The Foundations of Latin

The Foundations of Latin

The Foundations of Latin

The Foundations of Latin

Synopsis

This volume provides an up-to-date account of the linguistic evolution of Latin, from its origins in the Proto-Indo-European ancestral language until the end of the second century CE. As the first English-language treatment of the history of Latin and its speakers in four decades, this study fills a critical need in classical and linguistic scholarship.

Excerpt

Generations of students of Indo-European linguistics and of the Classics have been initiated to the history of the Latin language according to a familiar model. Most start with Palmer's The Latin language. The curious journey through Buck's Comparative grammar of Greek and Latin and Meillet's Esquisse d'une histoire de la langue latine. The committed know that the real answers lie somewhere in Sommer—Pfister's Handbuch der lateinischen Lout- und Formenlehre, and especially Leumann's Lateinische Laut- und Formenlehre, to which we might now add Sihler's massive revision and rewrite of Buck, the New comparative grammar of Greek and Latin. Specific interests and particular issues may take the serious to the works of Meillet—Vendryes, Devoto, Pisani, Niedermann, Prosdocimi and many others. But the road becomes rocky beyond Palmer, and without some specialized guidance or training, even the most ardent enthusiast of the history of Latin will find some of the issues impenetrable. Many give up on the topic, convinced that the arcane methodology and specialized techniques of Indo-European linguistics place the details beyond the grasp of the everyday scholar and ambitious student of IndoEuropean or classical studies.

In the United States, students of the Classics and the basic Indo-European foundations of Latin have relied primarily on Palmer and Buck. Each of these fine volumes has undeniable merits and strengths, and an equal number of evident flaws and weaknesses. The same is true of other synthetic accounts of the history of Latin. In some, there is no information on methodology and basic assumptions of historicalcomparative research; in others there is a lack of discussion of the sources of information on which the historical linguistic analysis of Latin and the other Indo-European languages is based; in still others there is a lack of cultural and historical perspective, with the history of Latin presented as if the language had no speakers; most lack a coherent treatment of the inscriptional tradition, and of the non-Latin Italic languages; and in none of them is there a serious treatment of historical syntax, i.e. the evolution of Latin sentence structure from its Proto-Indo-European beginnings. In fact, not one of the available resources addresses the total picture of the history of Latin, methodologically, linguistically, materially and culturally, from its Indo-European origins up to the time when it starts to move in the direction of the Romance languages.

When I began this project over a decade ago, I imagined that The foundations of Latin would fill all the gaps in the previous literature, and add a few original twists of its own. It is my hope now that it will fill some of the gaps, and still add some original twists. This volume includes an account of historical linguistic methodology and the Indo-European family of languages which surpasses that found in comparable works. I have tried to justify linguistic details essential to the precise understanding of the history of Latin and the other Indo-European languages, and to . . .

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