The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

On The Semantic Field ‘Put-Throw’ in Latin*

J. N. Adams

It is well known that mitto comes to mean ‘put’ in late Latin and that it shows reflexes with this sense in the Romance languages (e.g. It. mettere, Fr. mettre, Sp. meter). But the nature of this semantic change has not been fully explained, nor has the relationship of the word with other placing-terms in Latin. E. Löfstedt has stated simply that it ‘takes over the meaning ot ponere’.2 But as pono itself remains common in all types of Latin, the question arises whether the two words did really come into conflict. It is the purpose of the first two sections of this article to show that for a considerable period pono and mitto occupied complementary places in a lexical system. This system exhibits a definite structure which remains unaltered from early Latin to at least the sixth century A.D., though its component terms undergo some changes. In section I pono and the words which in earlier Latin performed the functions later assumed by mitto will be discussed. In section I I we shall move on to mitto itself. It will be necessary to consider the nature and motivation of the transition ‘throwput’ as it appears in Latin.


* I am grateful to Professor R. G. M. Nisbet for his comments on a draft of this article.