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Martin Worthington and Mark Chetwood

Sumerian is a language of ancient Iraq. It is ergative and has no known relatives. Attested from the early 3rd millennium bce, it remained a living language until c. 1900 bce but was still used in the Common Era (chiefly in the context of temple liturgy). It survives on tens of thousands of cuneiform tablets. While the majority of these are administrative records, there are also substantial numbers of literary manuscripts (tablets), including narratives about Gilgamesh and hymns by the priestess Enheduanna, the world’s first-known named poet. A sub-variety with the ancient label “Emesal” is sometimes thought to have been a gender-lect.Sumerian is probably the world’s oldest written language (the other contender being Egyptian). Written in the cuneiform script, it survives on tens of thousands of clay tablets,1 the vast majority of which stem from southern Iraq. When Sumerian was first spoken, is not known; it is first identifiable in the city of .


tabulae Iguvinae  

Michael Weiss

At Gubbio (Iguvium; see umbrians) were discovered, in 1444, seven bronze tablets of varying sizes (the largest measure 86 x 56.5 cm, or 33 x 22 inches, the smallest 40 x 28 cm or 16 x 12 inches), engraved on one or both sides with Umbrian texts, partly in the native alphabet (normally transcribed in bold), partly in the Latin alphabet. These are the famous Iguvine Tables. They range in date probably from c.200bce to the early 1st century bce and are the main source of our knowledge of Umbrian (see Sabellic languages).The texts contain the proceedings and liturgy of a brotherhood of priests, the frater atiersiur [Atiedian Brethren], not unlike the Roman arval brethren (see fratres arvales). The name is clearly to be linked with atiieřiate (dat. sg.), the name of one of the social groupings within Iguvine society; it had two subdivisions, which may correspond to two gentes mentioned in rituals as having sacrifices performed on their behalf (petruniaper natine, vuçiiaper natine).


Terentius Varro, Marcus  

Robert A. Kaster

Varro (according to Petrarch) was “the third great light of Rome”—after Vergil and Cicero—and certainly Rome's greatest scholar. Though the great bulk of his work survives only in fragments, the quotations and paraphrases that those fragments preserve make his influence on subsequent writers evident: much of later Latin literature, from the Aeneid of Vergil down to St. Augustine's City of God, would look very different had they been unable to draw upon his learning. His writings covered nearly every branch of inquiry: history, geography, rhetoric, law, philosophy, music, medicine, architecture, religion, and more.Marcus Terentius Varro, (116–27bce), was born at Reate, in the Sabine territory (see sabini) NE of Rome. After studying at Rome with L. Aelius, the first true scholar of Latin literature and antiquities, and at Athens with the Academic philosopher Antiochus of Ascalon, Varro began a public career that brought him to the praetorship and, ultimately, to service on the Pompeian side (see .


Umbrian language  

Benjamin Fortson

Umbrian was the language of Sabellic populations in central Italy, including Umbria (see Umbrians) and neighbouring areas to the south that were occupied by the Volsci, Marsi, and Sabini. The bulk of scholarly knowledge of Umbrian comes from the Iguvine Tables (see fig. 1 and TABULAE IGUVINAE).The remaining material consists of about fifty mostly very short inscriptions from the 7th through the 1st centuries bce. A Volscian lex sacra of several lines, found at Velletri but probably stemming from elsewhere, is also noteworthy, as is the extreme age of the so-called Paleo-Umbrian material mostly from the 7th century.Umbrian is distinguished from Oscan, probably its closest relative, by many phonological developments that have, in their aggregate, generally obscured the resemblance of its vocabulary to cognates elsewhere in Italic. Many consonant clusters were simplified; s was rhotacized to r both between vowels and, by the later period, also word-finally after a vowel; diphthongs were monophthongized; intervocalic d was rhotacized to a sound written rs or ř; and initial l- became v-.


Venetic language  

Michel Lejeune

The *Veneti(2) learnt to write from the *Etruscans during the 6th cent. bce and some 250 to 300 inscriptions survive, mostly votive or funerary, nearly all quite short (only one has more than ten words); these texts range from the last quarter of the 6th to the last quarter of the 2nd cent. bce. With the onset of Romanization, some texts were written in the native language but in the Latin alphabet. The Venetic script has two noteworthy features: different signs for t and d in each Venetic city; on the other hand, generalization to all regions, from the 5th cent. bce onwards, of a system of syllabic punctuation that involved bracketing with dots any syllable-initial vowel and any consonant that closed a syllable (e.g. . e .g o, dona . s . t o).Examples of texts (with punctuation omitted): mego doto vhugsiia votna…reitiiai op voltiio leno (‘Fuxia, wife of Voto, gave me to…[the goddess] Reitia by act of spontaneous will’); osts katusiaiios donasto, atra es termonios deivos (‘Osts, son of Katusios, offered [this precinct], entrance [allowed only] up to the Boundary Gods’); (in the Latin alphabet) enoni ontei appioi sselboisselboi andeticobos ecupetaris (‘grave of Ennonios for Onts, for Appios and for himself, [all three] sons of Andetios’); kellos pittamnikos toler trumusijatei donom (‘Kellos son of Pittamnos brought a gift to [the goddess] Trumusiatis’).


Vulgar Latin  

Roger Wright

The language of the Roman Empire, spoken and written, was Latin. Like all languages spoken over a wide area for a long time, it varied greatly. Since the arrival of sociolinguistics in the 1960s, it has been accepted that such variation is in no way unnatural or sinister, and the flexibility it implies is often an advantage rather than a problem. But standardization of the Latin language was taken seriously, particularly within the traditions established by Aelius Donatus in the 4th century and Priscian in the 6th, with the result that eventually features of the language that did not accord with the precepts of these authorities were regarded as not just different but wrong. The concept of Vulgar Latin has been defined in a variety of different ways, but József Herman’s definition, as a label for all those features of Latin that we know existed, but which were not recommended by the grammarians, is probably the most useful; its meaning has thus usually been defined in opposition to that of another concept of dubious value, Classical Latin, the Latin of the grammarians (see grammar, grammarians, Latin).