Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Christian Epigraphy

Many early Christian inscriptions are quite crude. This burial inscription from the Basilica of St Agnes outside the Walls (click on the photo to enlarge) is typical. What's interesting is the spelling - it seems to give an indication of how ordinary folk actually spoke. The two things that spring out at me are the last words of the 1st and 2nd lines - Nobenbres and bixit respectively. Spelled correctly they should be Novembres and vixit - amongst the some of the common folk, at least, 'v' was pronounced as 'b'. This reminds me of the manner in which present-day Spaniards speak Italian.
If any of my readers would care to add anything about the inscription, I'll happily update this post to incorporate comments. I was going to post a full translation, but I lose my way a little in the middle when I have difficulty breaking the inscription up into individual words.

9 comments:

xavier said...

Zadok:
It,s interesting The v/b pronunciation is typically Iberian Romance. Catalan and Arnès do the same. I was always under the impression that Italian also didn't distinguish between v/b and that it was only French that did so.

xavier

xavier said...

Zadok:
Here's what I can pick up from the 3 and fourth lines:
XXV FECIT CUM MARITO ANNVSPM SEPT EXUPERANTIVSMA A RITUS SEVIVOVXORI DVICISSUM SIBI ET POSTERIQUE SUIS HOCTUM VIV[I]M FECIT

Hope that helps with the translation

Zadok the Roman said...

Xavier, many thanks!

Modern day Italians certainly distinguish between v and b - however, Spaniards speaking Italian tend to fudge those letters, or even occasionally reverse them.

gengulphus said...

EXUPERANTIUS MARiTUS SEVIVO UXORI DULCISSIM[]
SIBI ET POSTERISQUE SUIS HOC TUMULUM FECIT

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf o{]:¬) said...

You might be interested in a little book by W.S. Allen published by OUP called Vox Latina which explores the way ancient Latin was spoken. An Italian named Traiana did some work whcih you ought to be able to find, perhaps at Leoniana. If my memory serves, what happens with that v and b is the difference in the way they dealt with "plosives". There are different ways to form that "v" sound. For example, you can form it with the lip against the teeth, or by bringing both lips closer together, so that it is like a "b" but with more friction, or plosion of air. There are similiar problems of orthography coming from the similarity of the "b" and the "p", the "p" not being voiced, but being formed in a way similar to the "b". But you are right about the issue of them writing as they heard the language spoken. Inscriptions like this help scholars untangle questions about what Latin sounded like and when it began to shift, for example with the hard "k" to the softer sound of Italianate Latin we have for "c".

Quantitative Metathesis said...
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Quantitative Metathesis said...
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Quantitative Metathesis said...

Okay, let's try that again. Here's what I got:

Deposita Susanna in pace die X SII kalendas nobembres
consulatu Anici Bassi et F[i]L[ii] Fylippi VV[viri] CC[clarissimi] quae bixit
annis PL[usqua]M XXV fecit cum marito annus P_ M_ septe*
Exuperantius maritus se vivo uxori dulcissim[o]
sibi et posterisque suis hoc tumulum fecit

Susanna, having been laid down in peace on the tenth day before(?) the kalens of November during the consulate of the excellent men Anicus Bassus and his son Fylippus, who lived for more than twenty five years, completed the seventh year with her husband before her death(?)*. Her husband Exuperantius while he was alive made this tomb for his wive, most beloved to him and to his offspring.

*this is the only line I'm really insecure about...the grammar seems really odd

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Filipinos also tend to change the "v" sounds of foreign words into "b" sounds.