Measure of our tongues over time

Indo-European Perspectives
October 28, 2005

In the 1780s, Sir William Jones gave birth to the comparative study of Indo-European languages by observing in India that Sanskrit bears to Latin and to Greek "a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident". Indo-European Perspectives honours one of the greatest Indo-Europeanists of the past generation upon her retirement as professor of comparative philology at Oxford University. The history of scholarship pieces in her own impressive bibliography help us to understand how far the field has developed in the 19th and 20th centuries. Anna Morpurgo Davies, her predecessors and her coevals have made progress on more than the structure, processes and rules of languages. Historical linguistics, as she practised it, has helped us to know better what humans think and believe about themselves and the world around them and how societies function.

Indo-European Perspectives brings together 42 studies in historical linguistics. The emphasis is on Indo-European and Classical linguistics, the history of Greek and Latin, and the cultures of Mycenaean Greece and Anatolia. It is a worthy tribute from international colleagues to Morpurgo Davies' trend-setting work in onomastics, Greek dialectology, Mycenaean lexicography, Anatolian languages, writing systems, history of scholarship and social history. It also forms a snapshot of current work in these fields.

The editor has organised the contributions by language area and provided numerous cross-references between authors. These unify the five main sections: Indo-European (IE), Greek, Anatolian, Western Indo-European languages, and Indo-Iranian and Tocharian. Two final pieces, on the history of IE linguistics, by Javier de Hoz and Klaus Strunk, contextualise the work of the Spanish Celticist Lorenzo Herv s and the language-contact/diffusionist pioneer Johannes Schmidt.

Other studies have a similar history-of-scholarship flavour. Jay Jasanoff places his analysis of Lachmann's law in the framework of the so-called analogy wars of the 1960s and 1970s. Charles de Lamberterie explores the treatment of sonant liquids in Mycenaean Greek, Homeric epic and historical Greek dialects, going back and forward from Morpurgo Davies' "salutary refusal" nearly 40 years ago to accept the prevailing scholarly consensus.

De Lamberterie ends with a tribute to Saussure's informed prescience in 1878 that proves the soundness of Morpurgo Davies' career-long emphasis on the importance of 19th-century interpretations.

Five articles address Indo-European as a whole; 18 are on Greek (Calvert Watkins and C. J. Ruijgh also deal centrally with Greek, in the IE section); five consider Anatolian languages (along with Watkins' triple treatment of Greek, Vedic and Anatolian material, from the IE section). Of the rest, Italic has three contributions, Celtic and Germanic two each (as well as Peter Schrijver's comparative investigation of Celtic and Greek evidence, in the Greek section), Old and Middle Iranian three, and Vedic Sanskrit and Tocharian one each. Four of the Greek articles deal primarily with Mycenaean Greek or Linear B texts (Ivo Hajnal, John Killen, de Lamberterie, Torsten Meissner). Mycenology was one of Morpurgo Davies's prime areas of interest from the time of her first book, which was also the first dictionary in the then 11-year-old field, Mycenaeae Graecitatis Lexicon (1963). The other Greek articles span the breadth of her work as a Hellenist, from Homer to the Attic-based dialect, Koine. The pièce de résistance here is Geoffrey Horrocks's investigation of motion verbs from ancient Greek to modern in the light of recent work on the semantics of verbal aspect as it relates to tense and location.

Many contributors gracefully acknowledge their debt to Morpurgo Davies, especially in opening new areas for scholarly investigation. Killen's piece, for instance, takes its cue from Morpurgo Davies's 1999 treatment of the morphology of Greek and Mycenaean personal names. Two more detailed examples must suffice.

Helmut Rix's discussion of Achilles and Hercules in their earliest Latin and Italic attestations is written half in Italian and half in English, saluting Morpurgo Davies's Italian birth and training, her work as a scholar and teacher at Oxford over 34 years, her clear and logical use of the language of her adopted country, and her standing as a paramount figure on the Classical and linguistic scene in the UK and internationally.

Watkins, in his comparative close reading of Indo-European origin myths and their underlying cultural matrix of "detachable themes", chooses a topic and a title ("The third donkey: origin legends and some hidden Indo-European themes") that explicitly recalls and returns the compliment of Morpurgo Davies's co-authored discussion "Of donkeys, mules and Tarkondemos" contributed to Watkins' own 1998 festschrift Mír Curad , for which his opening paragraph expresses his admiring gratitude.

The volume as a whole demonstrates how many new areas of inquiry Morpurgo Davies has explored and how influential her work has been and is likely to remain.

The linguistic subfields that receive the most attention here are as follows: 1) Morphology, specifically analogy, verb-morpheme, tense and suppletion, nouns, adjectives, participles, particles and pronouns, and compounds; 2) Sound change and historical phonology; 3) Syntactic change, studies of aspect and fronting, and a detailed analysis of early Greek preverb/verb tmesis (syntax is one area that could have benefited from a little more coverage, especially considering the strong bridge building growth it has seen over the past 15 years); 4) Formula, poetics, and metaphor and semantics; 5) Dialectal attitudes, including linguistic imperialism and Koine-isation; 6) Speaker-pragmatics, the language of women and of men, spoken/written language differences and inherited Indo-European medical language; 7) Metrics and prosody; 8) Lexicon/lexical fields, theonyms, onomastics; 9) Sign-forms and epigraphy.

The breadth and eclectic wealth of a multiple-authored volume such as this are impossible to capture in a brief review, so we content ourselves with a few further selected highlights. Ruijgh's analysis of the pervasive IE instrumental morpheme *-eh1 -, following Jochem Schindler - and his defence of its originally stative value as a verbal suffix (rather than fientive) - is persuasively anchored in careful distributional sifting of the Greek-internal and comparative evidence. This is buttressed by Norbert Oettinger's derivation of IE *h1y-eh1-r- "year/time/hour" in Anatolian, Greek, Iranian and elsewhere (eg, English year ) from the IE *h1ey- "go" root (thus statively "extension", season/year"). George Dunkel argues for inclusive/exclusive as a demonstrable but hitherto ignored IE morphological category underlying the entire personal-pronoun system. Joshua Katz presents a compelling new, Anatolian-guided look at IE *(s)neh2- "swim" as a morphophonologically and semantically well-founded source for the old puzzle *(s)neh2-(ont-) "duck" (Hittite lahhanza(n)- Greek nêssa , beside Latin anas , German Ente ).

Anatolian is solidly covered. Craig Melchert takes Hieroglyphic Luvian pa- "allocate" - in an epitaph - as reflecting IE *bhag- (Vedic bhaga-vant -"generous"), with broader phonological and genre implications for IE and cross-linguistically, especially in light of Hieroglyphic Luvian ( katta ) aka- "subjugate" IE *(h1)ag- "lead" (Latin ag-o , Greek ág-o ).

Gillian Hart, tackling central cruxes of Anatolian phonology, radically recasts traditional Hittite hui(-)s- "be alive" and links it to IE *gweih3- "live" (Latin viv-o , English quick ).

From the Greek world, Andreas Willi - Morpurgo Davies's Indo-Europeanist successor in classical philology at Oxford - uses Greek áphenos "wealth" aphrós "foam" (beside Welsh afon Latin amnis "river") to trace a preserved "flowing river = affluent prosperity" metaphor (as in English abundance Latin unda "wave", Greek ploû-tos ~ ple(w)-o "flow"), built to a convincingly posited IE word for "fast-flowing river", *h2ebh-r/n- .

Rudolf Wachter, investigating a drinking formula commonly inscribed on mid-6th century BC Athenian drinking cups, tracks both IE-inherited origins - playing on the wording and recompense-driven underpinnings of religious dedication - and the synchronic language of oral formulas and homoerotic love tokens.

Meanwhile, José Luis García Ramón works on the Vedic Sanskrit corpus with philological precision, adding another pair of suppletive verbs (meaning "honour, offer") to the Indo-Iranian stock. Within Germanic, Don Ringe subtly disentangles the problems surrounding Old English mathelian / mœthlan "speak" in light of paradigmatic analogy, phonology, metrics and the formulaic dynamics of oral poetry.

Willi calls Morpurgo Davies "a scholar and teacher who knows more about Greek and Anatolian than anyone else"; and Henry Hoenigswald captures a strong sentiment running through this volume. He "count(ed) the intellectual stimulation which he derived over the years from Anna Davies and her work among the most precious gifts to his scholarly existence".

Mark Southern is assistant professor of German, linguistics and classical studies, Middlebury College, Vermont, US. Tom Palaima is director, Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory, University of Texas, Austin, US.

Indo-European Perspectives: Studies in Honour of Anna Morpurgo Davies

Editor - J. H. W. Penney
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Pages - 598
Price - £84.00
ISBN - 0 19 925892 9

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