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Used Forms of Latin Incohative Verbs1

  • O. A. W. Dilke (a1)

The grammarian Caesellius Vindex, writing under Trajan, criticized Furius Antias for his newly coined verbs lutescere, noctescere, opulescere and vīrescere. Their meanings in classical Latin are classified by Nicolaie as follows: (a) becoming, (b) the intensification of a quality, (c) the acquisition of a quality. Their number increases in post-classical Latin, in which we also find them used causatively as transitive verbs, e.g. innotescere ‘make known’; Gellius' causative use of inolesco is mentioned below. Incohative verbs descend to Romance languages, where forms in -o and in -sco both contribute to some conjugations, e.g. Fr. finir, finissant; It. finire, finisco, and to English (‘finish’).

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page 400 note 2 Sittl K., ‘De linguae latinae verbis incohativis’, A.L.L. i (1884), 465532; Kühner, Lat. Gr. i. 721, 769 ff.; Nicolaie V., ‘Observatii asupra sufixului latin -sco, Studii Clasice vii (1965), 137–41, with other references (but the writer evidently does not know Sittl's important work).

page 400 note 3 Gell. 18. i t, cf. Kroll W., Studien zum Verständnis der röm. Lit., p. 103. Lewis and Short wrongly list the last of these under: the line quoted is increscunt animi, virescit volnere virtus, and Gellius explains the verb as pristinas reciperare vires.

page 400 note 4 Sittl (art. cit., p. 467 and n. †† ) is wrong in saying that Italian has practically discarded them. Certain verbs in -ire have pres. thus: -isco, -isci, -isce, -iamo, -ite, -iscono. These (capisco, finisco, etc.) are even mentioned in a questionnaire printed in the same volume of A.L.L. (i. 16) as worth investigating.

page 400 note 5 In the case of pasco two roots, - and pas-, are involved; see Ernout-Meillet, Dict. étym. Cresco and hisco have corresponding first-conjugation forms creo, hio; but creo is causative, hio (whence also hiasco) basically intransitive.

page 401 note 1 This may be true of all the primitive incohatives: Lucretius' suemus is probably a contracted perfect, not a present. Ancient grammarians are not always exact over the occurrence of forms. Thus Diomedes (Gramm. Lat. Keil i. 344) first tells us that albesco has no corresponding form albeo, then that Virgil (Aen. 12. 36) invented albent. But in fact the pres. partic. seems to have been used by Sisenna (Quint. 8. 3. 35), so that Ovid, who has the verb nineteen times, had earlier authority than Virgil.

page 401 note 2 In Colum. 12.50 (48). 2 the manuscripts have consudescere, which earlier editors changed to consudascere. The verb does not occur elsewhere, and the T.L.L., followed by the Loeb text, gives the manuscript form. There seems to be a tendency for -esc- to oust -asc-, e.g. silvesco, perhaps a Ciceronian invention formed directly from silva. See Sittl, art. cit. p. 492.

page 401 note 3 siccos, the alternative reading, has crept in from sicco in the previous line.

page 402 note 1 Philologica [i] (Études et commentaires i), Paris, 1946, p. 58; cf. Nettleship H., Contributions to Latin Lexicography, pp. 4546.

page 402 note 2 Once only (Aen. 12. 38), not twice, as Lewis and Short might seem to imply.

page 402 note 3 Among early writers, Cato (R.R. 156. 5) has commadebit, where one might expect an incohative form, and Plautus (Persa 88) has concaleat, whereas other writers have only concalesco as a present formation.

1 The writer is indebted to Professor C. J. Fordyce for many suggestions.

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