Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.09.58

B. Richard Page, Aaron D. Rubin (ed.), Studies in Classical Linguistics in Honor of Philip Baldi. Amsterdam studies in classical philology, 17.   Leiden; Boston:  Brill, 2010.  Pp. xxi, 168.  ISBN 9789004188662.  $118.00.  

Reviewed by Todd Clary, Concordia University, Montreal (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Studies in Classical Linguistics in Honor of Philip Baldi is a slim collection of mostly short articles held together by a common thread of predominantly Latin linguistic inquiry focused on specific questions, like the semantic evolution of a particular word. Of the volume’s fourteen contributions, there is one article on Greek, one on Etruscan, and one on Proto-Indo-European nominal morphology. The remaining eleven articles focus on Latin linguistics. Within this focus on Latin, however, there is much variety. The researchers draw data from widely divergent time periods, from Old to Medieval Latin. Some use comparative evidence, others rely exclusively on internal data. Though the articles vary in the rigor of their methodology and commensurate success and plausibility of their conclusions, the majority make very thorough and convincing arguments, arguments that others working within that specific area of inquiry will find interesting and important.

The only article in the book focused on Greek linguistics is the first entry, a short excursus by Daniel Berman on the semantics of two words for “water source”, κρήνη and πηγή, in Aeschylus. Berman does not add much to our understanding of κρήνη, perhaps because it is scantily attested in Aeschylus. He merely suggests that in its most secure attestation in Aeschylus it may be a proper name for Dirce, the Theban spring. For πηγή, on the other hand, Berman argues that the standard lexical interpretation of the word should be altered: whereas LSJ says that πηγή means primarily “running water”, and secondarily “spring”, Berman would switch the primary meaning to “spring”, and do away with the “running water” definition altogether. This point was made by R.E. Wycherly already in 1937; 1 Berman’s contribution is to show how Aeschylus metaphorically expanded the meaning of the word from “water source” to “source” of various things, including tears, (Agamemnon 888), and silver (Persians 240). These extensions definitely make more sense starting with a basic definition of πηγή as “spring”.

In the second essay Pierluigi Cuzzolin investigates the semantic nuances of the Latin adverb obviam in combination with verbs of motion but does not present the evidence most relevant to its main argument. Cuzzolin himself describes the piece as a “short survey of the examples in which the adverb obviam occurs with the verbs ire and venire in Plautus’ comedies” (19). But of the 21 passages discussed in the article none features the phrase obviam venire in Plautus, and only one features obviam ire. Cuzzolin makes the potentially interesting observation that the expressions obviam ire and obviam venire entail that two people are moving toward each other, and that they must be facing each other, but six of his examples actually feature a pre-positioned verb plus obviam, like obviam obicitur, and one wonders if it might not be the doubling up of prepositions that gives rise to the face-to-face semantics.

Next, Pietro Dini contributes an informative and insightful entry on Venceslaus Agrippa’s (1525-1597) conception of Lithuanian as a daughter language of Latin. Agrippa asserted that Lithuanian was a descendant of Latin once subject to what he called “great shadows” (magnas tenebras) of Barbarian influence. Dini points out that Agrippa’s views on Lithuanian amount to a quite progressive conception of diachronic linguistic change at a time when other linguists were comparing Lithuanian and Latin based on synchronic models. Hence, Agrippa made an important contribution to the rise of the notion of historical linguistics.

The book’s fourth entry, by Paul Harvey, is a well-argued clarification of the semantics of two Latin words for plant pestilence: robigo and caniculae. These words occur as agents harmful to plants in manuscripts of the Agrimensores (ca. 120-79 BCE), and later in Latin translations of Psalm 77 (78): 46. Harvey argues that caniculae, based on its relation to canicula “the dog star”, refers to a white powdery fungus attacking plants in the summer when Sirius appears in the sky, and that robigo, based on its derivation from robigo “rust”, refers to the appropriately colored pre-flight stage of locusts commonly attacking plant leaves in temperate climates. Harvey also points out that St. Jerome correctly altered Latin translations of the Septuagint at Psalms 77 (78) by rendering the Hebrew term hasil as bruchus. Bruchus is a Latin transliteration of a Greek term denoting the immature, nymph stage of the locust. Thus, Harvey’s findings confirm the excellence of the scholarship of St. Jerome himself.

The next entry is a short but interesting paper by Brian Joseph on Latin (s)tritavus “great-great-great-great- great-grandfather”, a word printed without initial s- in Plautus, Persa 57, but with an initial s- at Paulus ex Festo p. 315M. Joseph argues plausibly, based on the Albanian loanwords stër-gjysh “great-grandfather”, stër-gjyshe “great-grandmother”, etc., that stritavus was a real Latin form. He further points out that the Plautine passage probably mimics an oft-repeated ditty (pater, auos,….atauos, tritauos) in which the final –s of atauos could have facilitated a re-segmented stritauos.

Christian Lehmann’s entry deals with the extent to which fricatives behave like stops and nasals and glides behave like liquids in muta cum liquida onset clusters in Latin. Lehmann’s conclusions are interesting in that they show that structural and phonetic approaches to Latin phonotactics yield contrary results. While phonetics might predict that ‘f’ and ‘s’, both voiceless fricatives, would pattern together in their ability to form onset clusters, instead, ‘f’ patterns with the stops, and ‘s’ does not. The scenario for glides is similarly disjunctive. ‘i’ and ‘u’ are uniformly vocalic after ‘f’, but after ‘s’ ‘i’ is always vocalic, while ‘u’ may surface as ‘w’, as in suavis. In the case of nasals, Lehmann concludes that they do not form onset clusters in Latin, and that only under Greek influence do such scansions as Ovidian …lucente smaragdis –with the final –e of lucente scanning light— become possible. In general, Lehmann’s contribution, while too complex to cover in detail here, is clear and convincing.

Andrea Nuti discusses the semantic nuances of possessive constructions in Latin, an area she has worked on extensively in conjunction with Philip Baldi. In this contribution Nuti focuses on apud + accusative possessive constructions in Latin, concluding that they are used to express “accidental possession”, i.e., temporary possession of something that technically belongs to another, like money on loan. Nuti then points out that apud possessive constructions in Latin have a parallel in Irish. The entry is interesting and authoritative, clearly stemming from a great deal of research on this topic.

In the book’s eighth article, Richard Page explains why the neuter Latin noun vinum ‘wine’ switched to masculine gender in Old High German. Jacob Grimm once attributed this gender-shift to contact with Gallo- Romance, which also shows masculine reflexes of vinum, but Page links the shift to a phonological change whereby the nominative singular forms of masculine and neuter a-stems came to look identical, and therefore became susceptible to gender-reanalysis. Further, subsequent loanwords into Germanic show the development of a general trend assigning masculine gender to alcoholic beverages other than beer. Page’s conclusion eliminates the need to rely on extra-Germanic influence to explain the gender-shift of vinum, and it seems very likely that he is right.

Harm Pinkster’s article on the semantics of Latin quoniam, on one hand, and quod and quia, on the other, builds on his previous research on these words in Early and Classical Latin. In a 2009 article, Pinkster argued that quoniam clauses express the speaker’s subjective opinion, while quod and quia clauses signal an objective cause and effect relation between subordinate and main clauses. Here, he considers whether quoniam later evolved semantically toward quia and quod, since Szantyr viewed all three as synonyms in Silver Age Latin.2 Pinkster finds that some passages from Tertullian suggest that the semantic scope of quoniam had widened enough to make it optionally, but not necessarily, interchangeable with quia. He uses statistics and close reading of select passages to support his arguments, which are mostly convincing, though sometimes not as clear as I would have liked.

Next, Hannah Rosén examines the actionality, or semantically determined verbal aspect, of speech-verbs based on their diachronic behavior in Latin. She first treats the oft-discussed fact that in both Latin and Greek, speech verbs appear in the imperfect where one might expect the perfect, or aorist. She then notes the rise in Later Latin of constructions with coepit/incipit plus infinitival verba dicendi. Dismissing other explanations for these facts, Rosén argues, based on a corpus study of speech verbs at several stages of Latin, that unexpected uses of the imperfect and the rise of the coepit/incipit plus infinitive construction highlight both the linear- durative and inchoative actionality of speech verbs. Her conclusion is compelling and interesting in that it has the potential of being valid not just for Latin, but cross-linguistically as well.

The short entry by William Schmalstieg revisits the notion that the most archaic Proto-Indo-European case system featured only four noun cases, a hypothesis proposed by W.P. Lehmann in 1958.3 Schmalstieg’s main purpose here is to draw parallels between Balto-Slavic and Indo-European case development to support his view that the adverbial cases (instrumental, dative, etc.) evolved from re-segmentation of various postpositional particles, and he is largely successful in that endeavor.

Next is an article by Brent Vine in which he offers an alternate etymology for Latin alias ‘at another time’, and other related forms. Rather than interpreting alias as an archaic genitive singular of the pater familias type, or an accusative plural with ellipsis of a noun, Vine derives the ending –as from an instrumental of an –eh2 stem (–eh2–eh1), upon which base an adverbial –s was added. Vine’s account is clear, concise, and seems to makes the best sense of all available evidence concerning alias and its sister forms.

Rex Wallace argues for an emendation of the inscription on an Etruscan kyathos published by Cappuccini in 2007. Cappuccini interpreted the inscription’s lacunated final word (mlak[.. ‘good’) as a genitive (mlak[aσ]). Wallace argues convincingly, based on close syntactic parallels on similar inscriptions, that it must be a pertinentive (mlak[aσi]), meaning “to a good man.”

The final entry of the book is an article by Stephen Wheeler delineating the semantic transformation of the Latin word poetria. In Classical Latin this word meant “female poet”, but in Medieval Latin it came to mean “poetry” or “poem”. Wheeler traces the semantic shift to misunderstandings of Remigius’ commentary on Martianus Capella. He argues that Remigius defined poetria as both ‘woman poet’ and ‘lady poetry,’ an abstract representation of poetry as a feminine entity, and that this ambiguous conception of the word facilitated the semantic shift. He makes his arguments based on astute readings of all the texts and manuscripts involved, and his conclusion seems unimpeachable.

Overall, the quality of these articles is very high. The contributors, faced with limited space, did an excellent job of restricting their topics appropriately. One will find more than one or two typographical errors in some entries, leaving the impression that the contributions should have been proofread again, especially in the double-checking of bibliographies.4

Table of Contents

Tabula Gratulatoria VII-VIII
Editor’s Preface IX-X
A Personal Portrait, by Pierluigi Cuzzolin XI-XIII
The Professional History and Publications of Philip Baldi (through 2010) XV-XXI
1. A Few Words for Spring in Aeschylus, by Daniel W. Berman 1-5
2. How to Move Towards Somebody in Plautus’ Comedies: Some Remarks on the Adverb obviam, by Pierluigi Cuzzolin 7-20
3. Baltic Paleocomparativism and the Idea that Lithuanian is a Neo-Latin Language, by Pietro U. Dini 21-30
4. Blight and Bugs: The Semantics of Latin Plant Diseases and the Perils of Latin Translations of the OT book of Psalms, by Paul B. Harvey, Jr. 31-41
5. On Latin (s)tritavus, by Brian D. Joseph 43-6
6. On Complex Syllable Onsets in Latin, by Christian Lehmann 47-55
7. Having Something that You Don’t Own: Apud Possessive Constructions in Latin and a Comparison with Locative Possessive Sentences in Irish, by Andrea Nuti 57-74
8. Gender Assignment of Latin Loanwords in Early Germanic: A Case Study of Latin vinum, by Richard Page 75-80
9. The Use of quia and quoniam in Cicero, Seneca and Tertullian, by Harm Pinkster 81-95
10. Dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: On Tense and Actionality of Latin verba dicendi, by Hannah Rosén 97-113
11. Thoughts on the Origin of the Latin and Indo-European Nominal Declension, by William R. Schmalstieg 115- 121
12. Latin alias ‘at another time’, by Brent Vine 123-140
13. Etruscan mlak[ and the Interpretation of the Inscription on the Santa Teresa kyathos, by Rex Wallace 141-47
14. Poetry in Motion: The Semantic Transformation of Poetria in the Middle Ages, by Stephen Wheeler 149-164
Index of Authors Cited 165-168


1.   Wycherly, R.E. 1937. ΠΗΓΗ and ΚΡΗΝΗ. Classical Review 51:2-3.
2.   Szantyr, Anton. 1965. Lateinische Syntax und Stilistik. Munich.
3.   Lehmann, W.P. 1958. “On Earlier Stages of the Indo-European Nominal Inflection. Language 34, 179-202.
4.   For instance, citing Plato’s Republic 327b at the top of page 15, Cuzzolin’s text reads ἡρᾶς where it should read ἡμᾶς, and a translation of Plautus on page 16 reads “shacking his head” instead of “shaking his head” for quassanti capite. Bibliographical errors consist mainly of omissions. Harvey, for instance, cites sources in his footnotes that do not appear in his bibliography, like Nitschelm (1990) and Allen (1899) in note 9.

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