Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Linguistics (Interdepartmental Program)

Document Type



A theory-based perspective is essential to a full understanding of infinitive clauses in early Latin. Some previous work focusing on syntactic theory has failed to include appropriate Latin data or has not explained it adequately. More recent theoretical perspectives have taken the approach of Functional Grammar, dismissing much of the variation in word order and embedded clause types as driven merely by pragmatics. This study examines the syntax of early Latin from a Government and Binding viewpoint, with the aim of fully marrying the theory with the data to account for the infinitival variations. A corpus was created from the complete extant works of Accius, Caecilius, Cato, Ennius, Livius Andronicus, Lucilius, Naevius, Pacuvius, and the anonymous Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus as well as five selected plays from Plautus and three from Terence (comprising a total of over 200,000 words with 3,828 infinitives). One of the main findings is that certain structures such as passivization are a strategy to avoid the syntatic ambiguity that would otherwise result from the confluence of multiple accusative-case assignments. The results show that infinitival complements with more than one overt accusative noun phrase are relatively rare (occurring in only 14% of contexts), while structures that avoid ambiguity, such as finite clause variants, passivization, and null noun phrases, are more frequent (occurring in about one fourth of possible contexts). The study also provides a baseline for examining grammaticalization and other language changes in the history of Latin.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Michael Hegarty



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Linguistics Commons