In one of his contributions to 'The Editor's Department' of this journal, Brian D. Joseph mentions as 'particularly intriguing' what he describes as '[p]erhaps the most arcane line in all of the Language style sheets, past and present', namely prescript 3c, 'Use boldface for certain forms in Oscan and Umbrian, and to distinguish Gaulish and other forms originally written in the Greek alphabet' (2005:565). Joseph is surely right to suggest that the wording was introduced by the Indo-Europeanist Warren Cowgill, a famously exact and exacting editorial assistant for and then associate editor of Language from the late 1950s/early 1960s until 1975, a period in which contributions on long-dead tongues were rather more common than they are these days. Now, for the first time in many years, a book is being reviewed in Language in which half of the cited words and morphemes are in boldface, and for the simple reason that this is indeed the standard convention for certain forms—specifically ones written down with a so-called 'native' alphabet—in the Sabellic (sometimes: Sabellian) languages, whose two most prominent members are Oscan and Umbrian. Since his 1984 dissertation, which was advised by none other than Joseph, Rex E. Wallace has produced many important linguistic and textual studies of Sabellic, and it is pleasing that a scholar of his standing was willing to write this short introduction, which (along with Wallace 2004) should make Oscan, Umbrian, and also South Picene and such 'minor Italic dialects' as Marrucinian and Marsian accessible to linguists of all stripes, if naturally not as prominent as their data-rich near-relative Latin.
W's Sabellic languages of ancient Italy is volume 371 in LINCOM Europa's 'Languages of the world/materials', an ambitious series of short descriptive grammars that began with Gə'əz (vol. 1) and has continued its scattered but useful way through Zulu (50), Literary Old Babylonian (81), Polish (393), and now Wulguru (463). The books, all published from camera-ready copy, are to some extent cookie-cut, which is not necessarily a bad thing and could indeed be said to possess certain advantages for those who might wish to cull from the lot of them one or another specific linguistic fact. That the prices are on the high side has at least something to do with the falling dollar and may not be a matter about which it is really fair to complain. Much more troublesome, though, is that the good work of W and many of the other distinguished authors often comes at the expense of typographical quality. It cannot be stressed enough just how important it is to have good reference grammars that even students might be able to afford, and I am inclined to view problems of a nonintellectual sort as relatively minor. Still, it needs to be pointed out that they are not negligible: in the present work, for example, diacritical marks are often badly misplaced (e.g. phonetically or epigraphically essential dots that should be directly under certain letters are far off to the right); pages xiii and xiv are printed twice (not just in my [End Page 490] review copy); there are many evident difficulties with formatting; and typos and inconsistencies show up rather more often than one would like. There is already a second edition of the grammar of Gə'əz, and perhaps one could be arranged for Sabellic as well.
Although W's book does not supersede Buck 1928, it is more accessible to students without being dumbed down; it is of course also up to date and cites passages according to the style established in Rix 2002, which is now the standard collection of texts. In the brief preface, W 'justif[ies] the existence' of his book with the following words:
The study of the Sabellic languages is based on a tiny corpus of inscriptions, most of which have been known for a hundred, in some cases well over a hundred, years. And yet the...