New perspectives on historical Latin syntax

New perspectives on historical Latin syntax, vol. 1: Syntax of the sentence. Ed. by Philip Baldi and Pierluigi Cuzzolin. (Trends in linguistics: Studies and monographs 180.) Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009. Pp. xxii, 561. ISBN 9783110190823. $179 (Hb).

Reviewed by Joseph F. Eska, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

This first of a three-volume set opens with a ‘Prolegomena’ (1–17) in which the editors set out the history and rationale of the project and explain its functional-typological approach. It is followed by Pierluigi Cuzzolin and Gerd Haverling’s ‘Syntax, sociolinguistics, and literary genres’ (19–64), which explicates how texts of different genres over an extended period of time provide insights into syntactic change from a sociolinguistic perspective.

The next two chapters focus on external interference from Greek and Semitic, respectively.  Gualtiero Calboli, ‘Latin syntax and Greek’ (65–193), finds that Greek influence upon Latin syntax is wholly literary in scope, while Gonzalo Rubio, ‘Semitic influence in the history of Latin syntax’ (195–239), demonstrates that Semitic influence lies principally within the realm of ‘translationese’, focusing, as one would expect, upon translations of the Bible.

The remaining chapters deal with various aspects of sentential syntax, especially on the discourse and pragmatic levels. Brigitte L. M. Bauer, ‘Word order’ (241–316), observes that proto-Indo-European clausal configuration has been reliably reconstructed as SOV, i.e. with left-branching complements, and examines the development of right-branching structures and their pragmatic motivations within the history of Latin. I find the emphasis on the distinction between left- and right-branching structures excessive; here especially one misses the decision to eschew generative approaches in the volume.

Hannah Rosén, ‘Coherence, sentence modification and sentence-part modification—the contribution of particles’ (317–441), is an absorbing and wonderfully thorough treatment of sentential particles, in which the author reviews the entire roster of particles and discusses their usage throughout the history of Latin across a broad range of textual genres, with special reference to the organization of information. I also appreciate the extensive comparisons with other Indo-European languages. This chapter is the highlight of the volume for me.

In ‘Coordination’ (443–87), M. Esperanza Torrego outlines the distinctions between copulative, disjunctive, and adversative coordination, and traces the connectives and their patterns of usage through the history of Latin into Romance. Finally, H. Paul Brown, Brian D. Joseph, and Rex E. Wallace, ‘Questions and answers’ (489–530), provide the first extended description of the syntax of questions and answers not only in the history of Latin but also in the Sabellic languages of ancient Italy (with a few tentative remarks on proto-Indo-European). They note at the outset that one might expect questions to have carried a special intonational contour, which, of course, is not recoverable. It is noted that the syntax of questions is remarkably stable throughout the history of Latin, except for the loss of the interrogative clitic ne in polar questions. Answers on the other hand do not bear any features that mark them as a formal category, so one variously finds affirmative replies cast as echo responses or containing affirmative or emphatic particles, while negative replies contain the negator or negative particles.

All of the chapters in this volume are copiously illustrated with textual examples from Early Latin up to Late Latin or beyond. Regardless of one’s approach to the study of diachronic syntax, it is an excellent starting point to find out the range across which various syntactic phenomena are attested.