Memmius, A Speaker Of A Prestige Dialect? Essay

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Lucretius and the Transpadanes, a book by Louise Adams Holland, explains the quantity of elision that is found in the works of Catullus, Lucretius, and Virgil by theorizing that they were influenced by the dialect of Latin that was spoken in the northern area of Italy. The Po River is the natural feature that she uses to separate the area in question from the rest of Italy. Holland speculated that the northern Italians may have spoken a dialect that differed from the standard dialect of Rome, due to an influence from their Celtic heritage, or even a residual influence from a pre-existing language that was spoken in the area before Latin was introduced. The book has been sharply criticized. The linguistic argument that Holland is trying to make is not well-supported in her book. In a confusing manner, she mixes examples from modern Italian dialects, with statements about the differences between “Northern” and “Southern” speech habits. A reader must sift through the introductory chapters with care. History, not geography, is a factor in studying dialects which can not be overlooked. This paper will try to support what must have been Holland’s claim, which was obfuscated in the process of writing. Both the text of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura, as well as analyses of the sociolinguistic, and historic factors that affect English dialects, will be used to support the following thesis. Many languages possess several dialects, and the assumption that Latin literature was influenced by dialectal variation is a sound theoretical basis for analyzing the metrics, as well as the content of De Rerum Natura. Lucretius’ poem is dedicated to a certain Memmius. Harold Donohue, in The Song of the Swan and the Influence of Callimachus, states that “Gaius Memmius not only was a key figure in De Rerum

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