[lit-ideas] Re: Wittgenstein's "Lateinisch" (or Lack of It)

  • From: "Judith Evans" <judithevans1@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 17:57:30 +0100

I don't know how much Latin Wittgenstein knew, how long he studied it,
how he was taught.  For what it's worth

>one could not think a sentence with the remarkable 
>word order of German or Latin just as it stands

must be a fairly common reaction; certainly that's how 
I felt when I was taught it first.  I say 'first' not
only because my first teacher wasn't much good, but also because
English speakers tend to be pushed into putting the verb at
the end in Latin, to instill in them the most common classical
Latin prose style. (I didn't react in the same way to German, probably
because I'd already studied Latin for a few years.)

>"Latin has a very flexible word order"

word order is not though unimportant, words can't -- pace wikipedia -- be drawn 
a lucky dip.  Declension's important, but word order is too,  (Probably -- 
again --
English speakers have to be told about declension and its importance, and
perhaps, after the very early stages (of being pushed to put the verb at the 
are encouraged to think it, not word order,  important, 

Judy Evans, Cardiff

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx 
  To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Monday, October 15, 2007 3:32 AM
  Subject: [lit-ideas] Wittgenstein's "Lateinisch" (or Lack of It)

   J. Evans said she would see if she could find a good tricky example of Latin 
oratio obliqua.

  When it comes to Wittgenstein, I am reminded of Shakespeare who (alas, as 
Borges loved to say he too) had "little Latin and less Greek".

  Recall that Wittgenstein describes the 'order' of words in Latin as 
'remarkable', 'queer', and 'peculiar'. The literal truth is that the order of 
words in Latin is pretty flexible, as every public-school boy knows. 

  There must be more to it than that. The concern for Wittgenstein was 'order', 
or as I prefer, "^" (as in the 'sequence' sign favoured by Grice). Wittgenstein 
mentions two words ("Stellung" and "Ordnung"). Anscombe ingores "Stellung" and 
translates both as "order".

  "Es liegt hier ein Fall vor, ähnlich dem, wenn jemand sich vorstellt, man 
könne einen Satz mit der merkwürdigen WORTSTELLUNG der deutschen oder 
lateinischen Sprache nicht einfach denken, wie er dasteht. Man müsse ihn zuerst 
denken, und dann bringt man die Wörter in jene seltsame ORDNUNG. (Ein 
französischer Politiker schrieb einmal, es sei eine Eigentümlichkeit der 
französischen Sprache, daß in ihr die Worte in der ORDNUNG stehen, in welcher 
man sie denkt.)" ("Someone imagines that one could NOT think "a sentence"with 
THE *REMARKABLE* _WORD ORDER_ of German or Latin just as it stands" "Rather, 
one first has to think it, and then one arranges the words in that *QUEER* 
_order_" "(A French politician once wrote that it was a peculiarity of the 
French language that in it words occur *in the [peculiar] *order** in which one 
thinks them.)"

  Linguists apparently like to talk of word-order and McCreery is right on 
(the) spot when he mentions Japanese for "The cat chased the cheese-eating 
rat". Here below some online references on 'word order', then (or sequential 
surface structure, as I prefer). For FIXED word order in Latin, the reference 

  Jong, Jan R. de 1989. The Position of the Latin Subject. Subordination and 
Other Topics in Latin: Proceedings of the Third Colloquium on Latin 
Linguistics, Bologna, 1-5 April 1985. Ed. Gualtiero Calboli. Amsterdam and 
Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 521-540. (citation record) 
  Apparently the idea is that Latin has not a 'fixed' order -- allowed by the 
case system. However, there may be a fixed order in the subject in subordinated 

  Latin has a very flexible word order, as this document below shows, so I 
don't see what Wittgenstein is complaining about -- Or is he 'quoting' someone 
who _might_ have complained? Surely not them [sic] 'public school boys' around 

  "Latin allows for a very flexible word order because of its inflectional 
syntax. Ordinary prose tended to follow the pattern of Subject, Indirect 
Object, Direct Object, Adverbial Words or Phrases, Verb. Any extra, though 
subordinate verbs, are placed before the main verb, for example infinitives. 
Adjectives and participles usually directly followed nouns, unless they were 
adjectives of beauty, size, quantity, goodness, or truth, in which case they 
preceded the noun being modified. Relative clauses were commonly placed after 
the antecedent which the relative pronoun describes. While these patterns for 
word order were the most frequent in Classical Latin prose, they are frequently 
varied; and it is important to recall that there is virtually no evidence 
surviving that suggests the word order of colloquial Latin. In poetry, however, 
word order was often changed for the sake of the meter, for which vowel 
quantity (short vowels vs. long vowels and diphthongs) and consonant clusters, 
not rhyme and word stress, governed the patterns. It is, however, important to 
bear in mind that poets in the Roman world wrote primarily for the ear, not for 
the eye; many premiered their work in recitation for an audience. Hence 
variations in word order served a rhetorical, as well as a metrical purpose; 
they certainly did not prevent understanding. In Virgil's Eclogues, for 
example, he writes, Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori!: Love conquers 
all, let us yield to love!. The words omnia (all), amor (love) and amori (to 
love) are thrown into relief by their unusual position in their respective 
phrases. The meter here is dactylic hexameter, in which Virgil composed The 
Aeneid, Rome's national epic.The ending of the common Roman name Marcus is 
different in each of the following examples due to its grammatical usage in 
that sentence. The ordering in the following sentences would be perfectly 
correct in Latin and no doubt understood with clarity, despite the fact that in 
English they're awkward at best and senseless at worst:

  Marcus ferit Corneliam: Marcus hits Cornelia. (Subject-Verb-Object) 

  Marcus Corneliam ferit: Marcus Cornelia hits. (Subject-Object-Verb) 

  Cornelia dedit Marco donum: Cornelia has given Marcus a gift. (Subject, Verb, 
Indirect Object, Direct Object) 

  Cornelia Marco donum dedit: Cornelia Marcus a gift has given. (Subject, 
Indirect Object, Direct Object, Verb) 

  The problem I have with the examples above is that as every public school boy 
knows, in "Cornelia Marco donum dedit" _nobody_ in her clear mind would 
translate "Marco" as "Marcus": "to Marcus" comes immediately to mind. Old 
English did have cases like that -- so the thing should still resonate in 
English speakers (as in 'whose horses are being trained?', where 'whose' is a 
notable genitive).

  I haven't been able to check all the links below to different aspects of word 
order in Latin (and German).


  OV [Latin] 
  SOV [Latin] 
  SVO [and marked OV sequence] [German] 
  SXV [Latin] 
  verb [in clause-final position] [German] 
  verb [in clause-final position] [Latin] 
  verb [in clause-final position] [subordinate clause] [German] 
  verb [in clause-final position] [subordinate clause] [Latin] 
  verb [in clause-initial position] [Latin] 
  verb [in medial position] [Latin] 
  VO [Latin] 
  word order [free] [Latin] 
  word order [infinitive + auxiliary] [Latin] 
  word order [infinitive + habere] [Latin] 
  word order [subordinate clause] [Latin] 
  word order [unmarked] [Latin] 
  word order variation [German] 
  word order variation [main vs. subordinate clause] [Latin] 
  word order [verb-final] [German] 
  OV to VO [Latin] 
  postposition [change to preposition] [Latin] 
  verb [in medial position] [emergence of] [Latin] 
  verb [in medial position] [emergence of] [Latin] [explanation of] 
  verb [in medial position] [spread of] [Latin] 
  word order change [and case loss] [Latin] 



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