Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.08.49

Dirk G. J. Panhuis, Latin Grammar.   Ann Arbor:  University of Michigan Press, 2006.  Pp. x, 230.  ISBN 10: 0-472-11542-1.  ISBN 13: 978-0-472-11542-6.  $55.00.  

Reviewed by Joseph Reisdoerfer, Athénée grand-ducal, Luxembourg (
Word count: 462 words

Table of Contents

It is with great pleasure that I have read Latin Grammar by Dr Dirk Panhuis (DP): this work has the merit of improving traditional grammatical descriptions by a clear didactic presentation and the inclusion of the results of new research conducted on Latin linguistics.

The book is divided into five parts: part 1, Alphabet and Phonology: 1-8; part 2, Morphology: 9-68; part 3, Semantics and Syntax of the Cases: 69-88; part 4, Syntax and Semantics of the Sentence and Its Parts: 89-178, the most developed part of the book; part 5, Textlinguistics: 179-220. A glossary (221-224) and an index (225-230) complete the volume.

This grammar, essentially didactic, is characterized by a great clarity in the formulation of rules and the description of linguistic facts enriched by many tables (e.g. the tables presenting verbal morphology 48-57). Judiciously selected sentences illustrate the grammatical phenomena. The author treats with great care translation problems from Latin to English, highlighting, in a comparative approach, the differences between Latin and English and giving accurate proposals for translation (e.g. 76-77).

Part 5, dealing with textlinguistics and especially word order in Latin, is without question the most innovative aspect of the book. The author approaches the problems of Latin word order from the point of view of the opposition theme (known information) / rheme (new information) (185 sqq.).1 He explains that in Latin the word order of a sentence is not structured by the syntactic function of the words but by the communicative organization of the sentence and shows inter alia that Latin historians such as Caesar and Sallust modified the normal word order theme-rheme to theme-rheme-verb. In emotive word order the standard scheme theme-rheme is altered to rheme-theme.2

The only fundamental criticism one might state of this excellent work is that it does not sufficiently introduce undergraduate students to research and reflection on the Latin language. A bibliography of essential works dealing with Latin linguistics, short scientific explanations of characteristic phenomena of the Latin language, e.g. the famous accusative and infinitive, should be added to a future edition.3

Other criticisms relate to minor points. It is not obvious why DP does not really introduce the locative, putting forms like Romae under the category of genitive (74-75 part133).4 One would also have preferred a more detailed treatment of the Roman calendar (147-148 part 308) and of Latin versification, here limited to the dactylic hexameter and pentameter (215-219 part 461-475).

This grammar, which we hope will find many readers in English-speaking universities, is a translation of a grammar originally published in Dutch: Panhuis, Dirk G.J., Latijnse grammatica. 2 ed. Antwerp; Apeldorn: Garant, 2005. We hereby encourage the author not to forget 'old Europe' and to give us a German and a French translation of this fine work.5


1.   DP is the author of a doctoral thesis on Latin word order: The communicative perspective in Latin word order. University of Michigan, 1981, published under the title Communicative perspective in the sentence: a study of Latin Word order. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1982; reviewed by Paul J. Hopper, Language 61-2, 1985, 466-470.
2.   For a good summary of DP's analysis of Latin word order, cf. Hopper's review of Communicative perspective (note 1), 469; on Latin word order, cf. also: Devine, A. M., and Laurence D. Stephens, Latin word order : structured meaning and information. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Reviewed by Esperanza Torrego BMCR 2006.09.33.
3.  We miss inter alia a reference to the vast project of a fundamental grammar of Latin launched by professor G. Serbat: Serbat, Guy, Sylvie Mellet, M. D. Joffre, Anna M. Orlandini, and M. Lavency, Grammaire fondamentale du latin, Bibliothèque d'études classiques ; 1, 8, 16, 25, 32, 35. Louvain: Peeters, 1994-; on the accusative and infinitive, cf. e.g. the explanations given by Colette Bodelot, avec la collaboration de Marius Lavency et al., Grammaire fondamentale du latin. Tome X, Les propositions complétives en latin, Bibliothèque d'études classiques; 35. Louvain: Peeters, 2003, p. 127-133 and Pinkster, Harm, Latin syntax and semantics. Romance linguistics. London; New York: Routledge, 1990, 126-129, part 7.4.2-7.4.3.
4.   On the locative, cf. Meiser, Gerhard, Historische Laut- und Formenlehre der lateinischen Sprache. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1998, 129, 91,4).
5.   The English of this piece has been proof-read by my colleague Carine Weicherding.

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