By the power of modern linguistics, quite a lot is known about the early history of Latin: for quite a while it coexisted with close relatives like Oscan, Umbrian, and Faliscan, as well as the unrelated Etruscan. Several Classical Latin words show evidence of mutual influence: Oscan/Umbrian lupus "wolf" displaced native Latin *lucus, for example.

Cicero, Varro, Gellius, Suetonius, et al, were clearly familiar with the Etruscans and their language, whether or not they actually spoke any of it. But I can't think of any mentions of other Italic languages in Latin literature.

So my question is: do any Latin authors, of any period, talk about Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, or any other Italic languages apart from Latin? For example, does any grammarian mention that some "dialects" use p where a true Roman would use q?


I think that there are definitely mentions.

Using Google Books, I found a passage that gives a list of words that were identified as Sabine or Oscan vocabulary by Latin authors: pp. 74-86, Varronianus: A Critical and Historical Introduction to the Philological Study of the Latin Language, by John William Donaldson, 1844.

One of the correspondences identified there (by Varro) is Sabine f : Latin h, as in fasena : (h)arena (p. 78).

Latin authors also seem to have discussed the "Fabulae Atellanae" which seem to have had some connection to the Oscan language. Donaldson calls the Atellanae "the only branch of Oscan literature of which we know any thing" (p. 97), but also says that "We may be sure that the Oscan language was not used in these farces when that language ceased to be intelligible to the Romans. The language of the fragments which have come down to us is pure Latin, and Tacitus describes the Atellana as 'Oscum quondam ludicrum'" (pp. 99-100).

In this respect, Donaldson's description seems to disagree with the description I found in A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, edited by William Smith, 1857, which says in its entry on the Atellanae Fabulae that

The Atellane plays were a species of farce or comedy, so called from Atella, a town of the Osci, in Campania. From this circumstance, and from being written in the Oscan dialect, they were also called Ludi Osci.

(p. 118)

Later on, this entry cites Macrobius's Saturnalia, but I haven't looked at the cited passage to see exactly what it says.

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