Relation of Latin to Greek

I recently came across a review of a book in New Englander and Yale Review (August 1859)
Title: Notices of Books: The "Latin" Question [pp. 801-802]

It discussed in detail whether Greek is the closest related language to Latin.

The "Latin" question is not yet settled. The exact relation of the Latin language to the Greek is still a matter of debate...

Dr. Augustus Schlecher of Bonn... holds that the Latin and Greek form a family group or pair, being more closely allied to each other than to any other Indo-European family. He supposes that the Latin and Greek people continued together for some time after their separation from the main stock. See his Die Sprachen Europas, Bonn, 1850, p.135.

C. Lottner of Berlin contends, on the contrary, that the Latin is as closely allied to some of the northern families, particularly to the Teutonic, as it is to the Greek... Roman mythology is connected with the Teutonic and Sanskrit as well as with the Greek.
I have never heard this argument before, but I do not even know Greek:(

What do you think of the above?
 

Imber Ranae

Ranunculus Iracundus
Historical linguistics has come a long way since 1859. The obvious syntactic similarities between Greek and Latin are mostly due to their both being fairly conservative Indo-European languages. Lexically they're not very close at all. Nowadays everyone categorizes them as being in fully separate branches of the Indo-European family.

At one time Latin was categorized as belonging to a larger Italo-Celtic subfamily, because of the apparent similarity of the many inscriptions in Gaul to Latin and other ancient Italic languages. These are now categorized separately as well, with the Romance languages being the only survivors of the Italic branch, and the Brythonic (e.g. Welsh) and Goedelic (e.g. Irish) languages being the only survivors in the Celtic branch.
 

Akela

sum
Staff member
When I first saw this review I was quite shocked :shock:

It is hard to believe that Latin and Greek were considered to be so closely related only 150 years ago. They look nothing alike!
 

Bitmap

Civis Illustris
I have only just found this thread on the front page, but it looks interesting :)

Akela dixit:
When I first saw this review I was quite shocked :shock:

It is hard to believe that Latin and Greek were considered to be so closely related only 150 years ago. They look nothing alike!
That's not entirely true, if you take a closer look.
The tempora (and modi) of Latin and Greek are fairly similar, although in Latin the aorist and the perfect tense have merged into one tense whereas Ancient Greek retained both; (also the optative has merged into the subjunctive in Latin whereas Ancient Greek retained) - the rest of the tempora are the same, which appears to be a major difference to Germanic languages to me.

There are similarities in the case system, too. The genitive of the Greek a-declension (-as/-es) is the same as the old Latin genitive of that declension that can still be founds in the well-known pater familias. Also the long dative -o of the o-declension in both Latin and Greek goes back to the Indo-Germanic ending -oi; I think the nasal final in the accusative and the -os ending (at least Old Latin still had -os rather than -us) in the nominative also go back to the same root.

There are also corresponding consonants/ consonant clusters that you can notice; e.g. Ancient Greek p is usually qu (/kw/) in the Latin cognate: hippos - equus; hepomai - sequor; penta - quinque; Greek question pronouns usually start with p, Latin ones with qu

Those are just a few examples. The relationship of Latin and Greek had long been observed (I think even Varro noticed the similarities and described them in his book de lingua Latina). It was precisely the knowledge of this similarity/relationship and the comparison of those to other languages like Sanskrit and Old Persian that made Sir William Jones think of a common predecessor for all those languages in 1786 (thus kind of starting off the branch of Indo-European studies) ... a fascinating topic!
 

Galbis

New Member
Latin and Greek seem similar because they are Indo-European. Many Latin grammars point out how English is similar to Sanskrit and others. Take water for example: German: Wasser, Russian: voda or, tooth: Greek: dontos Sanskrit (root): dent- Languages are wonderful, but it's beautiful how close they are.
 

PeterW

New Member
The modern consensus is that the Indo-European languages are related in overlapping groups, roughly corresponding to geography. So Latin shares some features with Celtic, and some with Greek. Greek shares other features with Armenian and Sanskrit. Sanskrit shares others with Slavic languages. And so on.

The closest languages to Latin are other Italic languages that may not have been well known in 1859 !
 
The arguments for a closer connexion between Italic and Keltic seem stronger, but the strongest argument there is about both branches having settled mostly on 'r' forms to distinguish the mediopassives, which is really no better than arguing that the Germanic and Slavonic branches have a special relationship simply because both repurpose the original genitive plural as a dative plural.
 

Big Horn

Active Member
Andrew Sihler comments in his New Comparative Greek and Latin Grammar (2008) that a comparative grammar of Greek and Sanskrit would be worthwhile. indicating an interesting relationship between those two languages which would show them to be closer than Greek and Latin.

Sanskrit is artificial to an extreme degree, but this would be a fascinating project. It might open some new avenues of inquiry with respect to Latin.
 
Andrew Sihler comments in his New Comparative Greek and Latin Grammar (2008) that a comparative grammar of Greek and Sanskrit would be worthwhile. indicating an interesting relationship between those two languages which would show them to be closer than Greek and Latin.

Sanskrit is artificial to an extreme degree, but this would be a fascinating project. It might open some new avenues of inquiry with respect to Latin.
I ſhould aſk my ſon, who has ſtudy'd both Latin and Sanſkrit.
We spend moſt of our viſits diſcuſſing linguiſtics.;)
 

Big Horn

Active Member
It's so pleasant to see the long s. I did not know the character was available although I suppose that it's on the Microsoft Character Map. I found your use of study'd to be very pleasant as well. I'd like to learn the rules for its use so that I may incorporate it into my writing.

Can you recommend any books or websites that treat eighteenth century English and Latin orthography as well as related material? I've been browsing of late in Keil. Volume VII, Scriptores De Orthographia. It's most enjoyable.
 

Edmundus

New Member
Quite closely. You could say that about most languages though, it just depends. For instance, common words like the one for "god" in Latin is deus, whereas in Greek they have Zeus. In linguistics, Ds and Zs are occasionally interchangeable. The same goes for Vs, Bs, Fs, Ws, and Ps.
 

Hemo Rusticus

Lounge Lizard
The words you mention are cognates, but they are not equivalent. The morphological equivalent of Latin deus in Greek is rather δῖος.
 

Serenus

legātus armisonus
Quite closely. You could say that about most languages though, it just depends. For instance, common words like the one for "god" in Latin is deus, whereas in Greek they have Zeus. In linguistics, Ds and Zs are occasionally interchangeable. The same goes for Vs, Bs, Fs, Ws, and Ps.
Most languages? No.

Maybe all languages descend from some pre-historic human language found deep into the past, many thousands of years ago, but it's not observable anymore.
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
Perhaps he is slowly coming to that same wondrous realization that Sir William Jones came to.
 

Issacus Divus

H₃rḗǵs h₁n̥dʰéri diwsú
Thank you sir. :hat:
 
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