Auris Non Oricla.

I was more than usually pleased to see Arika Okrent’s latest mental_floss post, 5 Annoying Latin Errors from an Ancient List That Predicted Latin’s Descendants, because for decades now I’ve been trying to remember or find out the source of my vague memory of a Late Latin peever’s list of incorrect words that were actually (in hindsight) proto-Romance, and this is it!

Sometime around the 7th century, a grammarian got fed up and started collecting all the annoying mistakes that people kept making in Latin. He wrote them up in the Appendix Probi, a straightforward list of the “say this, not that” variety. The most interesting thing about the Appendix Probi is not that it shows that people have always been making usage errors, but that the errors people made in Latin show the specific ways that Latin turned into its descendants, the Romance languages, including Spanish, French, and Italian.

The Appendix Probi, that’s the ticket! Arika quotes “Februarius non Febrarius,” “Auris non Oricla,” “Calida non Calda,” “Exequiae non Execiae,” and “Tabula non Tabla,” and you can see the whole magnificent list here. Another long-time dream fulfilled by the internet; thanks, 21st century!

Comments

  1. “Arika Okrent: Linguist, [..] doing her part to fight off the cot-caught merger […].”

    I seriously hope this is a joke. And even if it is, it could give people the wrong impression about what linguists do (if I’m not mistaken. IANAL, so what do I know)

  2. You asked about it last January.

  3. Now that you mentioned that classical idea of romance languages coming out of “wrong use of latin” (somehow related to “langue” developing from “parole” influence?), I’ve remembered the intriguing work by Yves Cortez, “le français ne vient pas du latin!”. Are you familiar with that theory? If so, what do you think about it?

  4. You trimmed the sentence. Without the edit I don’t think it gives the impression that anti-mergering is her professional activity as a linguist. “Linguist, author of In the Land of Invented Languages, living in Chicago, doing her part to fight off the cot-caught merger and keep ‘gym shoes’ alive.” Not sure she’s deadly serious about the gym shoes either tbh.

    Do you mean that a linguist’s professional code should preclude them from having and expressing personal preferences about language? If that’s the idea I don’t think that’s widely accepted as a principle. Contemplate Geoff Pullum.

  5. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    It’s interesting how long ago there was a confusion between b and v, and sometimes an almost inaudible v, as in modern Spanish, and likewise the spelling cu for what most other languages spell qu: 14. vacua non vaqua, 15. vacui non vaqui, 62. Flavus non Flaus, 70. alveus non albeus, 73. favilla non failla, 91. plebes non plevis, 215. vapulo non baplo

  6. The equus/ecus thing shows an interesting development — -qu- was used to spell /kʷ/ before most vowels, as in older quom, quoi, equos, but the difference between /kʷ/ and /k/ was neutralized before /u/ and only -c- was used to spell it. So when /o/ was raised to /u/ in final syllables, the spelling became cum, cui, ecus (attested). But for some reason -qu- was reintroduced in equus a hundred years later or so.

    This all happened about a thousand years before the Appendix Probi was written, though. And where equs came from I don’t know.

  7. But for some reason -qu- was reintroduced in equus a hundred years later or so.
    One could assume that either the pronunciation or at least the orthography was influenced by the other forms of the paradigm where qu remained (equi, equo, etc.)

  8. David Marjanović says:

    I’m intrigued by the evidence that [kʷi] > [ki] happened so early, evidently before [ki] > [tɕi], or Probus couldn’t even have used the spelling -ci- in exequiae non execiae and all those others. And yet, these haven’t merged in the Romance languages. Was there a time when qui was already [ki], but the old ci had only become [kʲi] or something?

    Okrend attributes the Appendix Probi to the 7th century, but Wikipedia says this (or the 8th) is just the age of the manuscript we have. The original has got to be quite a bit older, even if the traditional attribution to the 1st-century Marcus Valerius Probus is unfounded.

    One could assume that either the pronunciation or at least the orthography was influenced by the other forms of the paradigm where qu remained (equi, equo, etc.)

    That’s what Ringe stated as a fact in his famous series of LLog posts on PIE – alas, never continued – in 2009.

  9. One could assume — yes, that’s what Vox Latina says as well, but I was too lazy to look it up earlier. It cites later grammarians to the effect that the vowel was short and the analogy purely orthographic: auribus quidem sufficiebat ut equus per unum u scriberetur, ratio tamen duo exigit (Velius Longus, second century CE).

    Incidentally Allen dates the Appendix to the fourth century CE, without discussion.

  10. I don’t think Okrent is expressing any linguistic preferences in the first place, just trying to preserve her own usages.

    And aren’t vacua non vaqua etc. about contracting two syllables to one?

  11. Greg Pandatshang says:

    Just curious, is there a reason the o in equo wasn’t also raised to -u? Or is that a sporadicism?

  12. @Greg, it’s equō, and only short vowels were raised.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    Incidentally Allen dates the Appendix to the fourth century CE, without discussion.

    That’s when the document it’s an appendix to was first written, says the English Wikipedia.

    And aren’t vacua non vaqua etc. about contracting two syllables to one?

    Of course. Likewise the quactiliari on a wall in Pompeii, Classically coactiliarii, “feltmakers”.

    is there a reason the o in equo wasn’t also raised to -u?

    Its length, I’m sure. All the examples above have a short o.

  14. There are also the letters of Claudius Terentianus, a marine, from Egypt which already show the case endings merging together, the deletion of word-final /s/ and /m/, and so on in the second century CE. Usually letters from Roman Egypt are in Greek or Demotic, so we don’t have as clear a picture of living Latin as we would wish.

  15. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    Christian Lehmann’s article on the Vulgar Latin of one of the letters of Claudius Terentianus is here.

  16. David Marjanović says:

    Fascinating.

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