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I. QUANTITATIVE VALUE OF SYLLABLES.
That the prosody of Plautus is different in many respects from the prosody of the Augustan poets, is universally admitted to be true, yet, in spite of our earnest efforts to draw a clear line of demarcation between the usage of the earlier and that of the later period, we are in constant danger of bringing to the study of Plautine verse a set of conceptions based upon the familiar Augustan prosody, and a vocabulary of metrical terms unconsciously colored by their adaptation to the Augustan use. This traditional vocabulary, which we are under the necessity of using, is often also quite inadequate and quite inexact, and, in view of the unfortunate associations with which some of these terms are almost indissolubly connected, their use often increases our perplexity and embarrassment. No one of the ancient metrical phenomena seems to me more inadequately named than that which I propose to discuss in the present paper, viz. early Latin synizesis, since the term 'synizesis,' as is well known, is employed in several quite different senses and is often applied to quite disparate phenomena; before I enter fully upon the discussion of this question, however, it will be best to give another and an even more striking illustration of the inadequacy of our common metrical terms as applied to Plautine prosody.
The Problem of Ille. — It is important to recognize that the system of quantitative measurements employed by Plautus is different in several respects from the quantitative system of Augustan poetry. I do not mean to imply by this that either one of the two systems is less good or less genuine than the other; on the contrary, both systems seem to me to be based as a whole upon the most genuine and substantial foundation possible, viz. a definite and original sense of quantity on the
Leipzig, 1892; Sturtevant, Contraction in the Case Forms of deus, is, and idem, Chicago, 1902; Engelbrecht, Wien. Stud. VI, 236 ff.; Brock, Quaest. gramm., Dorpat, 1897; Hodgman, Harvard Studies, IX, 151 f. ; Christ, Metr.2 30 ff.; Corssen, Ausspr. II?, 744 ff. ; Skutsch, répas, Göttingen, 1903, p. 198 ff. ; etc.
part of those who used the Roman language. But I mean that the two systems differ somewhat in the solution of certain practical problems of exact measurement, such as must confront every form of quantitative speech. An apt illustration of this fact is afforded, as it seems to me, by the treatment in Plautus of those dissyllabic pronouns and conjunctions, which, according to the grammarians, are without the “high tone” (fastigium, cf. Keil, VII, 360, 10), viz. ille, inde, immo, nempe, etc. As is well known, ille not only has the value of three morae (-u) in Plautus, but also at times the value of two morae (uu), but Skutsch has shown in his Plaut. Forsch. that the latter value belongs to the pronoun, only when it is dissyllabic and does not suffer elision of the final syllable; monosyllabic ill[e], ill[a], etc., have invariably the value of two morae (-). In view of these facts, Skutsch maintains that the conclusion is certain that the ultima of ille, immo, nempe, etc., was often totally suppressed by syncope in the rapid pronunciation of colloquial speech, and he offers us the following "mathematical demonstration” of the correctness of this view (Plaut. Forsch. 40):
Such a solution of the problem appears at first sight most attractive, and, in the case of nempe, it has been accepted as a correct solution by a very large number of Plautine scholars; yet, in my judgment, the proposed solution is very far from being really convincing. Since, however, I propose to discuss the question of these pronouns more fully elsewhere, only the general character of my criticism need be indicated here.2 Professor Skutsch's argument appears to
1 Cf. Trans. Am. Phil. Assoc. XXXV, 50 f.; A.J.P. XXV, 425 ff.
2 For this reason I do not dwell here upon the fact that many other pronouns, such as nēquis, nēqua, quisquis, hocin, omnis, etc., should be added to the list given by Skutsch, nor upon the fact that the pronominal word-orders cannot be easily changed for the colloquial language, and hence would quickly develop
me to involve two very doubtful assumptions: (1) The assumption that the syllable nemp has precisely the same value and the same pronunciation, whether it belongs to the dissyllable nempe, or to the monosyllable nemp[e]. Such a supposition would be obviously incorrect, for example, if applied to the English sentence; for in our own language the dissyllable manly and the monosyllable man have quite different relations to accent and quantity (cf. Dabney, Musical Basis of Verse, 32). (2) The assumption that, in the verse of Plautus (which closely conforms to actual speech), all of the syllables can be properly divided into those of one, and those of two morae respectively.
This last consideration is a fundamental one, and has to do with the essential difference which exists between Plautine and Augustan prosody. For, however regular the usage of the Augustan poets may be, it is not certain that, in the earlier period, either one of the syllables of nempe had normal value. Thus final short syllables, especially final syllables in -e, may well be shorter in many cases than the normal short, as is shown by the fact that they suffer actual syncope in a limited number of cases, and in many cases they are treated, by preference, with elision (Langen, Philol. XLVI (1887), 419; Lindsay, L.L. 203). It is even more certain that the long penult of toneless pronouns and conjunctions is shorter than the normal long of a penultimate syllable. Let us suppose then that the penultimate syllable of nempe has the value of ij morae, instead of 2 morae, and that the ultima has the value of ģ of a mora, instead of i mora. Would not these assumed values account equally well for the metrical usage of Plautus? The dissyllable nempe, which would really have the value of 2} morae, could still be always treated as two shorts, and the monosyllable nemp[e], which would really be worth only if morae, would still constitute, in actual usage, a long. And even if this explanation should be rejected for the single word nempe, it is evident the use of any metrical license for which a genuine ground once existed. Further, in any complete discussion, the question would arise why the supposed syncope does not apply to all well-worn words alike, such as esse, saepe, curre, etc.
that it would remain highly probable for ille, inde, immo, nēquis, etc.
It may perhaps be said that, in this discussion of the value of nempe, we are taking refuge in mere verbal quibbles, and that all syllables have, in practice, the value either of one or of two morae. On the contrary, the assumption that early Latin prosody had definitely accepted a sharp division of syllables into those of one and of two morae, is not only, in my judgment, wholly unwarranted, since so rigid a scheme of the syllables confessedly involves many artificial and adventitious elements (cf., for example, Victor Henry, Comp. Gramm., Engl. transl., 85), but is also distinctly negatived by the extensive phenomena of the lambic Law. As is well known, this question of syllable values was discussed by the ancient theorists, and gave rise to a division into two schools. One of the two schools, it is true, the metrici, recognized only long and short syllables, that is, syllables of one and two times, but the more scientific school, founded by Aristoxenus and called the rhythmici (or musici), held that many both of the long and of the short syllables differed from each other in quantity, and they expressly recognized in speech syllabae longis longiores, syllables longer than the long, and syllabae brevibus breviores, syllables shorter than the short. Cf. Marius Victorinus, i, 8: nam musici non omnes inter se longas aut breves pari mensura consistere, siquidem et brevi breviorem et longa longiorem dicant posse syllabam fieri. metrici autem, ... neque breviorem aut longiorem, quam natura in syllabarum enuntiatione protulerit, posse aliquam reperiri. No doubt it is true that, apart from the phenomena of elision 2 and from the occasional cases of natural synizesis
1 Cf. Quint. ix, 4, 84, and for a collection of numerous other references to the doctrine of the rhythmici, v. Goodell, Chapters in Greek Metric, 6 f., and Christ, Metr.77 f.
2 The elided syllables (so called) were in nearly all cases too short to be definitely measured or to be taken into account metrically, but no one supposes that they were always completely expelled, and were always left entirely unpronounced ; at least, this was not the case with Roman elision. Hence we may safely assert that, even if it were necessary to explain the final syllable of nempe — the one word - as neglected in the metre, it would not certainly follow that
in Greek (v. p. 167), this doctrine of the rhythmici is not of such manifest practical importance in Greek poetry, but it is of the greatest practical importance in early Latin versification ; for the early dramatic poets, as is now generally recognized, composed primarily by their ear, and according to their general rhythmical feeling, rather than in obedience to a body of precise metrical rules. Their language, it is true, was quantitative, and the weak expiratory accent which it possessed was a wholly insufficient basis for verse, yet this language had not yet fully adapted itself to the somewhat conventional measurements of quantity prescribed by the metrici. Hence, whatever favorite phrase or formula we may adopt, whether we choose to call it “ Law of Iambic Shortening,” or employ some other name, it is always in reality and in the last analysis the doctrine of the rhythmici which we invoke. This fact has been made fairly plain by W. Christ in his extended article, Die Gesetze der plautinischen Prosodie, Rhein. Mus. XXIII (1868), 559 ff.; and, although many forms of statement employed by Christ in 1868 are now inadmissible, and many of his suppositions are quite untenable in the light of more recent study, yet the rhythmical doctrine to which he appeals still remains highly instructive and substantially correct.
We may then justly claim that the spoken language of Plautus's time possessed syllables which cannot be properly assigned the exact value either of one mora or of two, and without attempting to be over-precise, we may. for the purpose of convenient classification, distinguish the following four classes of syllables : I. Heavy’longs (syllabae longis longiores), i.e. those long syllables which (except in the first foot of a hemistich) are rarely shortened in dialogue metres through the agency of the lambic Law, — in other words, those syllables of substantives, verbs, and many adverbs which bear the primary tone; cf. also syllables other than final, which contain a diphthong or naturally long vowel, etc.
it was wholly suppressed in pronunciation, and in this way suffered absolute syncope. According to metrical theory, such an assumption would not be necessary; see below, p. 164 f.