4

I am reading Devine and Stephens Latin Word Order, but without the requisite grounding in formal linguistics. They use the term V-bar syntax, and I am not sure what they mean by this and would like it explained.

Since I am unsure of the term, I am unsure I can give proper context or can explain what I do understand correctly. I have a vague understanding of X-bar theory and assume the term V-bar syntax is related, but don't understand either well enough to be sure.

I think their theory is that in the Latin of Caesar and in Latin generally, verbal arguments would theoretically be postverbal in the base syntax, but routinely raise out of the verb phrase into preverbal position, even before some movement adjuncts. With the V-bar syntax, they seem to be saying that for some types of direct and indirect objects, these arguments do not raise to specifier positions in Livy's style of Latin, even though Caesar and Livy are contemporaries writing in similar genres in similar registers and should be expected to follow more or less they same grammatical rules.

Devine and Stephens introduce the term on page 127, where they are trying to explain why Caesar almost uniformly places certain objects in preverbal position (e.g., aciem instruxit); whereas as Livy has a slight preference for a post verbal position (e.g., instruxit aciem). Both phrases mean "drew up a/the battle line. They say:

On the basis of the data sets just presented we conclude that there is clearly an important typological difference between Caesar's syntactic system and Livy's. For want of a better term, we will call the structures in which the object is allowed to follow the verb V-bar syntax. (People who like plumbing metaphors call them VO leakages.) Then Caesar's syntax is rather uniformly specifier syntax, Livy's syntax is a mixture of specifier syntax and V-bar syntax. V-bar syntax is not licensed generally, but only under certain conditions. These we must now analyze.


Of course V-bar syntax is not limited to direct object phrases. For instance here are some examples of the tail type with indirect objects....


Such examples suggest that ultimately there is some relation between verb initial syntax and V-bar syntax. Probably the former is thetic in the sentential domain, the latter in the domain of the V-bar. Whatever property triggers V-bar syntax cannot be purely pragmatic or purely semantic. It must be a property shared by a pragmatically defined class (tail nouns) with a semantically defined class (abstract nouns in precompiled or fixed phrases. It cannot be a purely syntactic property either, since the syntactic propery in question (liability to V-bar syntax) is just what we are trying to explain without circularity. For instance, nothing is achieved (beyond descriptive convenience) by relabelling the property in question as syntactic weakness or "liteness" (sic). We have just argued that it is probably not simply prosodic. Rather the characteristic of V-bar syntax is that in both types the event is presented without individuation of the object. The abstract nouns are nonreferential and part of the predicate. The tails are not independently asserted items of information: either they are not evoked as discouse referents playing a participatory role in the course of events (vertit equum) or they are anaphoric descriptions, just one step stronger than weak pronouns. In languages that have noun incorporation, both types incorporate easily. Consequently neither type of object raises to the regular direct object position. The tails probably just stay postverbal; the abstract nouns either do the same or raise to the internal nonspecific object position and trigger verb raising. In brief, nonfocal raised objects are lower level subjects of the event, unraised objects are just part of the event.

(I have omitted may paragraphs of their discussion and almost all their copious Latin examples. I can provide some if necessary.)

What I am getting from all the discussion is that Livy has a syntactic means to turn a verb phrase into a thetic expression; whereas Caesar must rely only on the semantic value of the verb plus object to signal this because his "specifier syntax" does not allow him to make a distinction. V-bar syntax would then mean syntax that makes use of the base verb phrase without raising any of the objects to specifier positions. Do I have any of this correct?

0

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.