Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2016.04.21 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2016.04.21

Gerd V. M. Haverling (ed.), Latin Linguistics in the Early 21st Century: Acts of the 16th International Colloquium on Latin Linguistic, Uppsala, June 6th–11th, 2011. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Studia Latina Upsaliensia, 35.   Uppsala:  Uppsala Universitet, 2015.  Pp. 652.  ISBN 9789155492717.  SEK 478 (pb).  

Reviewed by Šime Demo, University of Zagreb (

Table of Contents

The book is a collection of papers presented at The 16th Colloquium on Latin Linguistics.1 The organiser of the colloquium, Gerd V. M. Haverling, worked, as she admits, "practically alone" (p. vi) when preparing the proceedings, which caused a certain delay in publication. On the other hand, the respectable number of the articles (48 in 652 pages) and the quality of their presentation prompt the reader to regard her undertaking with great respect.

The papers are distributed into five sections: "Linguistic theory and Latin linguistics" (two papers), "Morphology" (14 papers), "Syntax" (17 papers), "Lexicography and semantics" (9 papers), and "Philology and linguistics" (8 papers). It is impossible to draw clear boundaries between various levels of language; consequently, papers regularly cover multiple areas. Therefore, in the present review, I will try to group them according to their main focus.

Several papers deal with general linguistic topics and discuss the language as a whole. Manfred Kienpointner objects to the particularism of modern theories of language, which claim to cover the language in its entirety, or underrate aspects they do not consider central. According to Kienpointner, the innovative approach by the great Romance linguist Eugenio Coșeriu, particularly his three trichotomies (the first referring to the general notion of language, the second to its relation to extralinguistic reality, and the last covering the perspectives within grammar), can help to achieve a holistic perspective when dealing with language in subsequent decades, which is the reason the great scholar (who died in 2002) was dubbed "a linguist of the 21st century".

Philip Baldi, like Kienpointner, gave a plenary lecture at the colloquium and used his experience as a compiler of the monumental four-volume New perspectives of Historical Latin Syntax2 to present a multifunctional approach to explain syntactic change in Latin. The four determinants thereof are structural processes, typological factors, functional factors, and pragmatic factors. He analyses seven critical changes in the syntax of Latin, and concludes that there is a more fact-based account of syntactic change than the abstract force called "drift", which has occasionally been proposed as an explanation.

Another paper, by Marie-Ange Julia, placed in the morphological section, also aims at a more general perspective of syntactic change. Taking the communication process as the starting point, she observes the development of pronominal and verbal persons as related to the people involved in the conversation. In the fourth paper dealing with relatively general problems, Maria Asunción Sánchez Manzano shows that the forming of neologisms in Latin had a close connection to the development of various literary genres.

Among the papers in the "Morphology" section, some present analyses of Latin morphology from the Indo-Europeanist perspective (Moreno Morani, Vincent Martzloff, Lucie Pultrovà), and others deal with the later developments in Romance languages (Chantal Kircher-Durand, Olivia Claire Cockburn). The remainder focus on the phenomena occurring within the period of classical antiquity, regardless of whether they evolve around lexical units (Emanuela Marini, Concepción Cabrillana, Antonio R. Revuelta Pugidollers, Carlotta Viti) or grammatical relations (Giovanbattista Galdi, Gerd V. M. Haverling, David Stienaers).

In the next two sections, which constitute the bulk of the volume, a great number of papers may be grouped under the (very broad) heading of verb and its valency (Barbara McGillivray and Marco Passarotti, Silvia Pieroni, Roland Hoffmann, Tatiana Taous, Frédérique Biville, Peggy Lecaudé, Benjamín García-Hernández, Anna Orlandini and Paolo Poccetti, Andrea Nuti). Some papers, on the other hand, analyse the field of noun or its modifiers (Elisabetta Magni, Giuliana Giusti and Rossella Iovino and Renato Oniga, Olga Spevak, Marie-Dominique Joffre, Brigitte L. M. Bauer). Colette Bodelot discusses adjectival modification, while a number of articles analyse the functions that tend to be placed syntactically at the clause periphery (Hannah Rosén, Géraldine Prouvost-Versteeg, Luis Unceta Gómez3). Other articles examine elements and functions that can occur at various syntactic levels (Pierluigi Cuzzolin—based on his plenary lecture from the Colloquium, Suzanne Adema, Egle Mocciaro and Luisa Brucale, Adriana M. Manfredini, Alessandra Bertocchi and Mirka Maraldi).

One paper (Marko Passarotti, Barbara McGillivray, and David Bamman) revisits the old problem of Latin word order by taking a very modern approach. The authors investigated the ordering of subject, verb, and object, as well as the position of noun phrase modifiers, using two treebanks (in other words, syntactically annotated digital corpora), one consisting of a selection from several classical authors including Jerome, and another containing excerpts from Thomas Aquinas. They employ graphical representations and statistical methods, such as Correspondence Analysis and Pearson's Chi-square test for independence, to provide an empirically grounded account of tendencies in word order patterns. Their results confirm the usual intuitions: on the one hand, the two Christian writers differ greatly from the rest; on the other, the poets tend to order constituents differently from the way prose writers do.

Papers by Gualtiero Calboli (comparing Latin coordination and subordination with those in remotely cognate Hittite) and Maarten Proot (analysing discourse markers in the manuscript transmission of a medieval text) focus on the connecting devices in Latin texts.

In the "Philology and linguistics" section, most papers analyse entire genres (Ivana Ikonomova), groups of texts (Philipp Roelli, Sándor Kiss, Daniela Urbanová), or individual texts taken as a whole (Maria Cristina Martins). The collection concludes with three metalinguistic topics, presented by Paolo De Paolis, Bruno Rochette, and Béla Adamik, respectively.

Adamik proposes a new periodisation of (ancient) Latin, first arguing for the viability of periodising a language history, and then defending the chronological points (or, rather, zones) dividing his five periods of Latin (Archaic, Old, Classical, Vulgar, Transitional) in a convincing way. Let me use this space to add a few remarks to this long-standing and interesting discussion. Some general problems accompany every attempt at a periodisation that "flattens" the complex linguistic reality by giving a single label to each period. From the moment Latin began to become standardised, citizens of the Roman state started to experience diglossia—a literate elite minority used the standardised form(s), at least in some contexts, while most people (if they were native speakers of Latin) continued to use peacefully their colloquial varieties that were to develop into the Romance languages. Standard and non-standard Latin were two socially distinct groups of idioms, with highly diverse destinies and vehicles of development; thus, periodisation labels favouring one of them cannot do justice to the other, although one of them is mostly inaccessible to us.4 Another problem is the status of standard Latin in later periods. The fact is that some sort of standard (or pseudo-standard) Latin has been used (and evolved, not only lexically) to date. Why not encompass all its periods within the periodisation? If the Latinity of the non-native speaker P. Terentius Afer deserves to be included in the periodisation, there is no reason not to include the Latinity of the non- native speaker Terence O. Tunberg (1950–). Even if we exclude Romance languages, the history of Latin spans more than two and a half millennia, every part of which deserves equal and undivided scholarly attention.

Although some authors have summarised the contents of their papers in their respective introductory sections, systematically highlighted abstracts would be very helpful in such a large and diverse volume, as most readers will not read it cover to cover.

The errors I have noticed in the book are minor; for example, on p. [xi] it should be García, not Garcia; on p. 169, Nedjalkov should be acknowledged as the editor of the volume(s); on p. 180, the two Russian verbs should be romanised as videt' and vidyvat' rather than as videt and vidiobat, respectively; on p. 567, the table is a little cramped, which makes reading it somewhat difficult.

The authors represented in this volume develop new theses and methodological procedures, apply the theoretical frameworks from other fields to Latin language studies, improve traditional assumptions about well-researched phenomena, detect previously unnoticed relationships between linguistic facts, bring marginal phenomena to light, use a wide range of quantitative and qualitative methods, and employ state-of-the-art information technology and modern statistical procedures in the analysis of Latin. A large number of people from four continents, and ranging from distinguished and experienced Latin language researchers to young colleagues who have followed in their footsteps, have contributed, guaranteeing the future fruitful development of the discipline.

In terms of the linguistic levels covered in the book, one can agree with the editor that the range of the topics is "as wide as the field itself" ("Preface", p. vi). Chronologically, it is focused strongly on the period of classical antiquity, with very few exceptions. The present volume is successful in continuing the tradition of the preceding Acts of the Colloquia on Latin Linguistics as one of the most comprehensive and reliable sources of up-to-date information about Latin linguistics available. ​


1.   See more about the series in my review in BMCR 2015.11.05.
2.   Ed. with P. Cuzzolin, 4 vols. Berlin; New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 2009–2012.
3.   He writes about the particles such as amabo in Latin comedy, but also comments on their degrammaticalisation, the process which moves them towards the clause kernel.
4.   Even those notions of the colloquial Latin that we know something of are transmitted to us (and unavoidably contaminated) by writing. Concerning the parity between standard and non-standad Latin, see Hilla Halla-aho, "What does 'Latin' mean? A terminological pamphlet," in Leiwo, Martti, Hilla Halla-aho and Marja Vierros (edd.), Variation and Change in Greek and Latin. Helsinki: Foundation of the Finnish Institute at Athens, 2012, 13–23.

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