Generative Grammar

The contribution of Generative Grammar to Latin and Ancient Greek linguistics



Around 1980 the Generative Grammar seems to have invaded the field of Latin and Greek linguistics, as we can see considering both the Sessions d’Aussois in France and the International Colloquium of Latin Linguistics : in 1981, 4 from the 20 published papers adopted the generative framework and 3 mentioned it ; H. Pinkster wrote in the introduction of the proceedings of this session (1983: xii):

  • « Transformational Generative Grammar, in its development over the years, has been the most influential of all in Latin linguistics (which, however, is not to say that it has also contributed most to new insights into Latin) both in the field of Syntax and the field of morphophonology »

Twenty years later, around 2000, according to the data of the Année Philologique, the number of papers on Latin didn’t increase, and some years there was absolutely no paper on Greek. In 1997, at ICLL in Madrid, only two papers from 56 used the generative framework.

The situation has changed in recent years : all around the world a new generation of linguists, coming from Classics as well from theoretical linguistics, deals with Latin and Greek in the Generative framework. This new interest in classical languages is well illustrated by K. Kiss’ book Universal Grammar in the Reconstruction of Ancient Languages (2005), which contains papers on Coptic, Sumerian, Akkadian or Sanskrit.

Today I intend to describe the Generative Grammar contributions from R. T. Lakoff ‘s well-known book of to the present time, focusing on some aspects of Latin and Greek syntax. Secondly I’ll try to explain why there is a sort of rebirth of the Generative studies in the field of classical languages. I apologize to those I can’t mention due to lack of time and also to those I’ll mention in a too much superficial way.

1. A brief history of Generative Grammar contributions to Latin and Greek linguistics
1.1. Difficulties and objections
1.2. Answers to these difficulties and objections
1.3. Some developments and new analysis
1.4. Syntax

2. New perspectives
2. 1. The consequences of Principle and Parameters framework
2. 2. Some examples

3. Results and prospect


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