Reviews - What do customers think about Foundations of Latin?
A slightly overlong look at Latin's ancestor and relatives Apr 8, 2005
In THE FOUNDATIONS OF LATIN Philip Baldi attempts to give students of Latin an understanding of the wider field of comparative Indo-European linguistics. Latin can't merely be considered as an independent language, but rather as the descendent of the same common ancestor as Greek, Sanskrit, Old Church Slavonic, and numerous other languages.
The first chapter talks about the methodology of the field, comparative reconstruction and internal reconstruction. From then it briefly profiles Latin's relatives in the Indo-European language family and gives a very short summary of what is thought about the local of the IE homeland and the culture of its speakers. The second chapter is closely related and outlines the phonology and morphology of Proto-Indo-European. I felt that these first two chapters were somewhat unnecessary. There are already plenty of handbooks to comparative Indo-European linguistics in general, and Baldi could have simply referred readers to those. Had the book concentrated only on the relationship of Latin to the common view of the proto-language, without trying to repeat material readers will probably already have seen elsewhere, then it would have been much shorter and more manageable.
From the third chapter, Baldi limits his attention to the Italian peninsula and its languages. Theories of Etruscan origins are covered, and samples of the many other languages spoken in the area are provided. I found this quite fascinating, but also quite frustrating since so many of these are only fragmentarily attested and the interpretation of their texts are uncertain. In the fifth chapter Baldi lists materials for the study of Latin, both inscriptional and literary. Useful texts like the Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus are analysed in depth, and photographs abound. Finally, with all that came before serving as a basis, Baldi tracks the development of the Latin phonological and morphological systems from PIE.
The book was published in 1998 and is entirely up-to-date. The findings of Soviet typologists that Pre-Indo-European was an active language are reflected in the book, and Baldi realises that it's no longer wise to postulate a labiovelar series in the proto-language.
If Baldi had not needlessly included the entire view of the proto-language and search for the Urheimat, then I would feel rather more positive about FOUNDATIONS. Another problem is that Baldi does not treat syntax at all. He believes that there are too many competing models and the field in general is "treacherous". Still, the book is quite useful for those who want to see what came before Latin, and how we know about it.
A must for all serious... Jun 11, 2000
students of Latin. Baldi's judicious selection of illustrative historical texts sets this work apart from others, such as Andrew Sihler's excellent reworking of C.D.Buck's "Comparative grammar of Greek and Latin" and Gerhard Meiser's recent "Historische Laut- und Formenlehre der lateinischen Sprache". The price will make this work prohibitive except for larger libraries, so that a more accessible handbook is a desideratum.