Basic word order in De Agricultura

by Hanna, Kirsten M

Abstract (Summary)
Latin word order has been the subject of scholarly debate for centuries, yet the question is far from resolved. In terms of the basic order of the clause's core constituents, some analysts argue that the basic order is SOV, while others argue for SVO. Some scholars argue that basic order is determined primarily by pragmatic principles, others hold the view that order is primarily syntactically determined, and others suggest that both syntactic and pragmatic principles are in operation. The purpose of this study is to contribute to the debate on basic order in Latin and its determinants. Specifically, I examine the order of subject, object and verb in De agricultura, an agricultural manual written in the 2nd century BC. The study shows that the orders SV and OV are so overwhelmingly predominant that we are justified in labelling them as basic; indeed they are so common that we could argue that the order of these elements is relatively fixed. Departures from the basic order fall into two categories: those instances where a subject or object comes later in the clause than usual (i.e. after the verb) and those instances where they appear earlier in the clause than usual (i.e. in a fronting construction). It will be shown that there is a constellation of factors which must be taken into account to explain the distribution and function of these deviations, including the information status of a fronted or postposed NP's referent, its pragmatic function in the clause, and the function of the clause in structuring the discourse. In summary, I argue that in De agricultura there is a syntactically determined basic order for subject, object and verb, and that departures from the basic order are motivated by pragmatic factors, viz either (a) the need to draw attention to an NP's referent(s) for a specific discourse-structuring reason or (b) the positioning of certain 'focally heavy' information after light verbs.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Dr Frank Lichtenberk; Dr Bill Barnes

School:The University of Auckland / Te Whare Wananga o Tamaki Makaurau

School Location:New Zealand

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/2004

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