5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Authors Clackson and Horrocks have set out to supersede Palmer's "The Latin Language" of 1954 which has been the standard text on the history of the language but in need of an update. They certainly succeed in presenting a more modern approach along with the latest scholarship, however it requires considerable pre-knowledge to get the most out of it, not only in classical Latin but also in Indo-European linguistics.
After the initial consideration of the emergence of Latin from Proto-Indo-European, the second chapter analyses the other Indo-European languages of ancient Italy. A third brief chapter addresses the beginnings of the standardisation of Latin in pre-history, before the fourth on Old Latin from c. 400 - 150 BC. The next chapter treats in detail the standardisation process over the 3rd - 2nd centuries BC.
Chapter six is on the Elite Latin of the late Republic and early Empire, with an interesting discussion of the effect of Greek on the language, and also the influence of Cicero. Following on from this the penultimate chapter looks at sub-Elite Latin with detailed examination of some specific examples.
The book has a considerable omission in my view in that the history of Latin itself only goes to c. 500, although the final chapter "Latin in Late Antiquity and Beyond" also considers development of the main Western Romance languages up to c. 1000.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 January 2015
In spite of what has been said, this book is not a comprehensive history of the Latin language; it is scarcely even a history, since its treatment of the subject is neither systematic nor comprehensive, and it gives a very incomplete picture of the topics and periods it purports to survey.
Instead the book is largely a product of the particular research interests of the authors. The chapter Elite Latin in the Late Republic and Early Empire, with its focus firmly fixed on Greek influence, typifies the overall approach. If you were expecting from this chapter a stimulating conspectus of Latin in its golden age, replete with examples illustrating its breadth and richness, prepare to be disappointed.
The book is not without value; its emphasis on socio-linguistic factors (again a product of present-day fashions in research) sheds new light on old material. It does not supersede Palmer, but it serves for the time-being as an extended foot-note to him.