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A poem from 1621 contains one ô and one â. The ô is the interjection ô and the â is in the relative pronoun quâ. No circumflexes are used elsewhere in the poem. Does the circumflex (or caret or however it should be called) only emphasize that the vowel is long, or does it have some other function? It would make some sense that the relative pronoun was quae instead of qua (neuter plural nominative instead of feminine singular ablative), but I am unsure if this would be a misinterpretation.

Here are pictures of the words in question:

ô and quâ

My previous question was about the same poem.

  • 1
    Since it seems relevant to me, I believe this Google book has the full poem. I read qua with qua meta, as in: "from what extremity/pole the stars rise and depart" (or similar): how do you read it if it is neuter plural? – brianpck Oct 25 '16 at 10:05
  • @brianpck, the other reading was roughly "stars which come and go through the extremity". In this context I would read dabas nobis astra roughly as "you taught us astronomy". I agree that qua makes more sense, but I want to explore all options to make my interpretation as reliable as possible. To that end I'd like to know if I can read quâ as quae from the orthographic point of view. The full poem is longer, but the book you cite contains the relevant stanzas. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 25 '16 at 10:30
  • But what about this page about circumflex? – andrea Aug 19 '18 at 23:47
  • @andrea What about it? Quintilian doesn't specifically talk about circumflexes anywhere; the only diacritic used in his time (for Latin) was the apex. – Draconis Aug 20 '18 at 1:44
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*Please see addendum at the bottom

I have found two possible explanations for the circumflex: (1) to indicate a long vowel and (2) to indicate an ablative. Both of these functions would seem to overlap!

Earlier grammarians frequently used the circumflex to indicate a long vowel. A practical grammar of the Latin language; with perpetual exercises in speaking and writing. For the use of schools, colleges, and private learners, by George Adler, published in 1858 and available on Wikisource says (among other things about accentuation):

“Monosyllables have the circumflex, when their vowel is long by nature …”

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Practical_Grammar_of_the_Latin_Language/Lesson_1#Of_the_Accent. A facsimile is also available on Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/practicalgrammar00adle

An even earlier source, and therefore perhaps more pertinent to this 1621 poem, is Lily’s A Short Introduction of Grammar Generally to be Used, originally published in 1513. It spills much ink on the accentuation of Latin including the circumflex.

This book was the most widely used Latin textbook in England for almost 300 years, due in large part, I’m sure, to Henry VIII's edict that it be the only Latin grammar to be used in schools (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lily_(grammarian) )

It is also available on Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/ashortintroduct00lilygoog I include a picture of the first relevant page (p. 195) (to save you a lot of scrolling through the book!). You will see that rule 1 adumbrates Adler’s rule above about the long-by-nature vowel.

Lily and accentuation, p. 195

Another possibility is that it marks an ablative. The Wikipedia entry for "New Latin”, under the sub-heading “diacritics” states that

“the circumflex accent … was chiefly found over an a representing an ablative singular case”

Sadly, this has no supporting citations. However, I did find this facsimile of a 1689 book that uses quâ liberally, including in its title, and apparently always as an ablative, which goes some way to corroborating the Wikipedia claim: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=8BJmAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=qu%C3%A2&f=false

The closest thing I could find for an abbreviation that meant quae was this:

quae

However, this is a handwritten abbreviation from a much earlier period and is not like your quâ at all really. This was found in an edition of Adriano Cappelli’s Elements of Abbreviation in Medieval Latin Palaeography, found here: https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/bitstream/handle/1808/1821/47cappelli.pdf?sequence=3

Addendum: I have found the following attested uses of the circumflex in Renaissance/Neo-Latin:

• To indicate a long vowel. Indeed, it is found “exclusively” over long vowels (Lily; Steenbakker).

• To distinguish between homographs where the long vowel differentiates the word (Steenbakker).

• To indicate the ablative singular (a practice adapted from Quintilian’s observation that the apex marked the long a of the ablative singular (Hale, p. 24)) but can also be found over singular genitives of the fourth declension (Steenbakkers). Also see footnote 1 in Gilbert.

• To indicate contraction (amâsse for amavisse, for example) (Hale; Steenbakker).

• To mark an interjection (Steenbakker).

References:

Allan H. Gilbert, « Mock Accents in Renaissance and Modern Latin », in PMLA, vol. 54, no. 2, 1939, https://www.jstor.org/stable/458579?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

John K. Hale, « Observations on Milton’s Accents », in Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, 1995, vol. 331, no. 3 http://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/renref/article/view/11626

William Lily, A Short Introduction of Grammar Generally to be Used, originally published in 1513, p. 195 https://archive.org/details/ashortintroduct00lilygoog

Piet Steenbakkers, Accent-marks in Neo -Latin, (a word search for “circumflex” will take you right to his paper), conference proceedings from 1991, https://archive.org/stream/hafniactaconvent00inteuoft/hafniactaconvent00inteuoft_djvu.txt

  • Thanks! Three remarks: (1) Both readings quae and qua are long; the latter is singular feminine ablative qua meta. It's ablativus viae, a plain ablative indicating path. There's no difference in scansion. (2) I might have missed something, but did you find evidence that â could stand for ae? I don't know if the circumflex was ever used that way. (3) Doesn't the Adler quote support reading as qua rather than quae? – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 4 '16 at 8:11
  • Argh! No, you didn't miss anything - I did! I think I was so focused on proving my misguided point that I lost sight of the facts. I'll edit my answer. I think the stuff about the documented use of the circumflex is still useful? – Penelope Nov 4 '16 at 8:22
  • Oh yes, information about the use of circumflex in general is useful. It is relevant background (and new information to me), although it alone doesn't answer the question. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 4 '16 at 8:29
  • You're after something more specific to the orthographic custom of the era? The Wikipedia entry for "New Latin: diacritics" states: “The circumflex accent … was chiefly found over an a representing an ablative singular case”. Sadly, this has no supporting citations. However, I did find this facsimile of a 1689 book that uses quâ liberally, including in its title, and apparently always as an ablative, which goes some way to corroborating the Wikipedia claim: books.google.com.au/… – Penelope Nov 4 '16 at 10:33
  • The orthographic customs of the era are what I'm after. I want to know how reasonable it is to interpret quâ as quā or quae from an orthographic point of view. A citation for that Wikipedia mention would make a great answer. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 4 '16 at 10:47

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