The Phoenician / Punic Language and Plautus’ Poenulus

Kevin Roth

Though the most significant contribution of the Semitic people called Phoenician by the Greeks and Punic by the Romans was the world’s first alphabet, which gave rise to most of those used today, the people themselves did not create a literature that has survived to modern times. In fact, their language is quite poorly attested, mostly in inscriptions, and rarely in extended passages.

The language belongs to the Semitic language family, which is divided into three branches: 1) Eastern, consisting of the now extinct Akkadian, the language of Babylon; 2) Southern (AKA Southwestern), whose most prominent member is Arabic; and 3) Northwestern (or simply Northern), which is subdivided into Canaanite and Aramaic branches. Both Hebrew and Phoenician are Canaanite languages. The two languages share much in common. The Phoenician name for their homeland was Pūt (PT) and they referred to themselves as Pōnnīm [1] .

The Phoenician alphabet consists of 22 letters, all of them consonants. Vowels were not depicted (this was a Greek innovation), though in later texts some letters were also used to represent vowels (letters so used are called matres lectionis). Since the Hebrew alphabet uses the same 22 letters (though in somewhat different forms) as Phoenician, that alphabet is often used for Phoenician words in textbooks on the subject. The letters of the Phoenician alphabet were initially mostly linear, but became increasingly cursive (and less legible) later on, especially at Carthage. The alphabet was formed on an acrophonic basis, i.e. each letter was based on the drawing of a concrete object that began with that letter. The first letter, aleph, meant ‘ox,’ and its form was originally a drawing of the head of an ox. Writing runs from right to left.

The difference between the terms “Phoenician” and “Punic” is more geographical than linguistic. The latter term is used to describe the language of Carthage and of inscriptions found in the western Mediterranean. Punic does display some innovations, but fundamentally the two are the same language. The terms “Late Punic” and “Neo-Punic” are used interchangeably to describe inscriptions that postdate the destruction of Punic Carthage in 146 BCE. The term “Latino-Punic” refers to inscriptions in Punic written with the Latin alphabet. Greek and Latin inscriptions have the advantage of including vowels, but suffer from the drawback that neither could fully express all the phonemes (especially the laryngeal, guttural, and emphatic consonants) of Phoenician, as indicated by the fact that the cities of Tyre and Sidon were both spelled with the same initial consonant in Phoenician (Hebrew tsadi, צּ).

North Africa (particularly Carthage) is the source of most inscriptions, numbering in the thousands. The Phoenician homeland (roughly modern Lebanon) has produced around 100, and Cyprus slightly more. Though inscriptions have been found in Morocco, Spain, and islands of the western Mediterranean, these are fairly rare. One inscription has even been found in Wales, presumably written there by a soldier from Africa [2] . The earliest Phoenician texts date from the 12th century BCE and the latest from the 5th century CE. The Ras Shamra tablet (named for the modern town near the ancient city of Ugarit) from the 14th century BCE is written in Ugaritic, a kindred Northwestern Semitic language, which used an alphabet of 30 letters derived from cuneiform (Woodard, 291).

Our sources of information about the Phoenician language (especially its phonology) include not only inscriptions, but also Phoenician words and names written in other languages, and even translations from Phoenician into other languages (e.g. the text of Hannibal’s oath of alliance with king Philip V of Macedonia, preserved in Greek by Polybius; quotes from the Latin version of Mago’s work on agriculture). Comparison with Biblical Hebrew is also useful, since it is known that the two languages were very closely related.

Originally the Phoenician language possessed the following consonants: ’ (glottal stop, א in Hebrew), B (ב), G (ג), D (ד), H (ה), W (ו, depicted in Latino-Punic as u), Z (ז, sd, ss), Ḥ (ח, h or nothing), Ṭ (ט, t), Y (י, i), K (ch), L (ל), M (ם), N (נ), S (ס), ‘ (pharyngeal obstruent, ע, represented in Latin as h or nothing), P (פ), Ṣ (צ, s, t, st, ts, ss, $), Q (ק, c), R (ר), Š ש), s) T (ת, th). The phone Ṣ was sometimes transliterated by an s with a special ligature, which is usually shown as $ in textbooks. By the later phase of the Punic period, the following phonemes had been lost (though some continued in writing): ’, H, Ḥ, ‘, Ṣ, Š [3] . Thus, over time the language underwent phonological simplification. Phoenician, which distinguished between long and short vowels, possessed the following ones: a, i, u, ī, ē, ū, ō. A reduced vowel, perhaps akin to the Hebrew shva, appears in Latino-Punic texts as y.
from: http://semtax.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/phoenician464.gif
from: http://semtax.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/phoenician464.gif

Phoenician nouns possess the characteristics of gender (masculine, feminine), number (singular, dual, plural) and state (construct, absolute). Only the barest traces of the Proto-Semitic case system (nominative, genitive, accusative) can be found in Phoenician. The usage of the dual was largely confined to naturally occurring pairs (e.g. eyes, arms, legs). In the Punic passages of the Roman comedy Poenulus, we find the masculine plural ending written as -im and feminine plural -uth. Verbal state is a category specific to Semitic languages. The default state is absolute, but the governing noun of a genitival phrase appears in the construct state. At any rate, only in the masculine dual and plural is there a formal difference between the two states. The following diagram displays Phoenician nominal morphology:

masculine (sing., du., pl.)
absolute -ø, -ēm, -īm
construct -ø, -ē, -ē
absolute -(o)t, -tēm, -ūt
construct -(o)t, ? (unattested), -ūt [4]

As in other Semitic languages, the basis of the Phoenician verb is three consonants, to which prefixes, suffixes, and intervening vowels are added. Verbs lack the dual number, but the 2nd and 3rd persons are distinguished by gender. What are often described as “tenses” were in reality aspects. The difference between the perfect and imperfect was not one of time, but rather the contrast between discreet, completed actions and ongoing ones. The confusion between tense and aspect is understandable, though, since in practice the perfect often played the role of the past tense, and the imperfect of the present and future. The perfect was formed through the addition of suffixes and the imperfect through prefixes (and suffixes as well in some cases). The triconsonantal roots could also be manipulated through the addition or doubling of consonants (to which the aspectual affixes were then added), thus producing passive, factitive, reflexive, reciprocal and causative verbal forms.
The suffixes for the perfect aspect are as follows (the capital letters represent the written Phoenician letter, which is vocalized within the slashes):

1st sg.: -T /-ti/
1st pl: -N /-nu/
2nd sg. Masc: -T /-ta/
2nd pl. Masc: -TM /-tim/
2nd sg. Fem: -T /-ti/
2nd pl. Fem: not attested
3rd sg. Masc: -ø /-a/
3rd pl. masc and fem: - ø, Late Punic –’ (א) /-ū, -ūn/
3rd sg. Fem: - ø /-o/ [5]

The root YTN has the meaning ‘give.’ The form YTNT would be either ‘I gave’ or ‘you gave.’

Unique among all the attestations of the Punic language are a number of lines from Plautus’ play Poenulus (adapted, like all of Plautus’ plays, from an original Greek New Comedy entitled Karkhedonios, perhaps written by a playwright named Alexis) spoken by the eponymous character, a rich Carthaginian man named Hanno. He does not make his appearance until the 5th (and final) act of the play. He has come to the Greek city on Calydon in search of his two daughters and his brother’s son, all of whom were kidnapped by pirates in childhood some ten years earlier and sold into slavery. The boy was bought by a misogynous man, who adopted him as heir (rather than put up with a wife) and named him Agorastocles. The two girls, Adelphasium and Anterastilis, were bought by the leno Lycus, who plans to begin to prostitute them in the near future. Agorastocles has fallen madly in love with Adelphasium, and he conspires with his wily slave, Milphio, to win his loved one away from the pimp.

The 5th act begins with the entrance of Hanno, followed by slaves carrying his baggage. The text of the play includes three separate 10-line monologue speeches, two in Punic and one in Latin. It seems reasonable that only one of these speeches was actually featured in performances of the play, since a lengthy address recited in a foreign language and followed by a translation delivered by the same character is unprecedented among ancient dramas and would certainly have stretched the patience and interest of the audience to the breaking point. We know from Terence (prologues to The Mother-in-Law) that theater audiences did not scruple to abandon a play mid-performance if a rumor of better entertainment elsewhere arose, and towards the end of Poenulus itself one character specifically warns against talking too much, since the audience is thirsty. Would Hanno, then, have delivered his speech in Latin or Punic? The character is specifically mentioned and describes himself as knowing Latin and, in fact, the vast majority of his dialogue is in Latin. Furthermore, though the setting of the play is Greece, the characters specifically name Latin as their medium of communication, and so the audience’s credulity would hardly balk at hearing a Carthaginian character speak Latin. It is reasonable, therefore, to imagine that Hanno’s speech was delivered in Latin. But why, then, would there be a Punic version included in the manuscript? If, on the other hand, the speech were delivered in Punic, then it is easy to envision a commentator’s later inclusion of a Latin gloss of the passage. It is undoubtedly true that no one in the audience would understand Punic, but the actor playing Hanno could easily convey everything mentioned in the speech through gesture [6] . He begins by invoking the gods to help him find the long-lost children. An actor could easily convey this by performing the motions of prayer. He has come to this town to inquire after his friend Antidamas (Agorastocles’ adoptive father), whom he knows is dead. The actor would simply have to mention the names of father and son (which the audience presumably would understand amongst all the gibberish) in a sufficiently sad and reverent tone of voice, and the spectators would understand the idea. They would certainly recognize the name Agorastocles. The actor would then simply need to burnish the token (tessera) of the friendship between the Hanno and Antidamas, which comes into play soon afterward. It is not beyond belief that the audience could understand these points, even if spoken in a foreign tongue.

Much the same assumption is made concerning the curse against Carthage that Scipio Aemilianus declared after the capture of the city. The early 5th century CE grammarian Macrobius records (Saturnalia 3.9.10-12) not only the text of the curse, but also mentions the motions and gestures that Scipio performed at the end. It is difficult to imagine that Scipio would have taken the trouble to invoke a curse on the city if the captured populace were not present to witness it. They certainly would not have understood the Latin, but Scipio’s touching the ground and then raising his hands to the sky would have been fairly clear invocations to, respectively, Tanit and Baal-Hamon, the primary Carthaginian divinities.

There remains the issue of why there are two Punic speeches. The two are similar, but not the same. The second one is considerable more corrupt (i.e. there is more variation within the manuscript tradition) and cannot be understood as well as the first. The first also includes the letter y and the digraphs ph, th, and ch considerably more frequently than the second version. This is significant because the digraphs were not introduced into Latin writing until the middle of the 2nd century BCE, some three decades after Plautus’ death, and y was not incorporated into the alphabet until a century after the digraphs. This shows that the first Punic version of the speech was written considerably later, and perhaps represents an attempt to both write Punic in a more systematic way, utilizing the new letters and digraphs, and to clean up accumulated corruption in the text [7] .

Another issue that remains is how Plautus produced the Punic passages, presumably without knowing the language. It seems possible that the was actually a Punic translation of the play, and Plautus took the lines from this [8] . Although Carthage’s theater dates from Roman times and there is no evidence of one during the Punic period, it is well established that the Carthaginians were in contact with the Greeks and were influence by their culture. It would hardly be surprising, then, if Carthaginians adapted plays from Greek and staged them on temporary wooden stages, no trace of which would have remained. After all, Rome’s first permanent theater (Pompey’s) was not built until almost a century after the destruction of Carthage. Alternately, Punic versions of plays could have circulated among the elite as closet dramas (i.e. ones meant to be read, rather than staged), as is speculated to have been the case for Seneca's tragedies. If one objects that there are no traces of Punic dramas, it must be remembered that no Punic literature at all has survived, though it certainly existed (e.g. Magon’s agricultural treatise). It is also possible that Plautus could have paid a Punic-speaker to help him with the work, but he could just as easily have created Punic-sounding gibberish, as Aristophanes had done with Persian a few centuries earlier.

It seems clear that the Latin is a translation of the Punic and that the latter is indeed Punic, rather than Punic-sounding gibberish. The first point can be judged from the fact that proper names appear in the same lines of the two speeches (both of which have ten lines) and when a Latin word is used multiple times, the same Punic word appears in the equivalent lines of the Punic version. The Punic nature of the language used is attested by the appearance of the word yth, which represents a particle used before definite direct objects (the nota accusativi) in many Semitic languages (cf. Hebrew et), but in no Indo-European ones.

Yth alonim ualonuth sicorathi symacom syth
Chy mlachthi in ythmum ysthyalm ych-ibarcu mysehi
li pho caneth yth bynuthi uad edin byn ui
bymarob syllohom alonim ubymysyrthohom
byth limmoth ynnocho thuulech-antidamas chon
ys sidobrim chi fel yth chyl is chon chen liful
yth binim ys dybur ch-innocho-tnu agorastocles
yth emanethi hy chirs aleichot sithi nasot
byna yid ch-illuch ily guulim lasibithim
bodi aly thera ynnynu yslym min cho-th iusim (930-940)

deos deasque veneror, qui hanc urbem colunt,
ut quod de mea re huc veni rite venerim,
measque hic ut gnatas et mei fratris filium
reperire me siritis, di vostram fidem.
sed hic mihi antehac hospes Antidamas fuit;
eum fecisse aiunt, sibi quod faciunt fuit.
eius filium esse hic praedicant Agorastocles:
ad eum hospitalem hanc tesseram mecum fero;
is in hisce habitare monstratust regionibus.
Hos percontabor qui hinc egediuntur foras. (950-960)

Following his monologue, Hanno overhears Agorastocles and Milphio discussing the latter’s recent discovery that the two girls were kidnapped from Carthage. The two men then notice Hanno, and from his clothes they identify him as a Carthaginian. As they approach to speak to him, Hanno says in an aside that he will speak Punic to them if they try to use that language. Agorastocles has completely forgotten his native language, so long ago was he brought to Greece, but Milphio claims to speak the tongue fluently (nullus me est hodie Poenus Poenior, 991). There follow exchanges between Hanno and Milphio, who seems to have put the book down after having reached the beginning of chapter 3 of Teach Yourself Punic, and when he find himself over his head he begins to offer his own fictitious translation. Milphio addresses him with the greeting avo and understands that his name is Hanno. His pretended translations are based on Latin words similar to what Hanno says is Punic. When Hanno says me har bocca (1002), Milphio translates this as miseram esse praedicat bucca sibi (“he says that his jaw hurts,” 1004). This continues until Hanno grows annoyed with the steadily more bizarre translations of his words, and begins speaking in Latin. After this, the only other exchange in Punic is between one of Hanno’s slaves and the girls’ nurse, who turns out to be the slave’s mother. Hanno describes the nature of their discovery to the others, but does not offer a full translation.

Hanno is clearly portrayed in a positive light, and this portrayal is perhaps revealing [9] . He is a wealthy, pious, generous man, who devotes his life to finding his lost daughters and nephew. Although he was made his brother’s heir in the absence of the brother’s son, he does not hesitate to promise to give that entire inheritance over to Agorastocles, the intended heir. His intelligence is perhaps indicated by the twice-told description of his facility with many languages (is omnis linguas scit, 112; si respondebunt, Punice pergam loqui / si non, tum ad horum mores linguam vertero, 983-4). He even has a sense of humor, as revealed toward the end of the play when he and Agorastocles toy with the girls before revealing the truth of Hanno’s identity to them. He is a very attractive character, and this fact is particularly interesting in light of the fact that the play (it is believed) was produced sometime within a few years after 195 BCE (judging from an apparent reference to an event from that year, the Romans’ defeat of Spartan king Nabis). This was only six years after the treaty that ended the Second Punic War, only seven after the Battle of Zama, in which Scipio Africanus defeated Hannibal. It seems that Plautus expected that a Roman audience would be able to identify with a Carthaginian as a major character, as a “good guy,” only a handful of years after the end of a war that saw many years of Hannibal’s victories over Roman generals, plundering of the Italian countryside, and presence at the gates of Rome. One would imagine that the audience would immediately start to heckle an actor not only attired in typically Carthaginian garb but speaking Punic in the middle of the play, but Plautus apparently did not fear such a scenario. That he showed no reluctance to include an attractive Carthaginian character in his play so few years after the end of a major war against those same people perhaps indicates that the Romans did not long bear a grudge against their opponent. Furthering this conclusion is the fact that archaeological evidence indicates that Carthage’s 220-ship naval harbor was either built or remained in use after 201, despite a treaty stipulation limiting the size of the Carthaginian fleet to only 10 ships. If the Romans turned a blind eye to Carthage’s economic and military recovery for so long (until 149), this perhaps indicates that their attitude toward their former foe was considerably less than acrimonious. A live-and-let-live approach certainly seems to be the case from the evidence of Poenulus. It must be remembered, too, that the majority of the main characters (Agorastocles, Adelphasium, Anterastilis) are Carthaginian as well, by birth at least. This makes the play unique among all of Plautus' comedies in featuring a cast that is not mostly Greek (though Greece is, admittedly, the setting). Moreover Terence, Plautus’ successor as Roman comic playwright, was himself a Carthaginian by birth, but this did not provoke resentment. These facts further the conclusion that the 2nd Punic War did not leave the Romans thirsty for Carthaginian blood. It would take the single-minded determination of Cato the Censor to rekindle the flame of revenge.

Image:external image moz-screenshot.pngexternal image moz-screenshot-2.png
Annotated Bibliography:
Primary Sources
Nixon, Paul, trans. Plautus IV: Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932.
This volume from the Loeb Classical Library includes not only Poenulus but also Pseudolus and Rudens. As with all Loeb editions, the original is on the left page and the English translation on the right. The translator includes lines (sometimes extended passages) that were bracketed by the German editor Leo as footnotes at the bottom of the page, with translation provided also in footnote. There is a brief, one-paragraph introduction to the play, followed by the acrostic argumentum (a synopsis of the play in the form of a poem, the first letter in of the lines of which spells the title of the piece) and the dramatis personae, both in Latin and English. Money is translated with British units of currency, leading to the usage of such Britishisms as “tuppence” and “farthingsworth.” Given the date of the translation, some of the vocabulary is a bit dated. A few hapax legomena of unknown meaning occur (e.g. ninnium, sarapis, sementium), which are footnoted by the author and translated as an anglicized version of the Latin word (e.g. “naggot,” “semi-serapian”). Stage directions appear in abundance, though they are interpolations from the manuscripts, which do not include any such details.

Web Resources
Wikipedia. “Phoenician Language” and “Phoenician Alphabet.”
This wiki-page is fairly short, but does include some interesting anecdotes, such as how the word gorilla comes from Phoenician (thanks to Hanno’s expedition to Western Africa). The treatment of the language is not systematic and includes an abundance of details without describing the most important points. The article on the alphabet is longer and includes good diagrams of the letters. There are brief descriptions on the origin of the alphabet, on the names of the letters, and on later alphabets derived from it. This would be very useful for a student assigned to prepare a presentation on the origin of the Latin alphabet.

Secondary Sources for Students
Adams, J.N. “Latin and Punic in Contact? The Case of the bu Njem Ostraca.” Journal of Roman Studies vol. 84 (1994): pp 87-112.
Bu Njem (known as Golas in Roman sources) is located 200 km south of the coast in the region of Tripolitania. In 201 CE a legion established a fort at the site, which was subsequently held by a considerably smaller band of soldiers. 158 ostraca with ink writing from the 250s have been found at the site. These reveal that the majority of the soldiers had either distinctly Punic or Libyan names or Roman names linked with Africa, and were presumably recruited from the area itself. The language used on the ostraca displays some peculiarities that demonstrate the language used by the soldiers (and presumably by many civilians as well in Roman Africa). The language is obviously Latin, and thus it would be incorrect to view it as a Latin-based pidgin or creole language, since one of the defining characteristics of such languages are their unintelligibility (without special study) to speakers of the language on which they were based. Nevertheless, idiosyncrasies abound. For example, the adverb bene often appears as bone (probably the result of the application of the adverbial maker -e to the adjectival stem bon-), a form rarely seen elsewhere. The command quere ad tessera (“seek the token”) shows both the loss of word-final -m (a development attested frequently and throughout the Latin-speaking world) in what should be tesseram and the use of a prepositional phrase instead of a simple direct object after the verb quaerere. This is a phenomenon not seen elsewhere, and is perhaps the result of the fact that the writer was a native speaker of Punic, which marks definite direct objects with a special particle (et in Hebrew). The writer made the mistake, common when speaking a second language, of applying a feature of his native language to the learned one. Those ostraca that are letters are often highly formulaic, and deviations from stock epistolary phraseology often bear mistakes, which perhaps indicates that the writers learned to speak Latin largely through set phrases, and strayed from grammatical rules whenever they needed to needed to leave that familiar territory. The article does not describe the seeming difficulty of writing sizable messages on shards of pottery, which one imagines were better suited to the limited requirements of ostracism. Though the article does delve into relatively complex linguistic analysis, its display of how other languages affected Latin would be an important lesson for students to learn.

Franko, George Fredric. “The Characterization of Hanno in Plautus’ Poenulus.American Journal of Philology. Vol. 117, No. 3 (Autumn 1996): pp. 425-452.
This article describes how Plautus presents the character of Hanno the Carthaginian in his comedy Poenulus. Though the role does confirm some Roman stereotypes of the people of Carthage (e.g. how crafty and cunning they are, cf. how Hanno at first pretends not to know Latin), and though the diminutive within the title itself seems disparaging, nonetheless Hanno is fundamentally portrayed in a positive light, which is surprising in light of how the Romans in the audience had been at war with Carthage only a few years before the play was produced. The thesis of this article is easy to understand and the arguments are simple to follow, and so it would be appropriate material for a student to report on.

Gratwick, A.S. “Hanno’s Punic Speech in the Poenulus of Plautus.” Hermes vol. 99 (1971): 25-45.
This article attempts to compile all that has been determined about the Punic spoken by the character Hanno in the play. It does not include any kind of detailed word-by-word analysis of the speech (only a few of the Punic words, in fact, are individually translated). Instead, the author attempts to make sense of Hanno’s speech (as opposed to the other instances of Punic within the same play) within the context of the larger work. He decides that Hanno most likely pronounced his introductory speech in Punic. Perhaps the 1st speech, which is today largely understood, is a scholar’s correction of the hopelessly garbled original version encapsulated in the second speech. It is clear that the content of the three speeches is the same, that the Latin is a translation of the Punic. This article would be especially useful for students since it does not include a linguistic analysis of the Punic passage and encapsulates a lot of information without being overly long.

Guillaume, Alfred. “The Phoenician Graffito in the Holt Collection of the National Museum of Wales.” Iraq. Vol. 7 (1940): pp 67-68.
This very short article describes how a Punic graffito was found in Wales, almost certainly left by a soldier from Africa. The last few letters of the inscription are missing, but the content is nothing more than the name and patronymic of the writer.

Krahmalkov, Charles R. “Notes on Tripolitanian Neo-Punic.” Journal of the American Oriental Society. Vol. 144, No. 3 (Jul-Sep. 1994): pp. 453-456.
This brief article describes an inscription found in 1960 in the Roman province of Tripolitania (modern Libya). Eight lines of Latin are followed by three lines of Punic written in the Latin alphabet. Though the passage is brief (and simply mentions who made the inscription), it reveals features that are unattested in the Punic of other regions, including vocalization of the definite article, use of a personal pronoun as a demonstrative adjective, and the utilization of a 3rd person plural active verb form in place of a passive. This reveals regional peculiarities of the language spoken in Tripolitania. The bulk of the article is an analysis of each word of the inscription. The information about the individual words is far too complex for high school students, but this article does present evidence of what speech must have been like in the Roman world: various combinations of Latin and indigenous tongues.

Krahmalkov, Charles R. “‘When He Drove Out Yrirachan.’ A New Phoenician (Punic) Poem ca. A.D. 350.” Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research. No. 294 (May 1994): pp.69-82.
This article describes the only known example of Canaanite (i.e. Phoenician and Hebrew) poetry that has survived both intact and with full vocalization. The source is the tombstone of the soldier Julius Nasif, on which is inscribed a three-verse poem written in the Latin alphabet. It was found in a necropolis among 20 stelae similarly inscribed in Latino-Punic (making it the largest such find in Tripolitania). The incident commemorated in poetry was the successful defeat of attacking Berbers under the chieftain Yrirachan. The article translates the poem and offers commentary on all the words. Much of the linguistic discussion would be lost on high school students, but such a one-of-a-kind text (which, additionally, is short and fully understood) might interest them.

Secondary Sources for Teachers
Amadasi Guzzo, Maria Giulia. Inscrizioni Fenicie e Puniche in Italia. Rome: Libreria dello Stato, 1990.
This book, written in Italian, contains 127 pages, the final 24 of which display 33 photographs of the titular Phoenician inscriptions found in Italy, some in color and others black and white. The prior section (pp. 72-100) features commentary on the inscriptions, including provenance, transliteration of the inscriptions into Roman letters, and translation to the extent that this has proven possible in each case. On page 12 there is a very useful diagram of the Phoenician alphabet as it appeared in 13 settings differing in time and place, ranging from 1000 BCE to the beginning of the Common Era. The bulk of the book consists of general information on inscriptions (types, script) and descriptions of the possessions of various museums in Sardinia, Sicily, and mainland Italy. This would be for students a nearly ideal introduction to the topic in general, not just specific to Italy, if it were available in English.

Gray, Louis H. “The Punic Passages in the ‘Poenulus’ of Plautus.” American Journal of Semitics Languages and Literatures. Vol. 39, No. 2 (Jan. 1923): pp. 73-88.
As one might expect from the nature of the periodical in which this article appeared, the focus is on linguistic analysis of the Punic passage. The most useful section is the analysis of the lines of Punic that occur after Hanno’s initial monologue (a Latin version of which follows in the text). A translation for these individual lines does not appear in the text, and Milphio’s supposed interpretation of the Punic is really nothing more than finding similar-sounding Latin words (with hilarious consequences). The translation of what Hanno says reveals that he is responding to Milphio’s interpretation, though of course not in a way comprehensible to his interlocutors or the audience. This is further proof that the Punic is real, and not mumbo-jumbo that Plautus made up. The article also includes a description of how Plautus transliterates Punic into Latin letters. The frequent references to Hebrew and Arabic (without transliteration) in elucidating the meaning of the Phoenician makes this article far too difficult for high school students, but their teacher would be able to use it to show them the meaning of the Punic lines in the play.

Harris, Zellig H. A Grammar of the Phoenician Language: American Oriental Series Volume 8. New Haven, CT: American Oriental Society, 1936.
The author of this 172 page book was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. The bulk of the book consists of a glossary of Phoenician (pp. 71-162). All Phoenician words are written with Hebrew letters (without any diacritical marks in light of the very limited understanding of the vocalism of Phoenician words) and with little transliteration. The first half of the work describes the grammar of the language. This part is divided into sections on phonology, morphology (with subsections on verbs, nouns, and pronouns), and syntax. The usage of the Hebrew alphabet renders this book unsuitable for students, but teachers (assuming they are familiar with that alphabet) will find this work to include all the most important information without falling into an unmanageable wealth of detail.

Krahmalkov, Charles R. A Phoenician-Punic Grammar. Leiden: Brill, 2001.
The author of this 309-page book is a professor of Ancient and Biblical Languages at the University of Michigan. His stated goal is to compile a grammar of the language without the overwhelming dependence upon Biblical Hebrew that characterizes other treatments of Phoenician. Accordingly, Phoenician words are transliterated with capitalized Roman letters in bold (some including diacritical marks), rather than the Hebrew letters often utilized in similar works. Nevertheless, there are occasional references to Hebrew, mainly as comparisons. Reconstructed vocalized forms of words often appear alongside the actual Phoenician (presented in Roman letters) or Latinized forms from Latino-Punic inscriptions or Poenulus (e.g. YTN yaton; sebuim zebūḥīm). After initial chapters on the language itself and on its writing system and phonology, the remaining fourteen chapters each cover one part of speech. Krahmalkov presents the verbal system in a fashion considerably different from that in other grammars. Instead of characterizing verbs through two aspects and various Aktionsarten (known in Hebrew studies as binyamin), he defines them as having four voices, two aspects, and six tenses (all functions of syntax, rather than morphology). The thorough usage of vocalization and transliteration makes the Punic words easier to understand, but the book supplies a superabundance of detail that is not conducive toward a casual investigation into the language.

Segert, Stanislav. A Grammar of Phoenician and Punic. Munich: Verlag C.H. Beck, 1976.
The author of this 330-page book was a professor at UCLA. Phoenician words are presented in Hebrew letters, with little transliteration. It includes selected texts (pp. 264-281) from different places and periods and written in different alphabets (mostly Phoenician but also Greek and Latin). The glossary (pp. 282-307) includes sections for all three alphabets, but is limited to those words which are fully understood (some used in the text are not). The entirety of the grammatical material is presented in numbered sections, which are often very brief. The lack of an index makes it difficult to find where specific subjects are described. The texts would be interesting for class (especially the Latino-Punic ones), but the teacher would have to translate them himself beforehand, which would certainly be difficult and might not be entirely possible in some cases because of the limits of our understanding of the language.

Woodard, Roger, ed. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages. Cambridge: University Press, 2004.
The editor of this 1162-page volume is a professor of Classics at SUNY Buffalo. The book consists of descriptions (usually around 20 pages) of all the languages of the ancient world that possessed writing systems that are known today. Other languages written with as yet undeciphered scripts are mentioned in the introduction. The chapters are written by various authors (some of whom contribute more than one). The section on Phoenician and Punic (pp. 365-385) is by Jo Ann Hackett of Harvard University and is found between chapters on Hebrew and Canaanite dialects. The chapter densely packs a great deal of grammatical information about the language and includes a lengthy bibliography.
  1. ^ Krahmalkov, 2001:1
  2. ^ Guillaume, 67
  3. ^ Krahmalkov, 2001: 20-25
  4. ^ Segert, 114
  5. ^ Krahmalkov, 2001: 159-61
  6. ^ Gratwick, 33
  7. ^ Gradwick, 37
  8. ^ Krahmalkov, 2001: 3
  9. ^ Franko, 450