Tag Archives: linguistics

The long-awaited review of Discourse Particles in Latin

Discourse particles in Latin : a study of nam, enim, autem, vero, and atDiscourse particles in Latin : a study of nam, enim, autem, vero, and at by Caroline Kroon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brief discourse on this particularly useful book:

Kroon begins her discussion of nam, enim, autem, vero, and at with a discussion of discourse pragmatics and linguistiics, taking as her starting point for analysis not the clause but the acts and moves within linguistic discourse. Chapters 1-3 set out the discussion of discourse pragmatics and particles, evaluating different theories of approach; these I found to be very dense, and took a brief glance through a linguistics textbook to prep my brain to work through it. Nevertheless, it got easier to read the more I progressed.

Chapters 4 and 5 build on the first three chapters to produce Kroon’s methodology for analysing Latin particles — hers is a bottom-up approach that seeks to locate each particle within a simple meaning and minimal number of uses based upon both semantics and pragmatics.

Finally, chapters 6-12 discuss the various particles under discussion with extensive reference to discourse pragmatics and copious examples from Latin prose literature (and comedy — is that prose or poetry?) from Plautus to Tacitus. Her approach helpfully reduces the number of meanings for some of these particles while at the same time demonstrating how alleged synonyms often differ greatly in their actual function in the text. She progresses through the particles from least challengeable discuss to most — that is, her discussion of enim presents a greater challenge to traditional grammars than that of nam, and the final three progress from autem to vero to at.

This book is extraordinarily useful. While working through it, each of the particles under discussion began popping out at me in my own reading of Late Latin epistolography, and I was able to see the discourse function of these particles in the way Kroon describes them. My thinking about language has become more precise at large, and in my approach to Latin especially.

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