Daedala lingua: Crafted speech in De Rerum Natura

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


This article examines the creation of words in De Rerum Natura through a close reading of two extended passages concerning the problem of where words come from and what they do. The first is the account of speech production, work entrusted to the daedala lingua in Book 4. This physiological process is mimicked at the phylogenic level in the discussion on the origins of language in Book 5, where voice is first shaped by a body responding to the impact of objects, then by utilitas. The adjective daedalus and the intervention of utilitas both signal, I argue, a shift away from an understanding of language as reaction towards an understanding of language as fabrication, a shift with important implications for the relationship of words to the world they represent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-585
Number of pages59
JournalAmerican Journal of Philology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Classics
  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


Dive into the research topics of 'Daedala lingua: Crafted speech in De Rerum Natura'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this