Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.12.34

Johannes Kramer, Von der Papyrologie zur Romanistik. Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete, 30.   Berlin; New York:  Walter de Gruyter, 2011.  Pp. vi, 454.  ISBN 9783110247022.  $154.00.  

Reviewed by Panagiotis Filos, University of Cyprus (


This volume contains a selection of 29 revised articles by J. Kramer, accompanied by a short introduction (‘Papyrologie und Romanistik’), which was specifically written for this book. The articles were originally published in academic journals and conference proceedings over the past 35 years (1976-2009); in fact, the bulk of the papers appeared in the last 20 years in two of the most well-known journals of papyrology, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik and the Archiv für Papyrusforschung, a testimony to the prolific research record of the author in the field.

As the book title indicates, the selected papers of this volume fall within two major fields: papyrology and late Latin/(early) Romance studies. Obviously, some papers may primarily refer to one of the two fields, e.g. papyrology (nos. 2, 6); but the vast majority of the papers refer to either, in one respect or another. Having said that, I confess that I have run into some difficulty attempting to understand the logic behind the overly minute classification of the book contents into seven parts of unequal length; in my view, it would probably be more reasonable and reader- friendly to divide the book into only three major parts: papers on papyrology and related subjects, e.g. palaeography, editorial techniques, in Latin and Romance philology, etc. (nos. 2, 6, 8, 30); papers on linguistic aspects of late Latin/Romance, especially on issues pertaining to Graeco-Latin language contact (nos. 3 (partly), 5, 7, 9); papers on the etymology/word history of Latin loanwords attested in Greek papyrus texts and the information we may acquire from them about late Latin/early Romance (nos. 4, 10-29, but cf. also 3 [partly]).

It would obviously be impossible to discuss every single paper of this big and diverse volume; I have decided instead to focus on those papers that in my view are of particular interest. Thus, I will discuss papers relating to papyrology and related subjects only briefly and will focus instead on papers about late Latin/Romance and Graeco-Latin language contact, especially nos. 5, 7, 9.

On the whole, the papers which concern papyrology and related subjects provide good and up-to-date overviews of various issues papyrological and beyond: e.g. paper 2 is a very short introduction to papyrology. But nos. 6, 30 present us with more special problems and deserve particular attention. The lengthy paper no. 6 discusses in great detail (far beyond what we usually learn from standard textbooks on papyrology and palaeography) the etymology and the changing semantics of the word papyrus (πάπυρος), but also of some other related terms (βίβλος, διφθέρα, χάρτης etc.).1 The discussion of the semantics of πάπυρος and χάρτης extends well beyond antiquity and reaches modern times: the focus is not only on πάπυρος as writing material, but also on its various meanings in European flora. Paper no. 8 is concerned with an important topic of Latin epigraphy and palaeography, the marking of vowel length in Latin texts: the author discusses an interesting papyrus text (P.Vindob. L 1 c) from the very last years BC in which all long Latin vowels are consistently marked, a practice that by contrast is not so common in Latin epigraphic texts.

Finally, the very last paper in this volume, no. 30, examines similarities and differences in editing practices for classical literary texts, documentary papyri and Romance texts. The presence of Romance provides an additional perspective to the discussion since the manuscripts of Romance texts frequently show textual differences (especially in poetry), which are not only due to the usual problems of manuscript tradition like scribal mistakes and alterations, but may also reflect contemporary regional or other variations.

As mentioned above, this volume includes three important papers, nos. 5, 7, 9, which discuss aspects of Graeco- Latin language contact; in addition, I note that the first half of paper no. 3, ‘Die Papyrologie als Erkenntnisquelle für die Romanistik’ provides a brief overview of the evidence we can retrieve from the Greek papyri for the phonology of post-classical vulgar Latin; but on this issue one had better read the detailed discussion in paper 7 (see below).

Paper no. 5 (‘Der kaiserzeitliche griechisch-lateinische Sprachbund’) is concerned with Graeco-Latin language contact in general and focuses on two issues: (a) terminology, i.e. whether one can speak of a Graeco-Latin Sprachbund in the Roman imperial period; (b) the extent of parallel developments in Greek and Latin phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon, which could ultimately justify the term Sprachbund (language league).2 As far as the term Sprachbund’ is concerned, I think that many readers may regard it with scepticism—Kramer too seems aware of the difficulty: in current literature on Graeco-Latin language contact (e.g. Adams 2003) we only come across modern (socio-)linguistic terms like ‘language contact’, ‘bilingualism’,etc;3 in traditional terms, Sprachbund involves very intense, long-term language contact, normally between more than two languages. i. The linguistic changes that occurred in post-classical Greek and Latin were mostly parallel developments, although some phenomena can definitely be attributed to the influence of one classical language upon the other; finally, some changes may simply be the natural outcome of the transition of Greek and Latin to the status of international languages.4 To be more specific, there are indisputable concurring developments, such as loss of vowel quantity, loss of aspiration, monophthongization of certain diphthongs (αι/ae, etc), and simplification (Greek)/collapse (Romance) of the case system. On the other hand, some other phenomena can be attributed to the influence of one language on the other: e.g. mutual lexical influence (direct loans, calques, etc.), but also influence in morphology and syntax: e.g. possible Latin influence in the formation of Greek periphrastic adjectives in the comparative degree (e.g. πλέον σπουδαῖος or μᾶλλον βαθύς after Latin plus or magis (earlier) + adjective). Obviously, there are phenomena in which the role of either language is still uncertain, such as the increasingly frequent use of subordinate clauses (ὅτι/quod-quia; final ἵνα/ut + subjunctive) in place of the accusative-and-infinitive construction (AcI).5

In paper 7 (‘Die Aussprache des Lateinischen nach griechischen dokumentarischen Papyri’), Kramer explores the data from Greek papyri about the phonology of ‘vulgar’ Latin. Kramer, who partly draws on Binder’s monograph (2000) here, offers an analysis of the development of the Latin vowel system in particular, which was already on its way to the (simplified) Romance regional models.6 I will refrain from discussing minute phonological issues here; the analysis is generally sound, but there are certain occasions when one can think of alternative interpretations. For instance, the spelling λαγχιάριος ‘lance-bearer’ may not necessarily indicate palatalization [kj] or affrication [t∫] of Latin [c]; it could also be a case of interference or (incomplete) loan translation (Latin lancea ~ Greek λόγχη). In general, this study provides an alternative, more Latin-orientated phonological interpretation of the Latinisms found in the Greek papyri in comparison to Gignac’s Grammar or others.7

Paper 9 is dedicated to a special topic: the accentuation of Latin loanwords in Greek. Kramer’s main argument (contra Wackernagel and others) is that Latin loanwords were normally accentuated according to the Greek rules rather than the Latin ones. Kramer is generally right, but as Probert has indicated, one has to be cautious in view of possible counter-examples: Arcadius notes that the Italic (sic) words in -ερνος retain their penultimate accent in Greek, e.g. Falernus ~ Φαλέρνος ‘Falernian’, paternus ~ πατέρνος ‘paternal’.8 Of course, grammarians often tend towards prescriptivism: a degree of oscillation in accentuation (according to registers or regions) on such occasions cannot be ruled out altogether, in my view.

Finally, there are twenty-one articles, paper no. 4 plus twenty articles (nos. 10-29) in the penultimate part (VI) of the volume, dedicated to the etymology and semantics (‘Wortgeschichten’) of various (Graeco-)Latin forms, normally Latin loans in the Greek papyri. Some forms are well-known (e.g. caracalla, scala [sic]), some others not, especially those borrowed from other languages (e.g. Gallo-Latin bascauda ‘luxurious kitchenware’). Etymologies are examined exhaustively thanks to the author’s excellent command of Latin and Greek of all periods, including modern Romance languages; some of Kramer’s etymological explanations may look too complicated, e.g. roga ‘military pay’ from classical Latin erogatio / erogare through Greek ῥόγα (indirectly). 9

All papers have been written in straightforward German, which makes the book a smooth read. The book contains numerous bibliographic references, especially to German literature, some of which may not be widely known in English literature. The comprehensive bibliography at the end is very useful while the addition of several indexes is very welcome since they enhance the thematic cohesion of the volume.

The volume is generally well-produced, with relatively few misspellings and other typographical errors.10 Obviously, the ambitious attempt to bring together in an updated form a significant number of older publications has been anything but an easy task: some discrepancies and omissions in bibliography are noticeable, but luckily enough, those problems have been kept to a minimum.11

In conclusion, this volume is a very good reminder of the importance of papyrology in modern classical scholarship, especially as regards the study of Graeco-Latin language contact. Leaving aside issues of linguistic interpretation, which may naturally not achieve a general consensus among the readership, the information provided by the book is very rich and important to papyrologists and philologists alike, above all to people interested in the history of post- classical Greek and Latin / early Romance.


1.   Kramer (p. 91) supports an etymology ΠΑ Π-ΡΡΟ/ΠΑ Π-OYΡΟ (Coptic) ‘that of the king, royal’. All current etymological dictionaries of Greek (Chantraine, Frisk, Beekes) opt to leave the issue open.
2.   As a matter of fact, this paper was originally published in 1983 in a collective volume on Balkan linguistics.
3.   Adams, J. N. (2003). Bilingualism and the Latin Language. Cambridge.
4.   On these developments/influences, see: Löfstedt, E. (1936). Vermischte Studien zur lateinischen Sprachkunde und Syntax. Lund-London; Löfstedt, E. (1956). Syntactica II. Lund. In addition to the phenomena discussed by Kramer, see e.g. Adams (2003: 497), on syntactic interference of Greek in Latin of Egypt; Dickey, E. (2004). CQ 54: 494-527, on the Latin influence upon the Greek address system; etc. See also Coleman, R. (2007). ‘Greek and Latin’ in A-P. Christidis (ed.). History of Ancient Greek. Cambridge: 792-99.
5.   Similarly, it is not absolutely clear whether the two periphrastic constructions of the perfect (ἔχω/habeo + perfect passive participle) and of the future (ἔχω/habeo + infinitive) are purely parallel developments; for the latter, we may have to admit some degree of Latin, or more probably Romance, influence on Greek.
6.   Binder, V. (2000). Sprachkontakt und Diglossie. Hamburg.
7.   Gignac, F. T. (1976). The Grammar of the Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods. vol. 1 (Phonology). Milano.
8.   Probert, P. (2006). Ancient Greek Accentuation. Synchronic Patterns, Frequency Effects and Prehistory. Oxford, pp. 132-136.
9.   These papers by Kramer remind us of the absence of a complete dictionary of the Latinisms found in the Greek papyri: the dictionary by I.- M. Cervenka-Ehrenstrasser & J. Diethart (1996-2000). Lexikon der lateinischen Lehnwörter, 2 fasc. (Α-Δ).Wien-Purkersdorf, has stopped at letter Δ. On the other hand, S. Daris (21991). Il lessico latino nel greco d’ Egitto. Barcelona, is more of a list than a dictionary; in addition, there are problems with some of its Latin etymologies.
10.   A rather unexpected publisher’s error concerns the publication date: on p. iv it is 2011, but on the header of every single left page (verso) in the book it reads 2010.
11.   I cannot provide here a full list of the all the small mistakes I have noticed. An indicative list of the most important inconsistencies is the following: (1) V. Väänänen’s Introduction au latin vulgaire is listed in its Spanish edition of 31988 rather than in the French original one (Paris 31981); yet occasionally (e.g. p. 30) one reads Väänänen (1995); (2) Gallazzi et al. reads 2008 in bibliography, but is listed as 2009 on p. 378; (3) the books by Popovici (2006) on p. 96, fn. 19 and by Mihăescu on p. 97, fn. 20 are missing from the Bibliography; (4) Frisk is listed normally as 1973 but on p. 90 one reads 1991 (reprint?); (5) a few modern Greek names of authors and publishers are (understandably) accentuated wrongly; etc.

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