'Nobiles verborum opifices': studies in lexical innovation and related developments in selected Latin authors

Christopher James Dowson

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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The thesis examines a selection of Latin authors, some who translated or adapted works from Greek originals, and others who coined new words or meanings in Latin. Its focus is on how these authors sought to expand the vocabulary of Latin literature and philosophy through the process of lexical innovation. With an emphasis on the works of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the thesis analyses the extent to which his literary achievements differed from those of his predecessors in the development of Latin as a philosophical language. The analysis is principally linguistic, but also socio-historical by placing authors in a chronological tradition of Latin translation and providing a survey of the attitudes of Roman authors towards Greek.
In Chapter One, I survey the translation of Homer‘s Odyssey in Livius Andronicus, followed by Gnaeus Naevius and his Bellum Poenicum as well as his plays (the Praetextae fabulae) with the aim of analysing both authors‘ lexical innovations and borrowing from Greek sources. Other early authors surveyed include Ennius in his Annales as well as his dramatic works adapted from Homer. I also examine the lexical innovations of Plautus partly through his adaptations of Menander‘s comedies, and likewise Caecilius Statius and Terence and their experimentation with lexical innovation. The examination looks at, where possible, the Greek originals and compares the lexical patterns between the Greek and the Latin translation or adaptation (for instance, the use of compound words) or the use of loan words. Finally I examine the tradition of lexical innovation in the poetry and drama of Accius and Pacuvius.
In the second chapter on Cicero, I build on the results of my 2010 Honours thesis results (the 2010 study) which detailed neologisms from direct translations, loanshifts, loanblends, and direct borrowings from Greek originals. I analyse the semantic innovation of each by looking at the context and utility of the word in question. I then examine overall patterns of use by Cicero, particularly in his philosophical works, which were employed to translate Greek concepts into Latin.
In the third chapter, I discuss Cicero‘s Letters to Atticus and compare the lexical innovation in the epistolary medium to his philosophical works with a discussion on his use of colloquial vernacular. I also examine his lexical innovations in Greek and query whether these innovations are Ciceornian originals, borrowings from literary Greek, or simply usages of Greek words from Koine Greek which were used at the time Cicero was writing.
The final chapter examines Cicero‘s lexical innovations in the context of his contemporaries such as Lucretius and Varro, and also later authors such as Quintilian, Seneca the Elder, and Younger, Pliny the Younger, and Horace, and their attitudes towards lexical innovation in Latin.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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