Sunday, December 07, 2014

Subordination (grammatical!)

Among the early Indo-European languages, Ancient Greek and especially Latin present a highly developed system of finite subordination, with embedding and consecutio. Naturally, a distinction should be made among different authors and genres, since consectio is not always respected in popular or unofficial writings. Even Cicero, whose elaborate modus dicendi is largely responsible for the complex organization of the sentence in the literary languages of the Romance domain, does not always abide by consecutio in the letters to his intimates. However, a remarkable difference may be noticed between a text in Latin or Ancient Greek on the one hand and a text in Hittite or Indo-Iranian on the other, since the latter languages make extensive use of adjoining by means of correlative elements, without any obligatory temporal or modal predetermination of the subordinate verb. The Germanic, Baltic, and Slavic languages, as well as Classical Armenian, are positioned somewhere in the middle of the two extremes—Latin and Hittite—since they often attest embedded constructions, but do not have a productive system of consecutio. Latin and Ancient Greek consecutio is probably related to the spread of oratory and rhetoric in these languages. The art of persuading in judiciary and politic discourse needs an attentive manipulation of backgrounded and foregrounded information, as well as a careful distinction among more or less reliable sources and among more and less subjective viewpoints. Such exigency is less cogent in narrative texts.— The Bloomsbury [formerly Continuum] Companion to Historical Linguistics, page 245

<idle musing>
Having studied Classical Greek, Latin, and Hittite, I can vouch for the dramatic difference in the way they express subordination. Hittite is definitely simpler—in that area, anyway!

But it got me to thinking about discourse analysis and Aspect/Actionsart/Tense/Mood and the ramifications this has. No ideas yet, but just food for thought.

By the way, this is a wonderful book. It's making all kinds of stuff that I've noticed in the various languages I've studied over the years fall into place. Of course, there a paragraphs where I get to the end and don't have a clue what they are saying. Sometimes I wonder if it is even English!

[Updated 13:20] I added Mood to the Aspect/Actionsart/Tense because in Greek it is a sequence of mood, not just tense. I hadn't thought of that at the time of writing. So, it gets even more interesting (or less to some) in that you now have the whole TAM spectrum involved...
</idle musing>

No comments: