Word Order in Neo-Latin Prose: A Case Study

Studies in Latin word order have increasingly become the purvue of professional scholars of structural linguistics and pragmatics who have attempted to derive general principles from analysis of large corpora of classical texts. Such studies have produced large bodies of data which can inform consideration of word order in renaissance Latin writings that were modelled upon the grammar and style of ancient authors.  Very little scholarly attention has yet been given to Neo-Latin word order and its relationship to sentence structure, hence it is advisable to start from case studies which provide clear data. The more restricted a study, the more risk there is of over-interpreting limited data; however, Neo-Latin sources (unlike ancient ones) sometimes afford us access to authorial composition processes, for instance when clear evidence of authorial revision can be seen in a manuscript. From such sources it is possible to demonstrate how much consideration writers gave to aspects of word order, and, on occasion, to identify the specific reasons for their deliberations. The present paper offers findings from a study of a lengthy manuscript containing just such evidence, the Historia Missionis Hibernicae Capucinorum of Robert O'Connell (c.1656), examining the interaction of pragmatic and rhetorical considerations, and setting these in the context of patterns derived from ancient prose styles. 


  • Neo-Latin Studies