Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wading into X'

I'd tell you I get X' syntax, but I don't (yet). I'm sure I'll muddle through to an understanding some day.

Until then, I'll blow the classicists' brains with the syntax of Latin.

In Horace's Odes 1.37, he says "contaminato cum grege".  Well, there's more to it, but that's where I want to focus. It looks like Latin gets to move adjectives in front of prepositions—at least that's the rule we're taught. And it looks like it holds. After all, summa cum laude and quam ob rem and a bunch of other things like that are up and down Latin literature. Adjective before preposition.

Let's call it adjective movement for now. (If only because it looks like wh-movement.)

Here's what the normal version looks like: cum grege contaminato. Here's its syntax tree:

(Well, maybe N' doesn't break into N and AP just quite where I show it, but it wasn't easy to get the software to cooperate once I had started.) But watch what happens when we go to contaminato cum grege. Presto, syntax tree!

See where contaminato moved to? That's right. It took over the spec position under PP. Now I've not looked at the corpus in detail, but I can't think of any instances of this sort of thing happening where adjective movement allows for any position other than immediately in front of the preposition. If I'm right (remember my caveat), this is why—the adjective moves into the spec position. Of course there could be something even uglier going on. If there is, I'll update this post.