Starting from the Origin: the Early Latin preposition de (and its companions)

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Abstract

This paper explores the semantic network of the Early Latin preposition de (“from”) on the basis of an extensive investigation of the electronic corpus of Comedies by Plautus and Cato’s de Agricoltura, which represent a substantial sample of the oldest Latin attestations in an extensive and non-fragmentary form. Our approach is heavily based on Cognitive Grammar (Langacker 1987; 1991; Luraghi 2003), although we complement it with considerations on the use of prepositions in Latin elaborated in the framework of Functional Grammar (Pinkster 1990; 1991), as well as with arguments proposed in Linguistic Typology (Croft 1991). This approach allows an explicative account of the interconnections among the various senses of a polysemous entity, preventing the analysis from being restricted to the assumption of a vague concept of “relatedness” between them.Langacker (1987: 214 ff.) analyzes prepositions as meaningful elements, expressing aspects of the relation and organization among entities, basically portraying a spatial configuration. The semantic network of the prepositions derives from metaphorical-metonymical extensions which project this basic configuration onto more abstract domains (e.g. Space-to-Time).Starting from these assumptions, Luraghi (2010) provides a semantic description of Latin prepositions which is consistent with various analyses conducted within different theoretical frameworks (Ernout & Meillet 1954; Pottier 1962; Garcia Hernandez 1980; Rubio 1982).On the basis of this analytical background, we will trace the whole range of meanings conveyed by de back to a basic spatial nucleus of the preposition, and at the same time evaluate the adequacy of the semantic interpretations proposed thus far in the relevant literature.In this perspective, surveying Early Latin allows to individuate the formerly grammaticalized usages of the preposition, thus constituting a firm platform to gain a perspective on its subsequent evolutionary lines. In general terms the following meanings are expressed by de in Early Latin:(Spatial) Origin: de caelo villa tacta siet (de Agr. 14.18.5)Departure (frequently with verbs preverbed with de): deducere de finibus (Amph. 215)Removal: deicere de arbore (de Agr. 32.2.5)Source: emere de bono colono (de Agr. 1.4.4)Provenance of the action: meruimus et ego et pater de vobis et re publica (Amph. 40)Provenance/Belonging: adulescens de summo loco (Aul. 28) Concerning: tenere rem de Alcumena (Amph. 110)Partitive: defrutum indito in mustum de musto lixivo coctum (de Agr. 23. 2.4)We will address the following issues: 1. the role of the linguistic context (in particular the lexical semantics of the verb) in determining the specific semantic nuance of the preposition; 2. the specification of the notion of Origin in the semantics of de in respect to the other semantically similar prepositions, namely e(x) and a(b).
Lingua originaleEnglish
Pagine445-455
Numero di pagine11
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2015

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