pulcher

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Douglas G. Kilday

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May 6, 2007, 2:49:41 PM5/6/07
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Latin <pulc(h)er> 'beautiful, pleasing the eyes, agreeable' is of
disputed origin. About 4 years ago I endorsed a possible derivation
from the Indo-European root *pelH1- 'to fill, make abundant' (under
*pel-(1) in the IEW pp. 798-801). However, I did not provide a
detailed explanation of the Latin word's morphology, and I dismissed
the sporadic aspiration as resulting from false Greek etymology, which
is rather simplistic. It is now time to revisit these issues.

That the original sense of <pulc(h)er> was not 'beautiful' but 'full,
abundant, developed' is suggested by the following passages:

Festus, p. 238M: "pulcher bos appellatur ad eximiam pinguetudinem
perductus", 'an ox is called "pulcher" which has been fed to an
exceptional fatness'.

Plautus, Aulularia 413: "neque ligna ego usquam gentium praeberi vidi
pulchrius", 'nor have I seen sticks given out so abundantly anywhere
in the world'.

Cato, de Re Rustica 74: "farinam in mortarium indito, aquam paulatim
addito, subigitoque pulchre", 'place flour into the mortar, add water
little by little, and knead thoroughly'.

Ib. 104: "siquid superfuerit post solstitium, acetum acerrimum et
pulcherrimum erit", 'if any (winter-wine) shall have remained after
the solstice, it will be vinegar, very sharp and very mature'.

Suetonius, Nero 51: "fuit ... vultu pulchro magis quam venusto ...
cervice obesa", 'his features were full rather than pleasing ... with
a heavy neck'. (This distinction between <pulcher> and <venustus> was
missed by Isidore, who regarded them as synonyms.)

The neuter <pulc(h)rum> is formed like <sepulc(h)rum>, an implement in
*-tlom which has undergone the regular shift -tl- > -kl- followed by
dissimilation: *sepol-tlom > *sepolclom > sepulcrum. The verb
<sepeli:re> is cognate with Sanskrit <saparyáti> 'he reveres,
venerates', and must have been used in the sense 'pay final honors',
then 'bury or burn', with <sepulcrum> 'mound, altar, tomb' being the
implement of so doing. While most words formed with *-tlo- are neuter
implements, some others are recognized in Italic. Thus we have Oscan
<puklum> acc. sg. 'son', Paelignian <puclois> dat. pl. 'to the sons',
Marsian <pucles> 'id.' from *pu-tlo- (cf. Skt. <putrá->) 'son',
Umbrian <fikla(m)> acc. sg. 'sacrificial cake (formed into a specific
shape)' from *figW-tla:- (cf. Lat. <fi:tilla> 'sacrificial loaf' for
*fivitilla from the diminutive *figWe-tl.-na: with no syncope after
the labiovelar), Umb. <aviekla> abl. sg. fem. of an adj. *awie:-tlo-
'augural, pertaining to watched birds' from a denominative verb
*awie:- 'to watch birds, go birding'. Thus the suffix *-tlo- does
function to form neutral and passive adjectives from verb-stems, with
the neuter implement being a specialization whose numbers happen to
overwhelm the few others left in Italic.

Hence an adjective *plH-tlo- 'made full or abundant, developed,
mature' is not unreasonable. This would have regularly given a Proto-
Italic *poltlos, by regular Latin changes *polclos > *pulcrus >
pulcer. Specialization of the sense to 'beautiful, pleasing to the
eye' probably resulted in part from the description of a woman as
<forma: pulc(h)ra> 'fully developed in form, full-figured' being
reinterpreted as 'beautiful-figured, pleasing in form', in part from
the beauty, to a farmer's eye, of a fattened animal. Vergilian
examples, "praestanti corpore ... forma pulcherrima Deiopea" (Aeneid
1:71-2), "forma pulcherrima Dido" (ib. 1:496) may be compared with the
more archaic Plautine designation, "mulierem nimi' lepida forma
ducit" (Miles Gloriosus 870).

As for the aspiration in this word, Cicero (de Oratore 160) has the
following important remarks:

"Quin ego ipse, cum scirem ita majores locutos ut nusquam nisi in
vocali aspiratione uteretur, loquebar sic ut pulcros, Cetegos,
triumpos, Cartaginem dicerem; aliquando, idque sero, convicio aurium
cum extorta mihi veritas asset, usum loquendi populo concessi,
scientiam mihi reservavi. Orcivios tamen et Matones, Otones,
Caepiones, sepulcra, coronas, lacrimas dicimus, quia per aurium
judicium licet."

'Indeed I myself, when I knew that our ancestors spoke so as to
aspirate only a (word-initial) vowel, I spoke so as to say "pulcros,
Cetegos, triumpos, Cartaginem"; at a later time, when the truth had
been wrested from me by the reproach of my ears, I conceded usage of
speech to the public, (and) kept the knowledge to myself.
Nevertheless I (still) say "Orcivios, Matones, Otones, Caepiones,
sepulcra, coronas, lacrimas", because (using unaspirated stops in
these words) is permitted by judgment of my ears.'

Cicero's belief that earlier Romans aspirated no stops undoubtedly
came from observation of monuments and old books, such as those of
Ennius which he subsequently cites. The use of digraphs to represent
Greek aspirated stops did not become popular until the second half of
the second century BCE. One of the earliest examples is <Achaicus>,
the cognomen taken by the consul L. Memmius who sacked Corinth in
146. However, the lack of graphic representation does not mean that
no aspiration was ever heard. In <Cartha:go:> it is etymologically
correct, since the name was originally Punic <Qart-ha(d)-dast> 'the
New City' (with the Latin form reflecting primarily sound-changes in
later Punic, as I explained some time ago). Cicero's belief is
therefore ill-founded. Anyway, as a professional orator, he had to
sound the aspiration in <Cartha:go:>, <Cethe:gus>, <pulcher>, and
<triumphus>, or face public ridicule as a pettifogging pedant of
hypercorrect pronunciation. Virtually all Romans must have sounded
the aspiration in these words. In the other words which Cicero
mentions, only some Romans sounded the aspiration (i.e. <sepulchrum>,
<choro:na>, <lachrima>, etc.), allowing him to maintain the
unaspirated forms without ridicule.

Of the appellatives mentioned, only <choro:na> can plausibly be
explained as acquiring its aspiration by false Greek etymology,
presumably by analogy with <chorus>, <chora:gus>, and the like. In
<sepulchrum> the aspiration may simply follow that of <pulchrum>; none
such is found in <fulcrum>. Old Latin <dacrima> 'tear' is cited from
Livius Andronicus by Paulus ex Festo (p. 68M) but Ennius and Plautus
have <lacruma>. The form with l- must have replaced that in d- during
the late third century BCE. It is regarded as a "Sabine" dialectal
form, like <le:vir> 'husband's brother' for the expected *daevir (here
we have the same monophthongization as in "Sabine" <fe:dus> for
<haedus> 'kid'); similarly the river on Horace's Sabine farm,
<Digentia>, is now <Licenza> and must have had L- in local speech. It
is hardly likely that <lachrima> would have been given aspiration by
false Greek etymology, since no common Greek word begins with lachr-
and the actual Greek cognates <dákru>, <dákruon>, <dákru:ma> have no
aspiration. It seems more probable that the aspiration in <lachrima>
reflects the phonology of a Sabinizing dialect of Latin, for
convenience "Sabino-Latin", spoken in and around Rome by those of
Sabine ancestry, but not identical to the Sabine language itself,
which was moribund if not already dead in Cicero's time. Of course,
not all Romans would have had this aspiration in their speech.

The aspiration in <pulcher>, which Cicero found himself obligated to
use, probably passed to the appellative from the cognomen <Pulcher>,
used by a branch of the gens Claudia (of Sabine origin, Livy 2:16),
even by those who monophthongized their gentilicium, like Cicero's
enemy P. Clodius Pulcher. In <triumphus> and <triumpha:re>, the
aspiration probably passed into general speech from ritual use, since
many of the priests were of Sabine origin. The same holds for the
religious names <Orchus> and <Vulcha:nus>, which Marius Victorinus
(Keil 6:21) considers ancient: "video vos saepe et Orco et Vulcano h
litteram relinquere, et credo vos antiquitatem sequi". In my view
<sulphur> 'sulphur' and <mamphur> 'bow-drill' also contain this Sabino-
Latin aspiration, which occurred in a word-internal cluster of an
unvoiced stop with a liquid or nasal. A related sound-shift can
explain "Sabine" <alpus> 'white' cited by Paulus ex Festo (p. 4M) in
connection with a faulty etymology of <Alpe:s> 'the Alps': "immo a
candore nivium, ut vulgo putant, dicti sunt hi montes, quia perpetuis
fere nivibus albescant; Sabini enim alpum dixere, quod posteri Latini
album". In fact <alpis> means 'pasture, meadow' and has nothing to do
with 'white'; furthermore Sabine, like Umbrian, should have inherited
*alf(o)s 'white', not <alpus>, which must thus be the Sabino-Latin
form of <albus>, and sufficiently well known to produce this popular
explanation of <Alpe:s>. This suggests the Sabino-Latin devoicing of
a voiced stop in a word-internal cluster with a liquid or nasal. Such
a phenomenon can also explain <te:ter> 'foul, noxious, offensive' as
the Sabino-Latin form of earlier *taedros, from the same stem as
<taedet> and <taedium>, and the -t- in <scintilla> 'spark' for the
expected -d-. (In my opinion <sulphur>, <mamphur>, and <scintilla>
form a functional group associated with the fire-making ritual
administered by Sabino-Latin sacrificial priests; detailed etymologies
will follow in another thread.)

heliogabalus

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May 7, 2007, 9:32:07 AM5/7/07
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heliogabalus

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May 8, 2007, 3:58:06 PM5/8/07
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"heliogabalus" <forb...@planet.it> wrote in message
news:rTF%h.403$U01....@twister1.libero.it...

I found this in the link I indicated:
Sorry, the server may be busy: please try your request later!

So, it can be better to go to
http://www.indo-european.nl/cgi-bin/query.cgi?root=leiden&basename=ALL
and to fill the field "in any field" with 'pulcher'

Emungo

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May 9, 2007, 8:56:08 AM5/9/07
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Very good, very interesting. The only comment I thought was of a
slightly different quality or character from the careful sagacity of
the rest of the piece was

> ................ In <triumphus> and <triumpha:re>, the


> aspiration probably passed into general speech from ritual use, since
> many of the priests were of Sabine origin.

You haven't felt the need to identify a specific group of Sabinizers
in the case of non-ritual words (except for the Gens Claudia for the
cognomen Pulcher, which I also think is unnecessary). Triumphus and
triumphare are also used outside ritual, so there's presumably no
requirement to look for another explanation than whatever element in
the system it was that favoured aspiration of e.g. <lachrima>.

You might move on to look at the Elizabeth English treatment of names
like Antonius > Anthony, Calpurnia > Calphurnia.

Franz Gnaedinger

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May 10, 2007, 2:22:52 AM5/10/07
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On May 6, 8:49 pm, "Douglas G. Kilday" <fufl...@chorus.net> wrote:

> Latin <pulc(h)er> 'beautiful, pleasing the eyes, agreeable' is of
> disputed origin. About 4 years ago I endorsed a possible derivation
> from the Indo-European root *pelH1- 'to fill, make abundant' (under
> *pel-(1) in the IEW pp. 798-801). However, I did not provide a
> detailed explanation of the Latin word's morphology, and I dismissed
> the sporadic aspiration as resulting from false Greek etymology, which
> is rather simplistic. It is now time to revisit these issues.

My dictionary says the etymology of pulcher is not explained.
Pokorny derived it from *perk (or so) for spotted in the sense
of colored, pretty. You propose the root *pel... 'to fill', and I can
support your fine piece of phonetical paleolinguistics from my
vantage point. We had a discussion on the origin of _girl_
which I derive from COR -: I -: (cor lil, produce the sound
given as -: by touching both lips with the tip of the tongue).
The inverse form -: I -: COR would have been the origin of
pulcher. Sticking out the tongue is an obscene gesture but
once must have had a positive meaning as a sign of desire,
for -: I -: has many derivates denoting desire and pleasures
of all kinds: ancient Greek lilazo 'I desire', German Liebe
and Leben, English live and love, Ugaritic dd 'beloved',
Phoenician Dido 'loved one', Latin bibere 'to drink', English
lip, and the word group of fill and full. COR has the meaning
of young, in the way of the young ones.

Regards Franz Gnaedinger www.seshat.ch

Douglas G. Kilday

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May 11, 2007, 2:41:43 PM5/11/07
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On May 9, 12:56 pm, Emungo wrote:
> On 6 May, 19:49, "Douglas G. Kilday" wrote:
>
> [...]

>
> Very good, very interesting. The only comment I thought was of a
> slightly different quality or character from the careful sagacity of
> the rest of the piece was
>
> > ................ In <triumphus> and <triumpha:re>, the
> > aspiration probably passed into general speech from ritual use, since
> > many of the priests were of Sabine origin.
>
> You haven't felt the need to identify a specific group of Sabinizers
> in the case of non-ritual words (except for the Gens Claudia for the
> cognomen Pulcher, which I also think is unnecessary). Triumphus and
> triumphare are also used outside ritual, so there's presumably no
> requirement to look for another explanation than whatever element in
> the system it was that favoured aspiration of e.g. <lachrima>.

The problem is that so few Latin words have this aspiration. It
cannot be attributed to processes acting within the ordinary Latin
phonological system. I am attempting to justify the Sabino-Latin
hypothesis in as many instances as possible. For <lachrima> the
initial l- serves; a more complicated example is <lympha>, which I
cannot discuss in this brief reply. Citing groups of Sabinizers for
<pulcher> and <triumphus>, which you find unnecessary, is important in
my attempt to put the hypothesis on solid ground.

> You might move on to look at the Elizabeth English treatment of names
> like Antonius > Anthony, Calpurnia > Calphurnia.

I am not sure how that would help me. It looks like a modern
hypercorrection based on either false etymology or false analogy, but
I am not familiar with the details.

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