Disputatio:Nomina litterarum abecedarii Latini
Vide s.v.p.[fontem recensere]
- I've rewritten the page to take account of IacobusAmor's report of Allen's conclusions (I don't have his book). If wrongly, please correct. Andrew Dalby (disputatio) 13:35, 19 Novembris 2010 (UTC)
On the missing Varro/Priscian cite[fontem recensere]
It was asked if Allen gives the exact reference to Varro and Priscian—this is one of the (few) places Allen does not seem to be scrupulous about his citation, unfortunately. There are two places he mentions Varro; first, in response to Terentianus' line "b cum uolo uel c tibi uel dicere d, g", where the letters must be spoken to fit the meter but are not spelled out, he says "Other grammarians, some citing Varro, specify these names as ending in e—the length of which, as we have seen, is established by metre". He establishes the names of the vowels A E I O U and the stops B C D G P T by statements of grammarians, metrical concerns (attestations in various lines of poetry), and phonological concerns (the requirement of monosyllables to be metrically heavy). The second mention of Varro is the following:
- Of the remaining letters, f, l, m, n, r, s are all 'continuants', i.e. sounds which, unlike the plosives, can be prolonged and so, like the vowels, could form independent syllables (cf. the pronunciation of the second syllable of bottle or button, or the exclamation pst). For this reason they were termed semiuocales (after the Greek ἡμίφωνα): cf. p. 37, n. 1 and VG, p. 17; AR, pp. 32-4. x (like Greek ξ, ψ, ζ) is also commonly included among these as containing the continuant s. It would theoretically be possible to name all these letters simply by sounding them, without the addition of a vowel, but Terentianus says that he cannot name them because their sound is hardly adequate, particularly in verse. This statement, together with those of some other grammarians, suggests (though this is not certain) that the letters in question had in fact at some time or by some persons been so named, i.e. simply as syllabic consonants. Though such sounds are phonemic in some languages (e.g. syllabic ṛ, ḷ in Sanskrit), they fall outside normal Latin phonology; and another system of naming, attributed to Varro, changes them into acceptable Latin forms by replacing the syllabicity of the consonant by a minimal syllabic of the actual language, viz. by a short vowel (of the same quality as the long vowel in the names of the plosives). In order to conform to the structure of accentable monosyllables in Latin, however, this vowel must precede the consonant (for fĕ etc. would be light syllables)—hence ĕf, ĕl, ĕm, ĕn, ĕr, ĕs, and ĕx, though the last is by some writers changed to ĭx on the analogy of the late Greek ξῖ (earlier ξεῖ). [...] Eventually it was the Varronian system that prevailed and is found, for instance, in Priscian."
At this point he inserts his footnote mentioning the Antinoe papyrus as an alternative. Twice saying that the system was attributed to Varro suggests that Varro's original statements do not survive. He does not, however, give the citation of Priscian either (he refers the reader to A.E. Gordon, The Letter Names of the Latin Alphabet for further detail on the whole matter, saying that his essay on the subject is but a summary of Gordon's sources). —Mucius Tever 03:05, 21 Novembris 2010 (UTC)
- Thanks very much, Mucius, for taking the trouble to copy that out. It explains why, in searching the text of Varro LL for some of these syllables, I never found any discussion of letter names -- because such a discussion isn't there! But our text of LL is incomplete, and Varro wrote a great deal else, so there need be no doubt (if Priscian or somebody calls the system Varronian) that it really does go back to him. If anyone can add a reference to Priscian, or better still a quotation, that will improve our page further.
- Children in some British schools are taught to name these continuants more-or-less as "syllabic consonants" (the same system that Allen hypothesises to explain the remark by Terentianus). Hence, when our daughter Rachel received her first-ever officially addressed letter, she asked "Why do they call me Miss ʀ̩ Dalby?" Andrew Dalby (disputatio) 14:36, 22 Novembris 2010 (UTC)
- OK, I've now found the passage in Priscian and I have edited it into our page. Please, anyone who has time, check my copy-editing (I don't find this grammatical stuff easy) and consider whether (as I now think after some re-reading!) Priscian implies that all the names go back to Varro although he actually cites the names of the continuants from Servius. Have I got that right? Andrew Dalby (disputatio) 16:42, 22 Novembris 2010 (UTC)