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Summary Details

Query:   Latin Preposition and Conjunction Order
Author:  George Huttar
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   General Linguistics

Summary:   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, ''typically...as 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?ller, 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

LL Issue: 15.541
Date Posted: 10-Feb-2004
Original Query: Read original query


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