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Social Variation and the Latin Language


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  • Date Published: September 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316629499

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About the Authors
  • Languages show variations according to the social class of speakers and Latin was no exception, as readers of Petronius are aware. The Romance languages have traditionally been regarded as developing out of a 'language of the common people' (Vulgar Latin), but studies of modern languages demonstrate that linguistic change does not merely come, in the social sense, 'from below'. There is change from above, as prestige usages work their way down the social scale, and change may also occur across the social classes. This book is a history of many of the developments undergone by the Latin language as it changed into Romance, demonstrating the varying social levels at which change was initiated. About thirty topics are dealt with, many of them more systematically than ever before. Discussions often start in the early Republic with Plautus, and the book is as much about the literary language as about informal varieties.

    • Presents a new history of the development of Latin from early Latin to the emergent Romance languages, by a leading expert in the field
    • Presents new material as well as old evidence that has long been neglected in histories and grammars of the language
    • Departs from the old concept of 'Vulgar Latin' and is influenced instead by modern sociolinguistic research
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    • Winner of the 2013 PROSE Award for Language and Linguistics

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Surprisingly accessible … Adams prizes clarity and precision … The book emerges as an intellectual cousin of Sir Ronald Syme's classic analysis of the rise of the Emperor Augustus, The Roman Revolution.' Times Literary Supplement

    'More than any scholar of the modern era, [Adams] has revealed features of Latin which bring the language to life as a dynamic vehicle of communication among everyday speakers. … The present study reflects [his] mastery of an extraordinary range of Latin texts. … [Adams] has given us a rich resource for consultation; he has addressed a range of topics worthy of further research; he frequently provides a potent corrective and supplement to standard Latin grammars and accounts of the rise of Romance languages.' Philip Baldi and Paul B. Harvey, The Classical Review

    '… Adams' unsurpassed knowledge of the Latin language and his outstanding philological acumen [are] everywhere on display in this book, which contains a wealth of new insights into Latin texts of all periods. There will be a temptation for Latin scholars to buy this book and use it as a work of reference. The organization of the chapters, the level of detail and the excellent indices mean that it could profitably service as such … Those who read [it] will undoubtedly be richly rewarded.' James Clackson, The Journal of Roman Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316629499
    • length: 956 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 50 mm
    • weight: 1.5kg
    • contains: 3 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Introduction:
    1. Introduction: 'Vulgar Latin' and social variation
    Part II. Phonology and Orthography:
    2. Phonology: introductory remarks
    3. Vowel system
    4. Diphthongs
    5. Syncope
    6. Hiatus
    7. The aspirate
    8. Final consonants
    9. Contact assimilation
    10. B/V
    11. Phonology: conclusions
    Part III. Case and Prepositions:
    12. The nominative and accusative
    13. Oblique cases and prepositional expressions
    14. Miscellaneous uses of the accusative
    15. Locative, directional and separative expressions: some variations and conflations
    16. The reflexive dative
    17. Prepositions and comparative expressions
    18. Case and prepositions: some conclusions
    Part IV. Aspects of Nominal, Pronominal and Adverbial Morphology and Syntax:
    19. Gender
    20. Demonstrative pronouns: some morphological variations
    21. The definite article and demonstrative pronouns
    22. Suffixation (mainly adjectival) and non-standard Latin
    23. Compound adverbs and prepositions
    Part V. Aspects of Verbal Morphology and Syntax:
    24. Past participle + habeo
    25. The periphrastic future and conditional, and present for future
    26. Reflexive constructions and the passive
    27. The ablative of the gerund and the present participle
    Part VI. Aspects of Subordination:
    28. Reported speech
    29. Indirect questions
    Part VII. Aspects of the Lexicon and Word Order:
    30. The lexicon, a case study: anatomical terms
    31. The lexicon: suppletion and the verb 'go'
    32. Word order, a case study: infinitive position with auxiliary verbs
    Part VIII. Summing Up:
    33. Final conclusions.

  • Author

    J. N. Adams, All Souls College, Oxford
    J. N. Adams is an Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy. He was previously a Professor of Latin at the Universities of Manchester and Reading. He is the author of many books on the Latin language, including most recently The Regional Diversification of Latin, 200 BC–AD 600 (Cambridge, 2007) and Bilingualism and the Latin Language (Cambridge, 2003).


    • Winner of the 2013 PROSE Award for Language and Linguistics

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