As far back as the mid 1700s, William Ward considered the following phrase in An Essay on Grammar applied to the English Language.
- the flowers which a lady sitting on the seat in a garden views with attention
Ward noted that the example clearly shows how words like which “remove from the place of the word of the original sentence in order to stand as close as possible to that word considered as the antecedent to the relative when the sentence is turned into a relative clause depending on such antecedent.” Whether he conceives of this as a procedure that we undertake or simply as a useful description is unclear. Either way, he speaks about movement.
Was this kind of explanation used in other grammars, perhaps as far back as Panini, or early Greek or Latin grammars? What's the earliest example of this kind of thinking?