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Review of  Dictionnaire Étymologique Roman (DÉRom) 2

Reviewer: Bruno O. Maroneze
Book Title: Dictionnaire Étymologique Roman (DÉRom) 2
Book Author: Éva Buchi Wolfgang Schweickard
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Language Family(ies): Romance
Issue Number: 28.3406

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REVIEWS EDITOR: Helen Aristar-Dry


“Dictionnaire Étymologique Roman (DÉRom) 2”, edited by Éva Buchi and Wolfgang Schweickard, written all in French, is divided in two parts: a theoretical and methodological first part (with eleven contributions) and a lexicographical second part, which includes 40 dictionary entries, in more than 140 pages. The volume has a total of 617 pages.

A foreword (“Avant-propos”) written by the editors explains the main goals of the volume: its theoretical and methodological contributions try to present solutions to some problems posed in the first volume (called, shortly, Dérom 1), as well as to enlarge the number of entries (114 in the first volume, 40 in this one). The authors finish the text describing the “Ten commandments of the déromien” (déromien is a person who writes a DÉRom entry), which show the methodological rigour that is sought in the work.

The theoretical and methodological first part is divided in three subparts: 1. “Réflexions soulevées par la pratique lexicographique” (Reflections raised by lexicographical practice), with nine chapters; 2. “Codification des principes rédactionnels” (Codification of writing principles), with two chapters; and 3. “Liste des publications du DÉRom” (DÉRom’s list of publications).

The first contribution, by Valentin Tomachpolski, is entitled “La modélisation de l’inventaire phonématique vocalique en position atone du protoroman” (Modelisation of Proto-Romance phonemic inventory of unstressed vowels). The author describes the work of a team of researchers (all members of the DÉRom project) who discussed the best ways to represent the unstressed vowels of Proto-Romance. Two systems are presented, both used in traditional works of Romance studies: the ternary notation system, which represents “closed”, “open” and neutralized vowels; and the binary notation system, which represents tense/closed (marked) and lax/open (unmarked) vowels. The author concludes presenting four proposals that will still be debated in the future.

The second contribution, by Xavier Gouvert, also deals with phonological reconstruction: “Du protoitalique au protoroman: deux problems de reconstruction phonologique” (From Proto-Italic to Proto-Romance: two problems of phonological reconstruction) brings discussion on two issues: first, the articulation (bilabial or labiodental) of Proto-Romance /F/ [because of limitations of ASCII characters, I will employ common letters together with phonetic descriptions]: it is argued, against Maniet (1950) and others, that this segment was labiodental. The second issue is the spirantization of intervocalic plosives: the author argues that this phenomenon is older than usually thought, dating from the period before the first Archaic Latin texts (but after Proto-Italic).

Lexical semantic reconstruction is the subject of the third chapter, “Reconstruction comparative et histoire sémantique” (Comparative reconstruction and semantic history), by Jean-Paul Chauveau. The author discusses how to identify if a lexical meaning is already present in Proto-Romance or if it was diffused by language contact or, still, if it appeared in more than one language in a parallel way. The text is very rich in examples, presenting solutions brought by different dictionaries (DÉRom included) and proposing some criteria to help the researchers in this reconstruction task.

The next contribution deals with a classic theoretical problem of Romance Linguistics: the reconstruction of a neuter gender in Proto-Romance: “Problèmes théoriques (et pratiques) posés par la reconstruction du genre neutre en protoroman” (Theoretical (and practical) problems caused by the reconstruction of a neuter gender in Proto-Romance), by Éva Buchi and Yan Greub, asks the following question: is it possible to demonstrate the existence of a neuter gender in Proto-Romance only through reconstruction, without relying on written Classical Latin evidence? The authors answer the question with a “yes”, after the evidence presented by the so-called Zurich School (Faraoni, Gardani & Loporcaro 2013), and argue that, at least for one specific case (*fame[n], ‘hunger’), it is possible to reconstruct a neuter gender even if the attested Classical Latin correlated word is not neuter.

The following three chapters deal with aspects of linguistic Geography and areal Romance Linguistics. “La classification des glottonymes dans un dictionnaire étymologique panroman. L’exemple des dialectes italiens” (Classification of glottonyms in a Pan-Romance etymological dictionary: the case of italian dialects), by Marco Maggiore, brings up the very complex subject of the Italian geographical variation, which is the most linguistically fragmented area in the Romance languages area and perhaps in all Europe. The author compares the dialect classification employed in the Romanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch with his own proposal and the current simplified system of the DÉRom.

The sixth chapter is entitled “Les constellations géolinguistiques dans le DÉRom” (Geolinguistic constellations in the DÉRom), by Jan Reinhardt. The author analyses the constellations, which are groups of three Romance languages that share etymons. By quantifying the number of reconstructed etymons shared by each constellation, it is possible to identify which languages are more closely related; this knowledge may help in reconstruction and also in the lexicographic presentation of the articles.

The seventh chapter, “Le protoroman mis en carte: guide de lecture” (Proto-Romance put in maps: reading guide), by Jérémie Delorme, presents 34 maps (preceded by a very detailed explanation on how to read and interpret them) that show the distribution of morphological and semantic phenomena throughout the Romance languages.

At the eighth chapter, “Le DÉRom expliqué aux lecteurs non spécialistes, mais dotés d’une saine curiosité” (DÉRom explained to non-specialist readers, but with a healthy curiosity), Marie-Thérèse Kneib explains in great detail the methodology, theoretical principles and lexicographical decisions that guide the research, presenting also a consultation guide for the dictionary, employing a language accessible to non-specialist readers.

The ninth and last theoretical chapter is entitled “Ouverture: protoroman, latin et indo-européen” (Opening: Proto-Romance, Latin and Indo-European), by Romain Garnier. The main point argued by the author is that there is a continuity from Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Romance; as such, Proto-Romance should not be regarded as “derived” from Latin, but as Latin itself, and the written Latin texts must be regarded as “derived” from spoken Proto-Romance. The author also proposes interesting solutions for old etymological problems, like */kaBallu/ ‘horse’ and */rokka/ ‘stone, rock’.

The second subpart, entitled “Codification des principes rédactionnels” (Codification of writing principles) contains two contributions: the first one is a long and detailed text by Victor Celac, “Normes rédactionnelles” (Writing norms), which details all the principles followed by the authors of DÉRom articles and explains all the lexicographical conventions to the consultants. It is followed by the “Bibliographie de consultation et de citation obligatoires” (Bibliography of mandatory consultation and citation), by Mihaela-Mariana Morcov, which is a rich list of works classified by language (including some general works), all of them of mandatory consultation for the writers of DÉRom articles.

Finally, the third subpart (“Liste des publications du DÉRom” - DÉRom’s list of publications) presents a seven-page long list of published works from the DÉRom research group.

The second part, “Partie lexicographique” (Lexicographical part), contains 40 dictionary articles, all of them at least two pages long, followed by “Abréviations et signes conventionnels” (Abbreviations and conventional signs) and “Bibliographie” (Bibliography), this one signed by Pascale Baudinot. All dictionary articles are also available for consultation on the DÉRom website (although the printed version includes maps for many of them, which are not found on the website).


The Dictionnaire Étymologique Roman intends to be a new reference work for Romance Linguistics, and it is certainly on the right path. Its articles are very detailed and its methodology is solid and rigorous. The proposal of reconstructing all the forms instead of employing the forms of written Latin may sound odd at first sight, because it is a radical shift from traditional research on Romance Linguistics, but the researchers have successfully demonstrated that this method certainly brings new insight on the subject.

The methodological rigor of both the theoretical chapters and the dictionary articles is really impressive. Also very useful for Romance linguists is the bibliography presented by Morcov (on the second part), which is organized by language and language group.

A reader, like myself, who is reading this book as the first contact to the texts of the project may feel that some of its aspects are left unexplained. For instance, on the subject of reconstruction, it may seem odd that the DÉRom researchers prefer to reconstruct a bilabial /F/ instead of a labiodental /f/. Most Romance languages (maybe all) have a labiodental instead of a bilabial /F/. Bilabial /F/ is, thus, reconstructed based not on language comparison, but on written Latin accounts. The second chapter, by Xavier Gouvert, explicitly argues against this reconstruction. As such, more arguments for bilabial /F/ reconstruction are needed for the reader, which are certainly presented on other DÉRom publications (to which I did not have access yet).

Another phonological issue that may seem unusual is the transcription of Proto-Romance “qu”, as in */’kuando/ (Classical Latin “quando”): there is no indication of the non-syllabic character of the vowel /u/ and, thus, the word might be incorrectly syllabified as /’ (with a stressed /u/). A complete explanation on why “qu” is transcribed as /ku/ (and not as /kw/, for instance) is lacking in this volume (although it may be presented in other DÉRom publications).

In the same respect, the first chapters of this volume presuppose that the reader already understands the methodological principles of the DÉRom, which are not widely known even among Romance linguists. Because of that, the eighth chapter, which explains these principles, might be put at the beginning of the volume.

A few typos were detected:

- on page 198, in explaining the pronunciation of the bilabial sound /B/ [“beta” in the IPA], Spanish ‘lavar’ is transcribed /la’bar/, but it obviously should be /la’Bar/;

- on page 267: “Dans ce cas, elles peuvent soit apparaître dans le corps des articles, sont [it should be “soit”] être citées en note”;

- on page 329: “Remarques préliminiares” [it should be “préliminaires”]

- on page 330: the title of Meyer-Lübke’s first mentioned work is correctly spelled “Grammatik der Romanischen Sprachen” [not “Grammaik”, as misspelled on the printed text]

- on pages 396 and 397, the same map “*/Bad-e-/ (types formels)” was printed mistakenly twice, although the second time it is marked as “types sémantico-syntaxiques”.

All the issues pointed out in this review are only minor problems. The DÉRom project, as a whole, is one of the most important advances in Romance Linguistics in the last decades and this volume is certainly a must-have for linguists working on the subject. The project website ( also contains many other materials, including downloadable publications and many different ways of consulting the dictionary articles, and it is also worth exploring.


FARAONI, Vicenzo; GARDANI, Francesco; LOPORCARO, Michele (2013) Manifestazioni del neutro nell’italoromanzo medievale. In: Emili Casanova Herrero; Cesáreo Calvo Rigual (eds.) Actas del XXVI Congreso Internacional de Lingüística y de Filología Románicas (Valencia 2010), vol. 2, Berlin/New York, De Gruyter, 171-182.

MANIET, Albert (1950). L’évolution phonétique et les sons du latin ancien. Louvain: Arta.
Bruno Maroneze completed his Ph.D. in the University of Sao Paulo in 2011. His Ph.D. thesis focuses on Brazilian Portuguese neologisms formed by suffixation. His main research interests are on Lexicology, specifically word formation, neologisms and diachronic studies of the lexicon. He is currently teaching in the Faculty of Communication ,Arts and Letters of the Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados, MS, Brazil.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9783110450262
Pages: 617
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