The semantic network of the Latin preposition per: a diachronic investigation.

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This paper explores the semantic network of the Latin preposition per (“through”) in a diachronic perspective derived from the analysis of two electronic corpora of 3rd century BCE – 4th century CE (PHI5; Intratext Digital Library). Drawing upon the insights of Cognitive Grammar (e.g. Langacker 1991), we analyze the role of the schematic import of per in the spread from basic to abstract meanings, thus accounting for the interconnections among the various senses of the polysemous entity. This theoretical position is integrated with Croft’s (1991) model of causal structure of events, as well as the results of an extensive analysis of Early Latin (Brucale & Mocciaro fc.), in order to address the following issues:1. the diachronic shifts in the ratio of spatial to abstract meanings: spatial meanings are predominant in Early Latin (e.g. per urbem ire, Pl., Poen 522; per cribrum transire, Cat., De Agr. 76.3.4), while the only abstract values which are fully grammaticalized at this stage are MEANS (a less prototypical and abstract instrument: per vim retinere, Pl., Bacch. 843; see Croft 1991: 178) and REASON (the motivation for an agent to act: per metum mussari, Pl., Aul. 131; see Pinkster 1990). We aim at tracing back the path(s) through which new abstract meanings arise.2. the role of Animacy: MEANS and REASON involve non-animate (abstract) participants, whereas the spread to Animacy represents a secondary development within the area of Causation, documented in Early Latin in a few instances of CAUSE (the motivation of a non- agentive event: per aliquem vivere, Pl., Poen. 1187) and INTERMEDIARY (per me interpretem, Pl., Mil. 910). Out of the causal domain, however,, Animacy is a rather ancient feature, represented in the expressions of Appeal (with performative verbs such as iuro, e.g. per Iovem iurare, Pl. Amph. 435) and Judgment of licitness (per me licet, Pl., Merc., 989). On the other hand, the expression of (concrete) INSTRUMENT represents a later development (cf. Luraghi 2010: per nauiculam uenire, Itala, cod. d., Ioh. 21, 8). In other words, the spread from concrete to abstract meanings appears to be non-unidirectional, rather drawing the following trajectory: SPATIAL (CONCRETE) > ABSTRACT > ANIMATE > INANIMATE (CONCRETE). 3. the grammaticalization of the expression of PURPOSE: another later development, which is based on an extension of Reason: “The objects we aspire for are usually also the cause for our aspiration” (Radden 1989: 562; see also Croft 1991: 293).Finally we propose a semantic map of the range of values conveyed by per, showing that they do not arrange on a linear continuum, but rather represent a multi-directional configuration originating from the progressive (metonymical) extension of a prototypical nucleus over time.Brucale, L. & Mocciaro, E. (fc.), Continuity and discontinuity in the semantics of the Latin preposition per: a cognitive hypothesis, in STUF 63/1.Croft, W. (1991), Syntactic Categories and Grammatical Relations. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Hewson, J. & Bubenik, V. (2006), From Case to Adposition: The development of configurational syntax in Indo-European Languages. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Langacker, R. (1991), Foundations of Cognitive Grammar. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Luraghi, S. 2010, Adverbial Phrases, in P. Baldi & P. Cuzzolin (eds), New Perspectives on Historical Latin Syntax, 2. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.Pinkster, H. (1990), Latin Syntax and Semantics. London: Routledge. Radden, G. (1989), Semantic roles, in R. Dirven, & R. Geiger (eds), A User’s Gra
Lingua originaleEnglish
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2011


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