Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ennius Project

Since I'm getting into early Latin poetry, I have in mind to read a bunch of Ennius. I plan to post a few fragments, with a translation, and write up short comments on aspects that intrigue me. I follow the organization and numbering of the Skutsch commentary.

Ennius was born in Rudiae in 239 BC. He was Messapian by birth and perhaps partly Oscan; his sister's son's same is Pacuvius, a good Oscan name, and the name Ennius may itself be Oscan. Having served in the Roman Army, he earned his Roman citizenshp in 184 BC, and, perhaps while serving in the army, encountered Cato, who took him to Rome (Nepos, Cato 1.4). There, he made a living as a teacher (Suet. gramm. 1), and it was probably through Cato that he met M. Fulvius Nobilior, who became Ennius' patron. Ennius died around 169 BC.

The Annals consisted of eighteen books (Diom. 1.484) that are organized into groups of three: Books 1-3 treated the Regal Period, 4-6 covered the conquest of Italy and the Pyrric War, 7-9 went over the Punic Wars, 10-12 treated the affairs of Greece, 13-15 covered the Syrian War and Fulivius' triumph over the Aetolians, and 16-18 treated the recent wars.

Book 1
1. Musae, quae pedibus magnum pulsatis Olympum
'Muses, [you] who beat mighty Olympus with your feet'

This is generally assumed to be the first line of the poem. It comes to us from Varro LL VII, 19, who quoted it to show that 'caelum dicunt Graeci Olympum...'

Skutsch notes that there may be later echoes of this line; cf. Aen 10.216 curru...Phoebe medium pulsabat Olympum, Ovid Met. 6.487 equique pulsabant pedibus spatium decliuis Olympi. More interesting to me are the Homeric parallels. Dismissed out of hand is Il. 8.443 ...ὑπὸ ποσσὶ μέγας πελεμίζετ' Ὄλυμπος, '...under [Zeus'] feet, mighty Olympus quaked'. But, I think the interlocking word order A b C b that shows up in both the Ennius and the Homer is hard to ignore. Note also the alliterative parallel pedibus...pulsatis and ποσσὶ...πελεμίζετ'. But maybe I like this because I've read too much Calvert Watkins.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mine Blog, bereft of life it is not

Returned to the blogosphere I have; freed from the madness that was the fall semester.

Posts to follow shortly.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

School Starts Tomorrow

Well, my classes start tomorrow, and the year is shaping up to be a fascinating, but rather intense one. I'm taking two Greek classes; in one we're reading Lyric Poetry and the other is Book 24 of the Iliad. Also on the menu is a Latin class in which we're doing Seneca's play Thyestes as well as an independent study in Sanskrit. I'm also sitting in on another reading course and doing some Tacitus.

On top of all this I'm broke, so I'm looking around for a part time job but these aren't easy to come across in this booming economy of ours. Oh well. At any rate, expect some posts relating to my classes, especially the Greek and the Sanskrit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Vladimir Horowitz is a badass.

Horowitz is probably my favorite classical pianist; his interpretations are at one time fiery and have sort of a nervous energy about them, and at another soft and whimsical. This, however, is not what makes him a badass.

In 1988 Horowitz was nominated for (and won) a Grammy award for his recording of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23. However, he skipped out on the Grammys in favor of receiving the National Bow-Tie Wearers Association Award. And for that he earned my undying respect.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mesomedes I

In the standard numbering of Mesomedes' poems, the first two are joined. I think it's quite a beautiful poem.

ἄιεδε Μοῦσα μοι φίλη,
μολπῆς δ' ἐμῆς κατάρχου,
αὒρη δὲ σῶν ἀπ' ἀλσέων,
ἐμάς φρένας δονείτω.

Καλλιόπεια σοφά,
Μουσῶν προκαθαγέτι τερπῶν,
καὶ σοφὲ μυστοδότα,
Λατοῦς γόνε, Δήλιε Παιάν,
εὐμενεῖς πάρεστέ μοι.

Sing to me, beloved muse,
start up my song,
Let the breeze from your sacred grove
stir my mind.

O wise Calliope,
leader of the delightful muses,
and you, wise giver of mysteries,
son of Leto, Apollo from Delos,
kind ones: stand near me.

Note the internal rhyme in lines 2, 3, 4, and 6 as well as the rather uncommon 3rd person imperative in line 4.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Thomas Jefferson Was so Smart

Thomas Jefferson's study regime when he was studying law was insane. He divided his day into five periods as follows:

From whenever he awoke to 8:00 AM-- Physical Sciences, Ethics, Religion, Natural Law

8:00 AM to 12:00--Law

12:00-1:00--Economics and Politics

1:00 to dusk--History (American, English, Greek [sources read in the original], Roman [again, sources read in the original])

dusk to midnight--Belles lettres, Oratory, Rhetoric, Criticism. Greek and Latin authors were (of course) read in the original.

It's no wonder he was probably the most learned and cultured President in American history.

Archilochus I

εἰμὶ δ' ἐγὼ θεράπων μὲν Ἐνυαλίοιο ἄνακτος
καὶ Μουσέων ἐρατὸν δῶρον ἐπιστάμενος

A servant am I, of Ares, the Lord
and skilled in the gift that the Muses award.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dative/Nominative/Ergative Subjects?!

The case system of Georgian is a giant mess. Basically speaking, Georgian is an ergative language, meaning that it uses the ergative case for 'agents' (subjects of transitive verbs), and the absolutive case for 'intransitive subjects' and 'direct objects'. However, things are not quite this simple. Georgian makes a distinction between unergative and unaccusative subjects.

[Aside of explaination]
Intransitive verbs can be divided into two main classes. Fillmore (1968) posited two general formulas for these:

V + A (intransitive, active subject)

V + O (intransitive, inactive subject)

The first type came to be called unergative verbs (more 'agentive'), while the second were called unaccusatives. Perlmutter and Postal (1984: 98-99) wrote up a list of examples of both types:

Unergative Verbs:

Willed or Volitional Acts- speak, laugh, cry, walk
Manner of Speaking- whisper, mumble, bellow
Animal Sounds- bark, neigh, roar
Involuntary Bodily Processes- cough, sneeze, belch,

Unaccusative Verbs:

Affected Argument- burn, fall, dry
Inchoatives- melt, die, grow
Existing and Happening- exist, happen, arise
Involuntary Emission of Stimuli- shine, clink, stink
[End aside of explaination]

Now, unergative verbs require an ergative subject in Georgian, while unaccusative verbs do not. Moreover, the ergative case also shows up only in past tense constructions (unless it's an unergative verb, in which case it takes the ergative case in the present, past). In the present tense, the subject will appear in the nominative. Languages of this sort have, I believe, been called 'active' as opposed to 'ergative'. Another strange thing: in the perfect tense, the subject is in the dative, of all cases. How this situation arose I have no idea.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I Have Returned...

..., freed from the chains of employment. Working 10-12 hours a day doesn't leave much time for blogging, so my posts have deteriorated in number over the summer (the final count is zero).

However, more are forthcoming on an oddity of the Georgian case system, some thoughts on Greek Lyric poetry, and most likely a rant about the GRE.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why I'm a Masochist, or, My Summer Reading List


Cicero Pro Roscio Amerino (already started)
Cicero Phillipic I
Random Catullus Poems
Tibullus; all of his poems


Euripides' Bacchae
Homer Iliad Book 24
A book of the New Testament

Other Stuff:

Learn German
Learn Old English or Old Norse

All this while working twelve hours a day six days a week so that I can pay for next year's schooling as well as have some money so I can pay for grad school.

Fun fun. I doubt much of it will get done.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Audio Recordings of Various Greek Texts

Here are some websites on which there are recordings of various people reading various Greek and Latin texts.

There's a good collection on here, ranging from Cicero and Catullus to Herodotus.

Also, on this site are audio recordings of the entire Greek New Testament.

'Tis pretty cool stuff.

Friday, March 27, 2009

On Greek ἐυπάτωρ

Can we derive Gk ἐυπάτωρ 'having a good father' straight from an IE root? The root would be a so-called nominal composite, that is, a noun formed from two elements, in this case an adverb and a noun. The first element of the compound is unproblematic *h1esu; it is the second part that may cause some troubles. The second nominal element is obviously derived from *ph2-tér-s (nom. sing), which is a standard hysterkinetic noun. The question becomes, then, can we derive an amphikinetic noun from a hysterokinetic one? The second element of the nominal composite would have to be *pá-tōr-s. The accent shift is interesting. From the root *ph2-tér-s, two methods of derivation are possible. First, the root with a syllabic laryngeal would have to hold the accent, so we would have *ph2-tōr-s. There are apparently roots which have accented syllabic resonants, but the roots (the ones for 'wolf' and 'bear') are a bit sketchy to being with, and to my knowledge there are no roots which have an accented syllabic laryngeal. So this, to me, seems unlikely. The second possibility is then the best one: namely that the accent shift occured after the 'loss' of the laryngeal and the creation of the 'a' vowel. Thus, in my view, we would have

*ph2-tér-s > *pa-tér-s > *h1esu-pá-tōr-s >ἐυ-πάτωρ.

and not

*ph2-tér-s > *ph2-tōr-s [with the accent on the root] > *h1esu-pá-tōr-s >ἐυ-πάτωρ.

Given all of this, it seems that whether ἐυπάτωρ comes from a 'true' IE root hinges upon when the shift from *h2 > α happened, which presumably was a post-IE-pre-Greek development. Thus, I would argue that the Greek word cannot be derived straight from an IE root, given that the shift from *h2 > a is a prerequisite of the derivation of the nominal element in the compound. To be fair, though, nominal composites such as this need much more work. Perhaps it's a future project for me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Some IE Poetic Formulas from Watkins

Here are some of the IE poetic formulas which Watkins reconstructs in How To Kill a Dragon. This is by no means an exhaustive list (yet...)

PROTECT (*pah2-) MEN (*ṷihxro-) (and) LIVESTOCK (*peƙu)

GRAIN and BARLEY (*ieṷo-)

COVENATED (*ṷṛh1-to-) RECOMPENSE (*misdho-)

TREE (*dru-) (and) ROCK

PROdat BE (*h1es-) FAME (*ƙleṷos) IMPERISHABLE (*ṇdgʷitom) EVER(LASTING) (*h2ai̯u-)

PROnom HAVE (seĝh-/*dheh1-) FAME (*ƙleṷos) IMPERISHABLE (*ṇdgʷitom) EVER(LASTING) (*h2ai̯u-)


HERO1 SLAY (*gʷhen-) HERO2



The formulas related to the slaying of the monster/serpent can also be reversed, as in Beowulf, for example, where the monster kills the hero. For a full discussion of these and other formulas see Watkins (1995) How To Kill a Dragon. (New York: Oxford University Press)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Buck's Grammar of Oscan and Umbrian

Here is a link where you can download Carl Buck's Grammar of Oscan and Umbrian in PDF format. 'Tis a decent grammar; it includes some inscriptions and a glossary as well.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gibbon on the Conversion of Constantine

Edward Gibbon hates Constantine. He sees Constantine's reforms as "the mortal wound which had been so rashly or so weakly inflicted...". Interestingly, though, he devotes a huge swath of his History to Constantine, more than any other period in Roman history. This is no doubt because he saw the main causes of the fall of the Roman Empire as barbarism and Christianity. He wrote, burned, and then rewrote this section; he writes,"it is difficult to arrange with order and perspicuity the various transactions of the age of Constantine: and so much was I displeased with the first Essay, that I committed to the flames above fifty sheets." (Memoirs, p. 159). Thus it seems he experienced some frustration when writing the section.

Serious issue is taken with the so-called conversion of Constantine; he regards the two main sources for the event, Eusebius and Lactantius, as next to worthless. The traditional tale runs as follows: prior to the battle of the Mulvian Bridge, Constantine saw a vision in the heavens, which was seen again in a dream of his. In this dream, the emperor was ordered to place the sign on his banner, and fight under the auspices of the Christian God. Constantine proceeded to win the battle.

Gibbon writes, "I shall endeavour to form a just estimate of the standard, the dream, and the celestial sign; by separating the historical, the natural, and the marvellous parts of this extraordinary story, which, in the composition of a specious argument, have been artfully confounded in one splendid and brittle mass." (Decline and Fall XX, 317) He begins first with Lactantius. Of his account Gibbon notes that it was published "at Nicomedia about three years after the Roman victory" which afforded "ample latitude for the inventions of declaimers, the credulity of party, and the tacit approbation of the emperor himself." (Decline and Fall XX, 321). Thus Gibbon seems to think that the account of Lactantius is mere fabrication and that Constantine perhaps had some hand in the creation of the story.

Turning his guns to Eusebius, Gibbon then proceeds to demolish the Church historian's account. He notes that Eusebius only makes mention of Constantine's conversion in his De vita Constantini, and not in his Ecclesiastical History, which was published earlier than the Life of Constantine; in his own words, "the silence of the same Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History, is deeply felt by those advocates for the miracle who are not absolutely callous. " (Decline and Fall XX, 323) He then argues that "the advocates for the vision of Constantine are unable to produce a single testimony from the Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries." Indeed, Gibbon notes that there is no independent testimony from any witnesses of the event in Eusebius, or anywhere else, save Lactantius, and that the sources for both of these accounts was Constantine himself. He takes this to mean that the whole event is a sham, which was fabricated by Constantine.

Why, then, according to Gibbon, would Constantine create such a story? Because he “used the altars of the church as a convenient footstool to the throne of the empire,” (Decline and Fall XX, 314), that is to say, Constantine used the Church to further his position and this story of his conversion served as a propaganda tool. Christians, though a minority, were slowly becoming a powerful force in the Empire, and Constantine, according to Gibbon, recognized this and acted out of a sheer desire for practical advantage; “In the beginning of the fourth century the Christians still bore a very inadequate proportion of the inhabitants of the empire; but among a degenerate people, who viewed the change of matters with the indifference of slaves, the spirit and union of a religious party might assist the popular leader to whose service, from a principle of conscience, they had devoted their lives and fortunes.” (Decline and Fall, XX, 316). Gibbon states later that, “the same motives of temporal advantage which might influence the public conduct and professions of Constantine would insensibly dispose his mind to embrace a religion so propitious to his fame and fortunes.” (Decline and Fall XX, 325)

Thus, Gibbon regards the story of Constantine’s conversion as part of his shrewd operation to gain practical advantage from a conversion to Christianity, and does not hold any real historical weight.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Latin 'pasco'

At first glance, the Latin verb pa:sco appears to be one of your usual *ske/o presents. This, however, is not the case; one can tell by the lengthened grade of the root. Normally the *-ske/o- suffix is added to the zero-grade of the root, which would thus yield pasco, with a short 'a' < *ph2-sko instead of *peh2-s- > pa:sco. According to the Etymological Dictionary of Latin by Michiel de Vann, the -sc- in the Latin verb is an "enlarged variant of the 's-present'", this s-present being formed from the root *peh2- 'to protect'. How this 'enlarged variant' comes about, I do not know.

s-presents usually have a desiderative meaning, that is, they express desire or intent. That -sc- is a desiderative suffix on the root *peh2- makes some semantic sense; *peh2-s- would mean 'to want/intend to protect', which leads us to the meaning of pasco in Latin, namely 'to feed, nurture, nourish'

Now I wonder how many other verbs which show this 'enlarged variant' there are.

As a random aside: this series is fantastic. I can't wait for the Greek one which Beekes is preparing to come out.

Monday, March 9, 2009

On the Demise of Classical Music

It is a sorry fact that Classical music has seen its heyday come and go, and I would like to try and outline a few reasons why this occurred

In the 19th century, concert recitals became quite popular due to folks such as Liszt, Thalberg, and other composer-pianists. Normally, composers would merely perform their own works in concert, either at a premiere, or in subsequent performances. Liszt, however, really pioneered the piano recital, in which he would perform not only his own works, but also those of other composers (Beethoven, Chopin, etc). This, as its popularity increased throughout time, gave rise to the structure of modern recitals and performances that we know today.

Now, for a thought experiment. Imagine what would happen if there were around, say, 150 "pop" songs that were regularly performed. That is, artists have stopped creating their own music, and instead do covers of these 150 songs. Now, imagine that these artists were bound by a score, a score which they cannot deviate from, that is to say, they have to sound exactly like the original song. Would pop music not become stagnant and stale? It is for this reason that classical music has lost its mass appeal: artists are (1) not composing anymore (partly because, with the advent of the "recital", they can just perform other people's works), which leads to (2) the same pieces are performed over and over again, and (3) the score of these pieces is sacred, that is to say, it is blasphemous for an artist to tamper with the directions which the composer set forth. In other words, classical music has become stagnant and stale; there is little originality because there can be no originality given the framework which musicians must work under.

What, then, must we do? First, we must to some extent do away with the notion that the score cannot be deviated from. New criteria must be established to judge a "good" performance, for, according to some, a good performance can only be as such if the artist sticks closely with the score. We need more artists like Glenn Gould, who was not afraid to tamper with the score in favour of artistic expression and original interpretation. A good example is his recording of the first movement of Mozart's Sonata in A Major. It is a theme and variations, and, in the score the second to last variation is marked "adagio". Gould, however, plays it like an "allegretto". Lo and behold, it works, it doesn't sound "bad", and even fixes the architecture of the movement: the theme is slow, and, as the movement progresses, the speed and energy picks up, instead of being interrupted by an adagio in the second to last variation. What is needed is strikingly original interpretations such as this: artists must not be afraid to counter the composers intentions. If pop artists did covers which sounded exactly like the original they would not be terribly interesting; similarly, one can only hear so many renditions of Schubert or Chopin which sound robotic because they all follow the letter of the score.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Laryngeal Reflexes in Latin: Part II

So Matt pointed out that the section in Sihler where he (Sihler, not Matt) goes over syllabic laryngeals may shed some light on why a laryngeal which stands in between two consonants fails to show the triple reflex in Latin. Apparently this is the reason: it's a syllabic laryngeal, which develops differently in Latin as well as Sanskrit, for that matter. (CHC > Lat. CaC, Skt. CiC)

I don't know if I like this explanation. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something seems fishy. I wonder whether Hittite shows any reflexes of these syllabic laryngeals. Off to Kloekhorst!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Laryngeal Reflexes in Latin

So, apparently one can argue that there is a triple reflex of the laryngeals in Latin; I was looking through The Blackwell History of the Latin Language (2007)by James Clackson and Geoffrey Horrocks, and stumbled upon this. I was under the impression that it was only Greek that showed this triple reflex. I shall have to look into this further.

Here are some reflexes which Clackson & Horrocks use to support this conclusion:

*eh1 > Lat. e:, Gk. e:, Skt. a: Ex. *dheh1- > Lat. fe:-ci, Gk. ti-the:-mi

*eh2 > Lat. a:, Gk. a:, Skt. a: Ex. *peh2- 'pasture' > Lat. pa:-sco, Hitt. pahs-

*eh3 > Lat. o:, Gk. o:, Skt. a: Ex. *deh3 'give' > Lat. do:s, Gk. di-do:-mi, Skt. da-da:-mi

However, it seems that this only occurs under certain conditions. For example, when a laryngeal stands on its own between two consonants, it seems to always develop into Lat. 'a'; Greek, naturally, still shows the triple reflex. So, when a laryngeal is next to an 'e' in PIE, the reflexes seem to be the same as in Greek, namely 'e', 'a', and 'o'. Cf:

*h1esti > Lat. est

*h2ent- 'front' > Lat. ante

*h3ekw- 'eye' > Lat. oculus


*sth2to- 'standing, stood' > Lat. status

*dh3to- 'given' > Lat. datus

Quite curious. I wonder why.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Aeneid Book 4

Let us delve in and see what we can come up with.

At regina gravi iamdudum saucia cura
vulnus alit venis, et caeco carpitur igni.
multa viri virtus animo, multusque recursat
gentis honos; haerent infixi pectore vultus
verbaque, nec placidam membris dat cura quietem. (1-5)

postera Phoeba lustrabat lampade terras,
umentemque Aurora polo dimoverat umbram,
cum sic unanimam adloquiter male sana sororem: (6-8)

Note first all of the hard palatal sounds in the first five lines; this adds effect to the jarring, harsh state which Dido is in. Here Virgil is describing how the queen is completely consumed with love for Aeneas, and the palatals lend an air of harshness to the lines. Note also that there are many voiceless dental stops; the t's are also a harsh sound.

Note then how things change in the next three lines. In the description of the dawn breaking (6-7), we find mostly soft sounds: labials and liquids predominate, and we don't find nearly as many of the harsher sounds like in the first five lines. The lines sound softer and more gentle; the two sets of lines juxtaposed to one another create an interesting contrast between the soft dawn and the harsh passion which Dido is captured by.

More thoughts will be posted as they occur to me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On Seneca

I have, for a long time, purposely avoided Roman drama, believing it was merely a cheap knockoff of the Greeks. However, I recently picked up some Seneca and was pleasantly surprised. Although in some sense they are a rip off of Greek tragedy, insofar as he uses Greek myth as his subject matter, Seneca's tragedies are completely different in tone and focus from Greek tragedy as a whole. He seems to be more inward in focus, concentrating more on the psychology of characters rather than a mere retelling of a story in dramatic form. The closest parallel in Greek tragedy is perhaps Euripides, who also has a psychological bent to him.

Take Seneca's play 'Hercules', for example. The "plot" of the play is actually rather lame: Juno is angry that Hercules has managed to get Cerberus from the Underworld, so she decides to set the Furies on him. Hercules goes bonkers, kills his wife and children, and then takes up an offer from Theseus to go to Athens to be purified. It is simple and, in terms of pure action, rather boring. What is interesting is the mind and attitudes of Hercules throughout the play. He is actually rather naive and innocent, while still being a bit of a megalomaniac, even prior to his manic episode. His quest, generally, seems to be the promotion of law and order and the extinguishing of injustice. But, when he returns, he prays that there be no violent storms, or poisonous plants (l. 931-936) . A noble sentiment, but this shows an ignorance of the way the world really works. (Incidentally, I think that Juno should have given Hercules a quest such as this: destroying all the hemlock plants would probably be harder for Hercules than leading Cerberus around on a leash; it would be more comic as well. But then I suppose this isn't exactly what Seneca was going for.)

Hercules' descent into madness is fascinating. At first, we think it is merely his megalomania asserting itself; he says that, "non capit terra Herculem / tandemque superis reddit." This is perhaps understandable given that he has just completed his last labor, and should then receive his entry into heaven as was promised. However, we soon find out this is much more than his egotistical notions. Right around line 975 we start to realize that Hercules has gone completely insane. He says, "Gigantes arma pestiferi movent", 'the pestilential Giants are in arms". He is apparently having visions of the Giants being armed and ready to fight; he then goes on to describe them. Then, his madness is confirmed: he thinks that his children are those of Lycus, who usurped the throne of Thebes, and that his wife is Juno and proceeds to slaughter them, which is described in all its gory detail by Amphitryon, eg.

dextra precantem rapuit et circa furens
bis ter rotatum misit; ast illi caput
sonuit, cerebro tecta disperso madent. (1005-1007)

in coniugem nunc clava libratur gravis:
perfregit ossa, corpori trunco caput
abest nec usquam est. (1024-1026)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

More on those Lectures posted below

So, that site on which the Kagan lectures are posted is FANTASTIC. There are many other courses on there, including an interesting looking one on the Old Testament. Along with the video lectures, there are syllabi, with readings from textbooks for the course! In essence, they are free university courses from Yale, etc.

The main site is here

There needs to be more things like this online.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Donald Kagan Lectures on Greek History

Here are a set of 24 video lectures delivered by Donald Kagan, who hails from Yale University, on Greek history. I have yet to watch them, but I imagine they can't be all that bad.

Kagan Lectures

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Possible revised paradigm of the verb 'to be' in IE

Here is possible paradigm of the verb 'to be' in PIE; I wonder if I can account for all the reflexes in the daughter languages.



You will notice that there is no intial *h1; indeed, this is the point. Now then, on to some reflexes.

This paradigm accounts for the Latin forms quite nicely; *esi > es; *esti > est. For the 3rd person plural, Palmer's argument (see this post below) still holds; *s-enti > *s-onti > sunt. Then, the first person plural was created by analogy to the third person plural *smes > sumus and, from this, the first person singular was spawned by analogy *esmi > sum. The second person plural was created by analogy to 2nd person singular form. Palmer's account of the development of the paradigm in Latin remains unchanged.

The Sanskrit reflexes can also develop from these roots with ease.

*esmi > asmi
*esi > asi
*esti > asti
*smes > smas
*ste > stha
*senti > santi

No problems here. Same thing with the Germanic forms; in Gothic and Old English, for example, the plural forms lack an initial vowel.

Given this new paradigm, the odd forms out seem to be the Greek and Anatolian forms, which show an inital 'e' in the plural. This, I believe, can be accounted for through analogy; they came about through analogy to the singular. This is not as strange as it may sound. This exact thing (albeit with an 'a' instead of an 'e') happened in the move from Sanskrit to Pali. Cf.:

Skt. asmi > Pali amhi 'I am'
Skt. asi > Pali asi 'you are'
Skt. asti > Pali atthi 'he/she/it is'
Skt. smah > Pali amha 'we are'
Skt. stha > Pali attha 'you (pl.) are'

The third person plural remained without the initial 'a'.

I have yet to see if I can account for reflexes in Balto-Slavic from the new paradigm. More, perhaps, on this later.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hurrian is Just Plain Weird

That is all.

Sweet Gothic Grammar

Anyone who is learning Gothic with a remote interest in Indo European (I can't imagine why else one would learn Gothic, except being interesting in Germanic generally) should buy this grammar. It includes graded exercises, as well as exercises which relate to the development of Gothic from IE. Fantastic stuff, and it's not terribly expensive either. We need more grammars like this, which go through the development from IE and provide exercises to reinforce the points.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Milton's Style: Brilliant Adaptation of a Latinate Style, or Tortured English?

So I'm rereading Paradise Lost, and am finding that I'm more keenly aware of Milton's style now that I have a bunch of Latin under my belt. In Latin, the verb most often comes at the end and things can be shoved up to the front of a clause for emphasis; both elements are difficult to copy in English, as it is a language which is heavily dependant on word order. This doesn't stop Milton, though, and I'm having trouble deciding whether, on the whole, Milton's efforts at adapting Latin word order to English were entirely successful.

There are passages in which this works quite well. Take this famous passage from Book 1:

Him the Almightly power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereral sky...

The direct object is right up at the front, which is technically ungrammatical in English. But, one can make sense of it, and this move on Milton's part is on par with his attempt to render English in a manner similar to that of Latin. Another good example is from Book 7:

This also thy request with caution asked

From the point of view of standard English word order and syntax, this is hideous. We could normally say something like "Have your request, which was cautiously asked for..." or something to that effect. The words "This" and "thy request", which stand in apposition to each other, are separated by "also"; this is exactly paralleled in Latin, where you could have an "etiam" or something separating two things which go together. Note also that the verb comes at the end of the clause. Another one, for good measure:

For what god after better worse would build?

Again, from the point of view of standard English, this is tortured. I can't decide what to think of it; on the one hand Milton's style is a good attempt at rendering English poetry in a style like that of Latin, but on the other, English just doesn't lend itself well to constructions of the sort that Latin allows.

I suppose he's done the best with what he has.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Verb 'to be' in Latin and IE

It seems that in PIE the verb 'to be' had two different stems in the present, and e-grade as well as a zero grade. The conjugation proceeds as follows:



The ablaut grade was posited mainly to account for the reflexes in Latin and Sanskrit, which show an initial sibilant in a few forms: Lat. sum, sumus, sunt; Skt. smas 'we are', stha 'you (pl) are', santi 'they are'. According to Palmer (The Latin Language. 1954.), the development of the Latin forms are as follows:

The second and third person singular forms seem regular; *h1esi > es, *h1esti > est. By analogy with the singular forms a full grade was introduced in the second person plural (*h1ste > *ste > *este > estis). *s-enti > *s-onti > sunt, for the third person plural, and this apparently had some analogical bearing on the first person singular *somos > sumus. This new first person singular form in turn created a new first person singular, from an original *esmi (*esmi > sum).

Conclusion: the paradigm is an analogical mess in Latin, one which must be sorted out if my paper on the first laryngeal in the PIE verb 'to be' is going to be resuscitated.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

IE Loanwords in Fenno-Ugric

Jorma Koivulehto has been working on some interesting stuff regarding largyngeals and loan words from Indo European into Proto Fenno-Ugric. According to Koivulehto, the reflex of the laryngeal in these loans is still apparent and, depending upon the position of the laryngeal in the word, as well as the time of borrowing, the laryngeal will develop into a number of phonemes. For example, we have PFU (Proto Fenno-Ugric) *k- from IE *H-: IE *h1es-en- 'harvest' > Fi. (Finnish) kesa 'summer'. Also, he argues that PFU *š is a reflex of any word-internal laryngeal; exx. IE *dheh1-ti- 'deed' > PFU *tešte > Est. teht.

Adam Hyllested has taken up this thesis, and, in a forthcoming paper which was recently presented at an IE Conference, has examined the tenability of some of Koivulehto's reconstructions. He finds that some are plausible, but takes issue with others. (All this is based upon an abstract for this paper). He seems to not take issue with Koivulehto's main conclusions, which, incidentally, are very interesting: (1) PIE *h1 was an aspirated fricative (and not a glottal stop, which it is traditionally assumed to be); (2) at the time of contact between IE and PFU, laryngeals were still around. I look forward to getting my hands on this paper when it is published.

Tis crazy stuffs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So I've started learning Hindi...

...and cannot believe that people can distinguish between aspirated and unaspirated stops. It blows my mind that people can pick up on the difference in rapid conversation. I suppose you have to grow up hearing it. Also, the number of compound letters, like in Sanskrit, is immense.

Oh well.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thomas Aquinas writes bad Latin...

...and should enroll in remedial courses immediately. I think it was he who came up with, or at least popularized, "a priori", one of the most often trotted out philosophical phrases. At any rate, he uses it with abundance.

It should be "a priore", with a short 'e'. In my opinion, everyone who writes Latin should write like Cicero; he's the hallmark of good Latin prose. His Latin, though convoluted on occasion in his speeches, is refined and impeccable. Aquinas should have read more of him. Or at least should have reviewed the declension of comparatives.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Augustus and the Maintaining of his position

Augustus seems to me to be a master politician. He excelled at getting people to do what he wanted them to do voluntarily, and he managed to keep the facade of the Republic up and running for the length of his stint as emperor. The question I want to address is how he managed to keep the facade going? What was it that allowed him to maintain his position as emperor, and in essence work to establish a hereditary monarchy, while keeping the Republican flame flickering? In my opinion, there were a number of external factors, as well as a number of political masterstrokes which kept Augustus from being assassinated as well as allowing him to establish and consolidate the position of emperor, all the while under the guise of the Republic.

The first factor I would like to examine is the army. Having conquored Antony and his consort Cleopatra, Augustus was in control of a massive amount of men. What was he to do with all of them? Normally, soldiers who had completed their time of service were given a piece of land as compensation for their dutiful service. This policy was carried out by Augustus: upon conquoring Egypt, he acquired substantial amounts of money. Thus, he was able to buy land for the soldiers instead of merely dispossessing people of it. This would no doubt be more favourable to those people who gave up their land for the soldiers. Also, Augustus instituted a policy whereby soldiers were paid in cash, which was obtained through the Egyptian treasuries as well as taxation, instead of the usual allottment of land. With the advent of this policy, Augustus managed to fill the requirements that soldiers demanded after they had finished bashing people over the heads. Not only this, but Augustus kept some soldiers in service, and created the praetorian guard. This force of soldiers was to become essential if the emperor wished to retain his position; they came to have a great deal of power in that they could assassinate emperors whom they were disinclined towards, and, in one case, having done so, auction off the position of emperor. At any rate, the policy of Augustus kept the army happy. A second factor also related to the army was Augustus' familial connection with Caesar. The army would have no doubt remembered fondly the triumphs of Caesar, and Augustus, being his great nephew, would have had been held in a light of distinction by the army.

A second factor which contributed to the success of Augustus is the language in which he framed his titles and honors, as well as the positions which he chose to hold. For example, through the years of 27 to 23 BC, he held power through a series of consulships. However, he soon realized that this was making him unpopular with the senatorial class; for they all aspired to attain the highest position available to them: that of consul, and with Augustus continually holding one of the two offices, the chances for the senators to reach this esteemed position were reduced. So, he decided to give up this position and instead hold the powers of a tribune for life (these powers were of course granted by the Senate). With this this tribunicia potestas (to be sure, he wasn't actually elected tribune of the plebs, but instead was accorded the powers thereof), Augustus had the power to call assemblies and veto the actions of magistrates. Not only this, but he was also subsequently given a series of powers and titles, including maior imperium, pater patriae, princeps, and pontifex maximus. It is the names of the titles which are essential here: they are all framed in the language of Republican Rome. Imperium basically means the power to act on behalf of the Roman state, and could be granted to generals, for example, in Republican times. Augustus is merely the "greater imperium", meaning his ability to act on behalf of Rome extended throughout the Empire. Princeps comes from an office in the Republic, the princeps senatus, "first of the Senate". This was more of an honorary position and had no real powers, but, if one held it, they were recognized as being the go to person for disputes and advice. Pontifex maximus was the principal religious office, and dealt with issues of state religion. All of these come, in one way or another, from the Republic. Also important to note is the show of modesty Augustus put on when he recieved his powers. He appeared to accept the powers unwillingly, which most likely made a big impact on the Senate and the populace at large, if they knew what was going on at all.

In the words of Gibbon "he solemnly restored the senate and people to all their ancient rights; and wished only to mingle with the crowd of his fellow citizens, and to share the blessings which he had obtained for the country."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A poem of Ovid

Given the weather today, with all the wind and the snow and the cold, I thought this poem we looked at in Latin class is rather appropriate:

nix iacet et iactam nec sol pluiaee resolvunt;

indurat Boreas perpetuamque facit.

ergo, ubi delicuit nondum prior, altera venit

et solet in multis bima manere locis.

tantaque commoti vis est Aquilonis, ut altas

aequet humo turres tectaque rapta ferat.

pellibus et sutis arcent mala frigora bracis

oraque de toto corpore sola patent.

saepe sonant moti glacie pendente capilli

et nitet inducto candida barba gelu.

-Ovid, Tristia

This is a description of the place to which Ovid was exiled. Apparently, it wasn't the most hospitible place for him to go, having lived in Italy for such a long time.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wagner, Lacoue Labarthe, and Myth

I'm back! My return was spurred on by the temperature outside: it's too cold to go to school right now and all my stuff is at school. So, I thought I would post something, finally. And because Matt told me to make a glorious return to the interwebz.

This is the text of an essay I wrote for a philosophy seminar. It's on Wagner and myth, framed within Lacoue Labarthe's views on myth. Myth, for Lacoue Labarthe, has the power to found a people; it gives them types to emulate and an ideal which grounds the people as a whole, at least in the case of the Greeks. I examine whether Wagner's Ring Cycle could found the German people in the same way Greek myths did for the Greeks.


HPP: Lacoue Labarthe. Heidegger and the Politics of Poetry.

NM: Lacoue Labarthe and Nancy, Jean Luc. The Nazi Myth

GI: Wagner, Richard. The Greek Ideal

To start off, I will examine “the mythic” in general, specifically what it does and what its character is. Plato is the best place to start in the examination of myth. In the Republic, Plato banishes most poets and forms of myth on the grounds that they are twice removed from the Forms and thus cannot hold a claim to truth. There is also a second argument Plato gives: that some poets present images of the gods and of heroes which are not “morally sound”, that is, they present stories which would be a bad influence on the people of his city. In other words, these mythological stories present unsound types for people to identify with; Plato wants to give the people of his utopian city examples of the best types to follow. Mythology, then, in its essence, is characterized by types/images. Moreover, the people of the city “look up” to these types that are presented through myth; they relate to them: in other words, they form themselves as a people by the “imitation” of the characters presented in mythology. In Heideggerian terms, a people are grounded as a historical people through mythology; mythos gives a people to themselves, such that they can exist historically. Due to the fact myth functions in this way, art (as mythos) has a close connection with the political (the polis/demos/Volk), insofar as it is myth which form the demos in the first place. Myth makes the political, insofar as it makes the demos, possible. The “aim” of myth is the bringing together of a people.

Turning now to Wagner, we will see how this plays itself out in his operas. I will show what Wagner inherits from the Romantic tradition, insofar as it is derived from a Greek tradition, how this plays itself out in his operas, and then examine whether Wagner’s Ring Cycle, insofar as it is “mythic” can contribute to the bringing together of the German people. The three points are drawn from Heidegger and the Politics of Poetry.

Lacoue Labarthe believes that Wagner inherits the idea that the work of art is founded upon myth, and that myth is the only thing which can ground a people, that is, give a people language and figures with which it can identify itself. This notion can be traced through the threads of Romanticism all the way back to a Greek origin. In the 18th century, the German people were without a real identity; there was nothing inherently German to which the German people could relate to. Part of the project of Romanticism was to find something to ground the German people and thus found the German people as such. The Romantics looked back to Greece in order to do this, however, they latched onto a different stream of Hellenism than, for example, the French did. Instead of taking up the Apollonian classicism of the French, which is characterized by sereneness, beauty, etc, they appropriated a more “primitive” Greece, the mythical Greece of secret rites and dark superstitions. In doing this, they were, in essence, looking for a “type” (re. Myth) to which the German people could relate and thus be founded as a historical people.

One can easily see how Wagner’s works are founded upon myth. In his magnum opus, Der Ring des Nibelung, Wagner pulls out threads from a myriad of Old Norse and German mythology in order to create a coherent, 17 hour long, whole. Tristan und Isolde is based upon a German myth, as are Lohengerin and Tannhauser. It is the Bayreuth Festival which was to be the medium through which these myths are presented, and consequently found the German Volk. Lacoue Labarthe notes that there is a parallel between the Bayreuth Festival and the City Dionisia in Athens, where the tragic plays were presented. (NM 303) Ideally, the presentation of the myths to the people would ground them historically, and they can thus exist as a historical people. The polis, as a work of art, would be partly created through these festivals, both Bayreuth and the City Dionisia.

I shall now turn to the “origin” of the Gestamkunstwerk, which Lacoue Labarthe thinks is Greek tragedy. Greek tragedy is composed of two main elements: the actors and the chorus. The chorus, within the context of the action of the play, was merely there as a comment on what was being done by the actors, and it did this through singing, dancing, and music. This is the “Dionysian” element in Greek tragedy that Nietzsche, as well as those German Romantics who sought an alternative to the “Apollonian” classicism of France, took hold of. In other words, the Greek tragedy was, in a way, a Gestamkustwerk, in the way that Wagner defines it: a total work of art, which incorporated music, action, and singing on stage. All these elements were required in order for a Greek tragedy to be as such; they are necessary conditions for a play.

How, then, do Wagner’s operas parallel the Greek tragedy in structure? As we have seen, the Greek tragedy is composed of a number of different elements which come together to form a coherent work. These are all present in Wagner’s operas, though some appear in a slightly different guise. It goes without saying that there is singing in opera. It is the music that appears in a different, though, related form. For, there is no “chorus”, conceived of as a group of people who dance and sing to music, in Wagner’s operas: instead, there is only music. The orchestra functions as the classical chorus instead of a group of actors on the stage who comment on the action. The function is the same, but the form it takes is different. Moreover, in some Greek tragedies, Aeschylus in particular, the chorus is always present, from basically the beginning of the play to end. The orchestra in Wagner, as the action unfolds on stage, provides a continual comment on what is going on; this comment is achieved through his use of Leitmotivs, which give us a musical “guide” to what is happening on stage. Given the action on stage, a particular Leitmotiv may take on a different guise: it may move into a major or minor key, be inverted, etc. All this gives us a running commentary regarding the appearance of characters, themes, and objects, or serves to “set the mood” of a particular scene. In the second section of the paper, we will say more regarding the function of the chorus/orchestra in Wagner and in Greek tragedy and thus will lay the matter aside until then.

Lacoue Labarthe lists the third thing Wagner inherited from the Romantics as the notion that Greek art is based upon the distinction between Apollo and Dionysus. Interestingly, in his writings Wagner has little to say about Dionysus, and instead focuses on the role Apollo plays. His work The Greek Ideal has some passages which sound rather like Lacoue Labarthe: “It was Apollo…who…had proclaimed to questioning man the fundamental laws of the Grecian race and nation, thus holding up to those involved in passionate action the peaceful, undisturbed mirror of their inmost, unchangeable Grecian nature…” (GI 78)6. He then moves to connect the tragic poet with Dionysus: “Thus, too, inspired by Dionysus, the tragic poet saw this glorious god…” (GI 78). He goes on to say that the “spontaneous” elements of art were “joined to speech”; these spontaneous elements being the Dionysian, and the speech being Apollonian “representation” . Given Wagner’s explicit indebtedness to the Greeks7, it would be conceivable that he thought of his own work as combining these two facets of the classical world, the Apollonian and the Dionysian, even though he didn’t explicitly state that he was doing this. To my knowledge, this is the extent of Wagner’s appreciation of the Apollo/Dionysus distinction in Greek tragedy.

Now that we have seen how Wagner’s project is has three main characteristics, that it hinges on the mythological, is Greek in structure, and carries on the same Romantic project of founding the German people. We will examine whether the Ring Cycle can ground the German peoples in the same way Greek myths did. I will follow Lacoue Labarthe in arguing that Wagner’s Ring cannot carry out the same mythic function as the Greek myths did, due to the privileged position music holds at the expense of poetry (myth) in his operas. Then, I will treat an objection, which will argue that in fact the orchestra is necessarily secondary to the music given its correlation with the classical chorus, and respond to it.

In The Nazi Myth, Lacoue Labarthe mention Wagner and how he “aims to unify the German people through celebration and theatrical” ceremonies. (NM 303) There is a parallel, which Lacoue Labarthe notes, between the Bayreuth Festival and the City Dionysia, the festival where Greek tragedies were performed in Athens. The function of the two is essentially the same: to bring people together in an experience of their mythology, such that they become (re)grounded, or “reminded of their roots”, so to speak. We have seen that Wagner’s Ring Cycle is a mythology, and is founded on a Greek model, so, can it ground the German people? In Lacoue Labarthe’s opinion: no. For, in Wagner’s works the music is subservient to the poetry (myth) and thus the myth cannot carry out its true function of grounding a historical people. (HPP, 32) Wagner explicitly states that the aim of his operas was a “communal fusion”, and that this fusion was to be brought about by music. He was trying to appeal to the “emotional” aspect through his music (HPP, 32), in order to bring people together in some sort of “aesthetic rapture”. Wagner is aiming to create a community of sorts, and this is laudable; however, he is going about it in the wrong way, for only myth can truly create a Volk. However, this fusion occurs through the music and not through the myth, like it should. He privileges the music at the expense of what is truly able to ground a historical peoples: myth.

An interesting counter-argument to can be based upon a point raised in the first section of the paper: Wagner conceives of the orchestra as a parallel to the classical choruses of Greek tragedy. The choruses served merely to comment on the action which was unfolding on stage, and thus did not over power the poetry, or the action onstage. They were always present, and always there for comment, but never took a main role. One could, by analogy, say that the orchestra could not possibly overpower the poetry, given its secondary status as a mere comment on the action. The Wagnerian orchestra is a comment, a guide to what is happening throughout the course of the opera: the same way the tragic chorus tells us what to think about the action, the Wagnerian orchestra gives us hints as to how to conceive of what is happening on stage though Leitmotivs and the reworking thereof. As a consequence, poetry is not secondary to music, and Wagner’s mythology can carry out its proper function.

In response I would say two things. First, that a problem arises when mythic types are imposed upon a people, instead of being “poetically” created by a people. Wagner, in essence, is imposing mythological types in his Ring Cycle. It was not the case that the Germans of the 19th century created the mythic characters of Siegfried and Sigmund, Brunhilde, the Nibelungs, Wotan and Loki. Instead, Wagner appropriated these myths from antiquity, reshaped them in order to create the story that became the Ring cycle, and then thrust them upon the Germans. Even though they are German myths (and what is more, the largest source of material for the Ring came from Scandinavian mythology, which was partly connected with the German myths) they are nonetheless being imposed upon the German people, instead of being created.

Secondly, I would say that, even if the orchestra qua chorus has a secondary status, this is still the central element to Wagner’s project of “communal fusion”. Given how Wagner has framed his discussion, it seems that the music is the only thing which can “bring people together”, since he is appealing to them on an “emotional” level. Wagner is not aiming for a founding in the true sense of the word and, even if he were, his operas could not carry this out due to the fact that his mythological elements are not really originary myths in the same way Greek ones were.

On the basis of the analysis of Wagner’s operas, I would come to the following conclusion. His operas are quite Romantic (re. Greek) in form, and given the project of Romanticism, namely founding the German people, it would seem prima facie that Wagner would be able to ground the Germans historically. However, due to the secondary status of saying (re. the mythic elements) in his operas, he is not able to fully carry out this project. For only myth can truly found a people and if something else holds a privileged position over it, the mythic loses some of its power.