LINGUIST List 15.541

Tue Feb 10 2004

Sum: Latin Preposition and Conjunction Order

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. George Huttar, Summary on Latin preposition and conjunction order

Message 1: Summary on Latin preposition and conjunction order

Date: Mon, 9 Feb 2004 21:52:47 +0300
From: George Huttar <>
Subject: Summary on Latin preposition and conjunction order

On February 2, 2004 (Linguist 15.418) I gave examples of
prepositions and subordinating conjunctions occurring in marked order
in 4th century Latin poetry, and asked "whether such 'movement' is
limited to poetry and can be attributed to writers' adjusting to fit
the meter; and whether it is attested in Classical Latin, or is only a
later development."

My thanks to the following who responded, some to my specific
questions, some about Latin word order variation in general:

 Adrienne Bruyn, who provided this reference: Vincent, Nigel. 1999.
'The evolution of c-structure: prepositions and PPs from Indo-European
to Romance'. Linguistics 37(6):1111-1153.

 David M. Johnson, a classicist commenting on Latin word order
variation in general,back to pre-CL times. Pace the following
response, "Rather than attributing it to metrical constraints (which
surely constrain only the most mediocre of poets!) we who teach Latin
poetry would argue that just as English poets (even in free modern
forms) gain the freedom to use unusual word order for poetic effect,
so too did Latin poets."

 Andrew A. Cooper, who says that such inversions go back at least as
early as classical Latin poetry of 40 BCE, "
meter-fitting or topicalisation." They also occur in CL prose, but
less frequently. "Later poetry in general, and particularly Christian
hymns and Vulgar Latin poetry, exhibits if anything less movement than
is typical of Classical poetry."

 Sarah Harmon, confirming the frequency of "movement of all sorts in
CL prose and poetry.

 Tore Janson, who provided this reference: Hofmann, J. B. and
Szantyr, A. (1965) Lateinische Syntax und Stilistik, and went on to
give examples cited in that work from Ovid (preposition far to the
right of the noun it governs) and Varro ("clause"-initial conjunction
occurring fourth in the clause). On Latin word order variation
generally, "most cases of peculiar word order are found in poetry,
and...the frequency for most types tends to be higher in late
antiquity. But most types are also found in prose to some extent, and
it is not possible in general to draw any sharp line between 'normal'
and 'artificial' word orders."

 Michael A. Covington, confirming the occurrence of marked word
orders in CL.

 Frederik Fouvry, reminding me of unmarked postpositional
order--"preposition" cum following relative pronouns (quo-cum 'with
which'; cf. same order with personal pronounssuch as me-cum 'with me')
and postpositions like gratia that normally occur after their NP, as
well as providing a CL prose example.

 Daniela M´┐Żller, providing an example from CL prose in which the
preposition does precede the head of its NP, but with other material
in between.

In short, the occurrence of prepositions and subordinating
conjunctions elsewhere than in their "expected" pre-NP resp. pre-S
position is attested from Classical Latin times, probably more
frequently in poetry than in prose.

George Huttar
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