Word order in Cicero's Letters to Atticus : a multivariate approach

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

One of the most striking features of Latin is its flexible word order. Subjects and objects and verbs can be jumbled, seemingly indiscriminately, and there are generally a number of relative or temporal or conditional clauses in the mix as well. Sometimes these sentences can become so long and unwieldy that even their authors have to remind themselves and their audiences what they were saying when they embarked upon them. For example, in Pro Caelio 1.1 Cicero elaborates upon the dictates of a law by means of two relative clauses, one embedded within the other, and a tricolon, and then has to start the sentence over, having lost track of where he was grammatically before the subordinate clauses. I Small wonder Latin word order has been called a "bugaboo" (Gries, 1951 :87) or "unnatural and wholly without plan" (Robbins, 1951 :78). However, it is not as random as it appears at first sight. There is a basic order, and the variations upon it are not arbitrary. They are influenced by a combination of factors ranging from syntax to semantics, pragmatics to typology. In this dissertation, I investigate word order patterns in Cicero's private letters to his close friend Atticus. My Honours dissertation looked primarily at the arrangement of modifiers and heads within noun phrases in the Epistulae Ad AtticulI1 (McLachlan, 2006). This one develops upon my Honours dissertation, and whilst some of the material is perforce the same, such as the literature review, I have increased the number of examples studied for each construction and added to the potential factors influencing word order, as well as examining word order within verb phrases as well. Four constructions are studied in total, two within noun phrases and two within verb phrases. These are (1) adjective and noun order, (2) genitive and noun order, (3) adverb and verb order and (4) object and verb order.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 83-84).