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Lation-Punic Epigraphy.

Latino-Punic Epigraphy. By ROBERT M. KERR. Forschungen zum Alten Testament, vol. 42. Tubingen: MOHR SIEBECK, 2010. Pp. xvi + 253. [euro] 64 (paper).

This book begins with the author's preface (pp. vii viii), an introduction (pp. 1-24), then two main chapters presenting the principal argument. A text corpus, glossary, and bibliography conclude the work. The opening sentence states the book's scope: "to describe the grammar of Late Punic" (p. 1 [emphasis original]). The Late Punic dialect includes the language of inscriptions in the script style called Neo-Punic, Graeco-Punic texts from EI-Hofra, and the fully vocalized Latino-Punic texts from Tripolitania. (The Latino-Punic ostraca are not included because their cursive Latin script requires a different epigraphic specialization, p. 3). Kerr was able to examine many of the originals in Tripoli and several other North African locations (pp. 2, 1.69), so the judgments concerning letter forms and readings offered in this book are highly reliable.

Kerr's working assumption that "the language of these texts is to all intents and purposes Phoenico-Punic in Latin guise" (p. 1) is certainly correct, and thus the work serves not merely as a detailed analysis of a tiny sub-corpus of odd texts, but as a foundational study with broader application to Phoenician-Punic phonology and morphology in all periods of the language.

The author is amply qualified to undertake the study in a subfield beset with a multitude of historical and linguistic difficulties. Educated in venerable European centers, Kerr has acquired considerable competence in comparative Semitics and classical languages. He has additional skill in the non-Semitic cuneiform traditions, Egyptian, Persian, and Berber. These and an array of modern languages are continually in play on the book's pages. It might also be deduced from a comment in the preface (p. viii) that Kerr typeset the manuscript.

The introduction establishes the scope of the study, describes the corpus, explains the genres of texts involved, introduces additional texts (especially the Punic dialogues in the Poenulus) called upon, and sets out the temporal and social setting of Late Punic (pp. 1-13). The second part of the introduction (pp. 13-24) marshals evidence and argument bearing on the survival of Punic in North Africa. Good use is made of the astonishing discovery (by J. Divjak) of previously unknown letters from the early years of Augustine's priesthood. Citations of these in Kerr's book are in Latin, without translation. The letters are available in English: Robert B. Eno, tr., Saint Augustine: Letters 1*-29* (Washington, D.C.: Catholic Univ. of America Press, 1989). The nuanced conclusion, that "there is no reason why Punic should not have been able to survive, albeit in rural areas, until at least the arrival of the Arabs in 643, possibly even later" (p. 23) is reasonable and reasonably argued.

The first chapter, "Towards a Description of Latino-Punic Phonology," initially addresses the rep-resentation of vowels in Neo-Punic orthography and in the vocalized spellings of Latino-Punic. The linguistically interested reader might question why, in view of the study's goal of grammatical description, nearly half of the book is devoted to details of the phonological interpretation of orthography.

The rationale, assumed rather than explained in the text, involves Phoenician spelling practice, which represents primarily consonants. Determining the phonological realization of Phoenician words is principally a process of deduction from contextual clues, comparative Semitic evidence, and a small number of completely or fully vocalized words transcribed in cuneiform or Greek and Latin sources, both of which writing systems represent vowels more fully. The Latino-Punic texts from Tripolitania at the core of this work are invaluable because they are spelled in Latin letters with vowels. The vocalizations are in many instances ambiguous, and in some cases diverge from what comparative Semitic reconstruction would predict.

In citing Neo-Punic texts, Kerr follows the system devised by Jongeling (p. 3), which uses the findspot, a linguistic/orthographic classifier (P = Punic; NP = Neo-Punic; LP = Latino-Punic; G = Greek; L = Latin), and a sequence number. (See Karel Jongeling, Handbook of Neo-Punic Inscriptions [Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008]; K. Jongeling and R. M. Kerr, Late Punic Epigraphy [Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005]. A complete concordance coordinating this reference system with those based on earlier collections, e.g., KAI, is still needed.) The present work extends this identification system to Latino-Punic inscriptions in the corpus (chapter 3, pp. 1.69-231), providing at long last a rational and consistent method of citation.

The chapter proceeds from the established observation that gutturals in Late Punic had lost their earlier phonetic realization and that the guttural letters were subsequently used to represent vowels (p. 25). The first sets of examples (pp. 30-38) illustrate the point that "the loss of these phonemes left no phonetic residue" (p. 30). The second set (pp. 39-74) establishes the principle that "vowels in Late Punic. ... were rendered consequently, both in Neo-Punic and in Latino-Punic" (p. 38). This statement is obscure to this reader. but the following sentences provide illumination: "by showing that both [the Neo-Punic and the Latino-Punic] systems ... render `etymologically correct' vowels, we are a step closer to viewing late Punic as just another Semitic language, rather than a linguistic curiosity" (p. 38). In other words, the examples demonstrate the historical continuity of Phoenician-Punic vocalism in the late period.

The employment of vowel letters in Late Punic orthography is systematic. Here are the basic generalizations (curly brackets enclose graphemes):

{ '} ('cavin) represents /a/ or /a/ in all contexts (Three possible exceptions are discussed in [section] [pp. 42-43].)

{ '} ('alep) represents /e/ or /[]/, /o/ or /[]/, /u/ or /[]/, and infrequently /a/ or /[]/

{W} (waw) represents /ul or /[]/

{y} (yod) represents /i/ or /[]/

{h} (he) represents /a/ or /[]/, /e/ or /[]/, /o/ or /[]/, /u/ or /[]/ (Only in the Latin name yhly' 'Julia' [Lepcis Magna N 14:1].)

{ h } (het) represents /a/ or /[]/,/o/ or /[]/

Analysis of the peculiar renditions of Latin names in Late Punic concludes this segment (pp. 68-74).

The next section (pp. 74-100) examines the evidence for vowel reduction. Four features serve as indicators: 1) syncope of an expected vowel; 2) use of a non-historical vowel in a syllable preceding and similar to the vowel of the final accented syllable--vowel harmony; 3) use of the grapheme {e} { [epsilon] }; 4) use of the grapheme {y}/{u}. The inconsistently incomplete representations of vowels in Neo-Punic should not be interpreted as phonetic variants. Thus st and s't both represent /sat/ 'year' (sing.), while .snt, s'nt, s'n't. s'nt, snwt, and s' nwt all represent /sanut/ 'years' (pl.), spelled in Latino-Punic sanvth.

In cases of vowel reduction, the grapheme {e}/{ [epsilon] } represents the short mid-central vowel /e/ (p. 82). Interpreting the spellings of Punic words in the Poenulus is particularly uncertain, because the major passages appear in two recensions that vary, and the preserved spellings are anomalous in a number of instances. (Krahmalkov's interpretations of the cited examples from the Poenulus are judged problematic or impossible.) The form anec(h) receives particularly insightful attention from Kerr, although the possibility of residual effects from vowel harmony ('nky = 'an[]k[] < 'an[]k[], 'nk = 'an[]k) is not considered. (Vowel harmony is invoked by Kerr to explain Ug. bns /bunusu /, p. 91.)

In unstressed syllables, the grapheme { y }/{ v } also represents the short midcentral vowel /e/(p. 86), as evident in spellings of the proclitic prepositions and conjunctions, the definite article, demonstrative pronoun and relative complementizer, the object marker, and some nouns (pp. 86-88). Consideration of the spelling byn/[beta]uv 'son' (pp. 90-92) leads Kerr to seek a rationale for the orthographic convention of using y to represent schwa. He tracks the letter's use in epigraphic Latin, where it came to represent "a short indistinct middle vowel" (p. 94). In discussing exceptions, Kerr takes up cases of partial assimilation at lexerne boundaries (pp. 97-98), leading to comments on vowel reduction as an areal feature of North African languages (pp. 100-1.05). The vowels exhausted, discussion shifts to consonants.

We can only consider the sibilants, where Kerr illuminates the use of the barred s {[]}, standing probably for s+t or t+s, to represent Semitic s (pp. 126-30). The infrequent substitution in Latin script of sigma stimulates a meticulous sorting, of S from z, challenging the transcription of supposed co in the Bu Ngem ostraca (pp. 130-31).

The section on verbs treats instances of (etymological) hwyy and p'l (pp. 158-65). Four pages on varia (personal pronouns, adverbs, genitive constructions, and numerals) conclude the grammatical discussion. The corpus of Latino-Punic and Graeco-Punic texts follows (pp. 169-23 1).

In the commentary to the Latino-Punic texts, Kerr's methodological rigor and original judgment cut through the tangle of sometimes venturesome interpretations that has gathered around these obscure documents. first published in 1952. Beginning in 1969, Krahmalkov published several partial analyses and translations of selected Latino-Punic texts; since 1983, A. F. Elmayer has produced half a dozen studies of them. Both scholars' interpretations are closely and carefully examined, and not often confirmed. The commentary on Bir ed-Dreder LP 6 (pp. 176-77) will likely be of broader interest, because Krahmalkov treated it as "the sole surviving specimen of Phoenician lyric poetry" ("'When He Drove Out Yrirachan': A Phoenician (Punic) Poem," BASOR 294 [1994]: 69-82). Conceding the attractions of this thesis, Kerr demurs concerning the readings involved: his own examination of the inscription confirms Goodchild's photograph, from which Krahmalkov's hand drawing differs in several respects.

Latino-Punic Epigraphy is an important book. I recommend it to every specialist in Northwest Semitic epigraphy and to Semitic and general linguists. However, some features of the book limit its general accessibility. One such feature is non-English passages without translation. One hopes that the use of pro in a number of section headings is unproblematic, but halfpages of Augustine (e.g., pp. 37-38, 101-2) may be too much for some contemporary readers. An untranslated Arabic passage of el-Bakri might remain opaque because the citation from De Slane's edition uses Arabic script only. Arabic script is nowhere transliterated; Hebrew and Greek citations are likewise free of transliteration.

Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Syriac citations, however, appear in their respective scripts as well as in transliteration (and, where appropriate, translation). Determining the degree to which a specialist monograph should accommodate the nonspecialist reader is difficult. In this reviewer's judgment, Kerr's monograph approaches the tolerable limit of exclusivity.

These observations notwithstanding, this is a formidable work by a true philologist. Not a monument to idiosyncratic erudition, it is rather a stable base on which a fledgling discipline can rest before bursting into new flight.

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Author:Schmitz, Philip C.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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