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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 22

[A Note on Latin Place-Names]

page 507

In Livy, xxi., 19, we read, "turn maxime Sagunto exciia;" further on, in xxi., 21. we read, "Sagunto capto." The first expression is explained per synesin of "urbe" vith Sagunlum, and the participle is taken in agreement with it. Livy occasionally introduces urbem, vicum, in apposition to the names of towns, in "urn." Hence has arisen a certain perplexity as to the gender of Latin place-names; add to which the influence of Greek place-names, and we have the erroneous statement of our Latin Grammars on this point seemingly justified. But Livy, in using such a sentence as the folloving (among a host of such instances), ii., 63: "Fusi, in primo proelio hostes, et in urbem Antium, ut turn res erant putentissimam acti," is telling us that the enemy fled to Antiun— a town of very great wealth, as the times were then—and uses the plainest way of saying what he has to tell us.

In our Latin Grammars, (two books of this year, 1886, are enough to cite,) the statement runs substantially thus : "Nanes of countries, cities, islands, and trees are feminine." In another Grammar the statement is somewhat guarded: "Most nanes of cities are feminine." Here is a qualification of the previous statement; and it is to be hoped that in time the statement will be further attenuated, so as to represent the facts.

What are the facts? In my copy of Madvig's Gramnar (third edition, an old book), p. 28, the author says very little about the subject; but adds, "of the words in us the names of towns are feminine. These mines are all Greek." The itaics are mine; and the statement is worth noting, because it indicates the natural order of things: that, in the case of one highly-inflected language passing on names into another highly-inflected language the names hear their gender with them. All these Latinized spellings of Greek place-names only go to show that in Greek the names of towns in os are feminine.

But in his "Notes on Latin Word-systems," published in 1844, this great scholar (who has died since this note was can-piled,) goes further: "Not a single name of a place in Lain, irrespective of the nature of its termination, is of the feminne gender." Notwithstanding which dogma of the master, compilers of Latin Grammars for English boys have gone on reiterating the same misleading "rule" with a sort of hide-bound obstinacy.

page 508

We find place-names declined according to the scheme of the first, second, and third declensions. I am not acquainted with any belonging to the fourth and fifth declensions, and am inclined to think that as geographical names usually belong to rough speech, these somewhat obscure varieties of declension do not contain any place-names.

Taking suffixes in order, we begin with