Philomen Probert's book on the Latin Accent published

Published on:

4 September 2019


Philomen Probert's book Latin Grammarians on the Latin Accent: The Transformation of Greek Grammatical Thought has been published by Oxford University Press. Philomen is a Fellow of Wolfson and Professor of Classical Philology and Linguistics.

This book, published in July, looks at what ancient Latin grammarians are up to when they discuss the Latin word accent or stress. Philomen explains to us that "From our point of view, there's a very simple rule governing where the Latin word accent goes—you can learn the rule in under three minutes. But ancient grammatical texts discuss the topic at much greater length, with all sorts of curious details—how did ancient authors find so much to say? There are two modern schools of thought on all this. According to one, most of these details are copied mindlessly from Greek authors who were writing about ancient Greek: Latin authors learned concepts and terms for talking about a language from Greek authors writing about their own language, and much of what they say on this topic really does look suspiciously like Greek thought on the Greek accent. The other school of thought says that we should take Latin authors seriously when they talk about their own language (which they knew much better than we ever will), and that if they make the Latin accent system complicated and similar to the Greek system then it just must have been those things."

Probert's book concentrates on what Latin grammarians actually say about the accent system, and what they mean by it. Interestingly, both sides of the modern debate turn out to be partly right. The book offers a new perspective on Latin grammarians writing about the Latin accent, and contributes both to classical scholarship and to the history of linguistics. 

Buy online now