BOOK REVIEW Les substantifs masculins latins en … i(ō), … i(ō)nis

Review of Françoise Gaide
Les substantifs masculins latins en … i(ō), … i(ō)nis.
(Bibliothèque de l’Information grammaticale, 15.)
Leuven :  Peeters, 1988.
Pp. 373.  F250.

First published in Language 66.2 (June 1990) :  414-415.
[Republished here by permission of the
editor of Language and the Linguistic Society of America].

The present volume is a meritorious addition to the long tradition of Greek and Latin lexical studies by distinguished French scholars, reaching back into the nineteenth century.  Taking into account a rather impressive corpus of data, Gaide emphasizes the diachronic semantics of the suffix but also touches on its role as a functional shifter.  The data come from the popular registers of Latin from the pre-literary period to the seventh century C.E.  A detailed chart for the specific sources, including Greek borrowing, is offered at the end of the volume (Tables 5 and 6;  294-325).

G takes the reader on a wide-ranging tour (17-35) through IE cognates of the suffix that are found, for example, in Indo-Iranian, Celtic, Baltic, Slavic, Germanic, and Greek (including Mycenaean).  Major semantic categories into which -i(ō), -i(ō)nis suffixed derivatives fall include augmentatives, diminutives, characterization (physical and, to some extent, moral), abstract nouns, adverbials, animals, ethnonyms, toponyms, patronyms, hypocoristics, personal names, and appellatives.  The last two categories constitute a vast group in Latin, and in this connectiong G devotes special attention to the Latin cognomina (55-62), which were certainly in origin nicknames of some sort.

The first part of the study proper (107-202) deals with ‘motivated’ derivatives (56% of the corpus studied) – those whose stem and suffix would have been transparent to the user – and includes two large semantic groups:  names of trades and functions, and terms calling attention to some defect.  The second large section (205-57) addresses itself to ‘unmotivated’ terms (35% of the corpus) of varied Latin and non-Latin origin, wherein constituents would be opaque to the speaker.  A third section (261-74) is concerned with examining enlarged replacements (9% of the corpus) based on synonymous stems (e.g. later amasio ‘seducer’ with enlarged stem amasion- [Apuleius Met. 3.22] for earlier amasios with shorter stem amasi- [Plautus Truc. 658]).  In each of these sections, G undertakes detailed analyses of the terms in question with an impressive control of the primary and secondary literature.  The end material (282-373) contains tables segmenting portions of the data in a variety of ways (e.g., synchronic classification and semantic groupings).  The long bibliography (327-349) is conveniently organized by subject headings and language groupings.

Some discussion, very briefly adumbrated on p. 119, might have been devoted to the relationship (if any) between these masculine nouns and that vast class of often high-register third-declension feminines in -iō, -iōnis in Latin that proved so irresistible to both Germanic (especially English) and Romance as learned borrowings.  The curious lack of a typed Greek beta, Greek diacritics, and vocalic macrons and brevia results in their having been inserted by hand, which detracts from the visual pleasure and otherwise pleasing appearance of this remarkably (given the amount of Greek and Latin data) error-free text.  These observations are not, it should be understood, in any sense criticism of the excellent work that in fact has been done.

Who would profit from this book?  A model of thoroughness in its approach to the study of lexical sets, it would certainly have much to say to students of Romance lexicography and to classicists, especially in so far as they deal with writers less elevated in the literary canon.  Finally, as an elegant example of both synchronic and diachronic lexicographical scholarship, the book may well be used with profit by any student of the history of words.

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One Response to BOOK REVIEW Les substantifs masculins latins en … i(ō), … i(ō)nis

  1. heather says:

    How would someone come to write a book like this?

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