidelberg, 1951, p. 109) treated prosit obsit under parataxis; he took it as a colloquial feature that these verbs stand outside the (explicit) syntax of the sentence. To claim prosit obsit as literary rather than colloquial Bagordo cites other texts where opposites come in asyndetic pairs (ἑκών ἄκων and the like in Euripides and Homer), but that is of course not the point. Even more disturbing is the passage of Horace (S. I.4.58) cited as an example of que...et for et...et (p. 82):

his ego quae nunc, olim quae scripsit Lucilius, eripias si tempora certa modosque et quod prius ordine verbum est posterius facias, praeponens ultima primis...

This is not a case of que...et! The que joins tempora with modos, the et eripias with facias. The section also contains some good notes, the best being -pp. 60-61, on egregie caram (An. 273): egregie is best distinguished from properly colloquial intensifiers. -pp. 62-64, on emungere (Ph. 682, and several occurrences in Plautus) in the sense of 'trick someone out of something'; probably a coinage on relatively learned Greek models. -pp. 84-87, on ille...ille in place of hic...ille (Ph. 331-332), not particularly colloquial. -pp. 87-89, on nullus dixeris for ne dixeris (Hec. 79); precision is added to Hofmann's treatment of negation by nullus (op. cit. p. 80). -pp. 92-93, on prudens sciens vivos vidensque (Eun. 72-73): Bagordo is quite right that this sort of amplification has nothing colloquial about it, though I am not sure Hofmann claimed otherwise (op. cit., p. 92). -pp. 57-59, on heus heus (Ht. 348): a reminder that heus and heus heus may be more broadly attested than was once thought, though again Hofmann was less sweeping than Bagordo makes out (he did not deny heus entirely to tragedy, op. cit. p. 15).

A final chapter takes up possible instances of loan-translation, discussed in general terms in the introduction. This is a most slippery business. That Greek influenced Latin in countless more and less subtle ways noone will deny. But it is another matter to make a list of the expressions owed by Latin to Greek and to nothing else. Livius Andronicus, we will all agree, would not have used insece to mean 'tell of' without Homeric ἔννεπε in front of him; nor would Terence have written o lepidum caput without Attic precedent. But what of vale, the Roman goodbye? Did it arise as a translation of ἔρρωσο? Could the Romans have thought up pedem ferre even without πόδα φέρειν? To set oneself such questions is to march straight into the Arbitrary and the Futile, two regions where Bagordo wanders happily. An example: video can mean 'see' in the sense of 'meet', 'confer with' (Ph. 1045, e.g.); so can ἰδεῖν. Bagordo (pp. 102-103) is quick to infer a calque, but is the extension of sense so odd or distinctive as to be improbable without the Greek model? Or again, when somebody is told to do something in Roman comedy, he answers faciam if he agrees, non faciam if he does not. Bagordo sees there a translation of ποιήσω and οὐ ποιήσω (pp. 107-109). But Latin must have had a native means to assent to orders and suggestions or to dissent from them, for every language must. Now, what was that native Latin expression? On Bagordo's reckoning it will have got lost, never to be spoken again, at the moment when a comic playwright thought to translate ποιήσω by faciam.

Some notes on loan-translations are more substantial. Bagordo is quite perceptive on move vero ocius te at Eun. 912 (pp. 98-99): ocius there will translate θᾶττον. Likewise on Eun. 989 (p. 126): si vivo in threats derives from a similar use of ζῶ, attested once in Herondas.

Dr. Bagordo has clearly read widely, both in his sources and in secondary literature. As I say, his book contains material of worth, alongside much that is weak or misguided.

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