Monday, November 30, 2009

Another form bites the dust

On pages 36, 88, and 405 I quote the supposed Pamphylian Greek form ϝεχέτω ‘let one bring’. I should have followed my normal practice and double-checked the original context. In fact, according to Claude Brixhe, there is no such Pamphylian form. Brixhe reads the third letter as a "trident", i.e. a letter normally used in Pamphylian to represent the reflex of *-k(h)j-. This makes it unlikely that this form has anything to do with Latin vehō, and certainly is not directly superimposable on the thematic present reflected by Latin and Indo-Iranian. Still, true cognates of vehō are found in Greek, e.g. ὄχος 'carriage' and ὀχέομαι 'am carried, ride'. In the first two contexts (pp. 36 and 88) these forms can be substituted since the question at hand is the Greek reflex of the root-final consonant. In the third context the supposed ϝεχέτω is cited to support the e-grade simple thematic, but this it obviously cannot do. Greek has no clear evidence to support that particular present-stem formation, which, of course, is abundantly supported elsewhere—though some uses of ἔχω in Homer in the sense 'guide' have been alleged to reflect the w-initial root. So ϝεχέτω joins the long list of forms that are just a little too good to be true.

On the Pamphylian trident letter see: Brixhe, Claude. 2005. Le psi et le "trident" dans l'alphabet grec de pamphylie. In F. Poli and G. Vottéro (eds.), De Cyrène à Catherine: Trois mille ans de Libyennes. Études grecques et latines offertes à Catherine Dobias-Lalou. Paris: De Boccard, 59–65.

Friday, November 13, 2009

First Second Thought

On p. 67 n. 26 I say:

There is no way to tell on metrical grounds whether the syllable division was
scul.ptus or sculp.tus since the first syllable would be closed either way. However, since pt does not occur word-initially in Latin, it was probably not a possible onset. Hence sculp.tus is a more likely syllable division. Similarly, one would divide sānctus ‘sacrosanct’ as sānc.tus, but spectrum ‘mirror’ and antrum ‘cave’ as spec.trum and an.trum.

The idea that those consonant clusters not permitted in initial position must be treated heterosyllabically in medial position goes back to antiquity. For example in An. Ox. IV 332 we read:

ὅσα σύμφωνα μὴ δύναται ἐν ἀρχῇ λέξεων ἐκφωνεῖσθαι, ταῦτα καὶ ἐν μέσῃ λέξει εὑρεθέντα χωρισθήσεται ἀλλήλων. (attributed to Herodian's Περὶ συντάξεως τῶν στοιχείων, Lentz (1870), p. 396, 1-2)

Such consonants as are unable to be pronounced at the beginning of a word are to be
separated from one another when they occur word-medially.

But, as a matter of fact, it's not clear that a necessary inference about the behavior of medial clusters can be drawn from the behavior or inventory of initial clusters. For example—as I learned from Adam Cooper of Cornell—Klamath, a Native American language spoken in Southern Oregon, has a wide variety of initial clusters but always splits medial CC clusters. But what about the other situation? Is it possible for a language to allow a richer set of medial onsets than initial onsets? In other words, does any language not permit e.g. initial
kt but syllabify medial kt as an onset? This too is alleged to occur, but I haven't tracked down a case yet. In any event, the upshot is that we simply cannot be certain about the syllable boundaries in cases like sanctus and scultpus.