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I. Colloquialisms. The Concords.

The rules of Latin Syntax which prevailed in the classical period, e.g. that quamquam and temporal quom govern the Indicative, quamvis and causal quom the Subjunctive, so often fail us in reading Plautus, that Plautine Latin at first sight appears to be regardless of rules. This appearance is partly due to the fact that Latin Syntax obeys the Darwinian law of the ‘survival of the fittest.’ Out of a great variety of constructions possible in the time of Plautus, only one or two favoured types have survived to the classical period. While Plautus, for example, puts the Verbal Noun in -tus to a variety of uses, e.g. spectatum eo, spectatu redeo, pulcher spectatui, facile factu, etc., two of these, spectatum eo and facile factu, survived the struggle for existence and became the First and the Second Supine. Again we find in early writers quo Ablative Neuter used with magis in affirmative, with minus in negative sense, and accompanied by the Indicative when a fact is stated, by the Subjunctive when an intention, e.g. Out of all this variety emerges in classical Latin the conjunction quominus governing the Subjunctive and associated with Verbs of hindering. It is partly due also to the colloquial character of Plautine Latin; and before taking up the details of Plautine Syntax, it will be well to consider how far colloquialisms interfere with a strictly grammatical expression in his plays.

Since Aelius Stilo declared that the Muses, if they had spoken Latin, would have used the Latin of Plautus, and since Cicero expresses his admiration for the old-fashioned language of a Roman matron by saying that it reminded him of Plautus and Naevius (de Or. 3, 45), we must see in his plays, not vulgar Latin, but the every-day talk of the educated Romans of his time. How far he permits himself on occasion to reproduce the vulgarisms of uneducated speakers is a question that has not yet been investigated; but I greatly doubt that the investigation would show that this or that departure from a rule of classical Latin Syntax was found only in the utterances of slaves or of characters like Ballio in the Pseudolus. We have indeed the express testimony of an ancient writer that non salveo in Truc. 259 is a piece of bad Latin, suited to the character who uses it: “AS. salve. TR. sat mihi est tuae salutis, nil moror. non salveo.

But the surly slave, Truculentus, from whom the play is named, is a unique type in Plautus' Comedies. He is a Roman ‘Mrs. Malaprop,’ who is credited with mutilated forms of words like rabo (v. 688) for arrabo, osculentia (v. 675) for obsequentia (with a suggestion of osculum), etc.; so that one can make no general inference from this particular case.1

Nor can we suppose that Graecisms were employed by Plautus, as by the Augustan poets (e.g. Horace, Carm. 2.9desine mollium tandem querelarum”), to embellish his style. This is out of keeping with the colloquial tone of Comedy.

On Pers. 385non tu nunc hominum mores vides?” see VI. 2; on Asin. 634quas hodie adulescens Diabolus ipsi daturus dixit”, see V. 34; on the Genitive of Respect, e.g. Rud. 213incerta sum consili”, II. 5, and of Exclamation, e.g. Most. 912mercimoni lepidi”, II. 6.

We must then regurd the Syntax of Plautus, as well as his vocabulary and the arrangement2 of his sentences (and, I would add, his Prosody, e.g. Phillippus, volŭptatem, volŭptas mea) as a faithful representation of the cultured every-day speech of his time. Of course every-day speech does not follow the strict laws of the logical expression of thought. What is known in our Grammars as Constructio ad Sensum plays a great part in it. This Constructio ad Sensum is a powerful agent in the development of Syntax in Latin and in all languages. For example, the notion of ‘concern’ ‘interest’ was in Early Latin expressed by refert, which, I think, is most naturally explained as re (Ablative) (with the sense of classical Latin ex re; cf. Capt. 296tua re feceris”, and see my note on this line) and fert ‘it tends’ (cf. via fert ad urbem, Ter. Andr. 188dum tempus ad eam rem tulit”), ‘it tends with (Engl. ‘to’) my interest.’ In course of time (later than Plautus and Terence) the verb interesse came to be used in this sense, and proceeded to take the same construction as refert, viz. mēā interest.

Examples from Plautus are:—

On the use of an Accusative with depereo, demorior, and even amore perditus sum, all three being equivalents of deamo, see II. 40

The Concords are often violated in colloquial speech. Since Plautus habitually uses the Feminine Adjective with res as the equivalent of the Neuter Adjective used substantively (e.g. mala res and malum, parva res and par(v)um), he allows in e.g. Merc. 337quidquid est quam rem (= quod) agere occepi”, Stich. 82quom nihil quam ob rem (= ob quod) id faciam meruisse arbitror”. From the Adjective muliebris is elicited a (suppressed) mulieres in Mil. 186profecto ut nequoquam de ingenio degrediatur muliebri, earumque artem et disciplinam obtinent colere”; similarly with proletarius in Mil. 753proletario sermone nunc quidem, hospes, utere; nam i solent . . . dicere”; and with erilis in Pers. 193scio fide herele erili ut soleat impudicitia opprobrari, nec subigi queantur umquam ut pro ea fide habeant iudicem.

The Neuter Plural and Neuter Singular of Adjective and Pronoun are so interchangeable in Plautus (e.g. mira sunt and mirum (est), VIII. 2 ‘si’), that we need not wonder at the loose construction of Poen. 913A. vale et haec cura clanculum ut sint dicta. B. non dictumst (= dicta sunt), vale”; cf. Poen. 542per iocum itidem dictum (dicta: Bentley) habeto quae nos tibi respondimus”, Mil. 699haec atque huius (horum: Ritschl) similia alia damna multa mulierum me uxore prohibent. mihi quae huius similis sermones sera[p]t.” In contrast with a ‘Concord’ like “mea SeleniumCist. 631 (cf. Poen. prol. 17scortum exoletum ne quis (quod, Ital.) in proscaenio sedeat”) may he noticed the common phrase quod amas (= amica) ‘object of affection’ (cf. Trin. 1160postremo quod vis non duces (marry), nisi illud (i.e. the dowry) quod non vis feres”). Like Virgil's “triste lupus stabulis(Ecl. 3.80) is the construction of Poen. 238modus omnibus rebus, soror, optimum est habitu”; cf. Mil. 685nam bona uxor suave ductu est” (suavest, i.e. -is est, ductu alii); and like Virgil's “hoc opus, hic labor est(Aen. 6.129) is a phrase like “ea (= id) stultitiastPseud. 576. And a Neuter Pronoun is often loosely used with reference to a preceding Noun, as in

The use of the Accusative with the Infinitive violates the Concord of Case in lines like

The Concord of Number is violated in the Old Latin phrases praesente nobis, e.g. Amph. 400, absente nobis, e.g. Ter. Eun. 649, the Ablative Singular praesente, absente having apparently become a stereotyped form, much as qui, Ablative, or rather Instrumental, Singular of the Relative Pronoun (3rd Declension) became a stereotyped ‘whereby,’ e.g. We have often a Singular Verb with two Subjects, e.g. and occasionally in Old Latin we get a Plural Verb with A cum B,’ e.g. Ter. Heaut. 473Syrus cum illo vostro consusurrant” (cf. Cato Orat. 51si sponsionem fecissent Gellius cum Turio”, Claud. Quadrig. 85 “sagittarius cum funditore utrimque summo studio spargunt fortissime”), a construction with which we may connect a line like Most. 560sed Philolachetis servom eccum Tranim, qui mihi neque faenus neque sortem argenti danunt” (cf. Amph. 731cur igitur praedicas te heri me vidisse, qui hac noctu in portum advecti sumus?”). Slightly irregular too is Naev. trag. 40 “egone an ille iniurie facimus?

A Plural Verb is common not only with

but also with quisquam, e.g. and very often with aliquis in commands like aperite aliquis Merc. 131, etc., “exite huc aliquisEpid. 399, Accius 425 “Oeneum aliquis cette in conspectum.

And a collective Noun like pars often takes a Plural Verb, e.g.

Est = Fr. ‘il y a’ is suggested by Pers. 137sicut istic leno non sex menses Megaribas huc est quom commigravit”, but menses is Accusative, as we see from Aul. prol. 4hanc domum iam multos annos est quom possideo et colo”, and corresponds to an Adverb of Time like diu in e.g. Amph. 302iam diu est quom ventri victum non datis”, dudum in e.g. Trin. 1010. With Nominative, sunt is used, e.g. Most. 470septem menses sunt quom . . . tetulit”; and editors change est of the MSS. (A n. l.) to em in Pseud. 245mane, est conloqui qui volupt te”, since we have elsewhere sunt qui, e.g. Pseud. 462sunt quae te volumus percontari”. A change from a Singular to a Plural Verb is seen in phrases with age, e.g. The same change of Number in a Noun is seen in the two divisions of a sentence like Trin. 237numquam Amor quemquam nisi cupidum hominem postulat se in plagas conicere; eos petit, eos sectatur” (cf. Curc. 494, Mil. 887, 993) and is often found with a Relative like quisquis and its Antecedent, e.g. Poen. 505qui, quidquid agit, properat omnia” (cf. Rud. 1140, Trin. 1168), Men. 560ubi vir compilet clanculum quidquid domist atque ea ad amicam deferat”; cf. Ter. Heaut. 393.

Another type of change from Plural to Singular is seen in lines like Ter. Heaut. 483 sqq., Eun. 225 sqq., Phorm. 241 sqq. Lastly we may mention under this heading the colloquial use of the Plural of Abstract Nouns, e.g. Merc. 794at te, vicine, di deaeque perduint. cum tua amica cumque amationibus”. (For more examples see Lange Beiträge, pp. 103 sqq.) The colloquial use, so frequent in Plautus, of gaudia Plural for gaudium Singular produced in Late Latin the First Declension form gaudia, whence Ital. gioja, French joie, etc.

The relation of Relative to Antecedent has some peculiar features in Old Latin, which must be stated at some length. (For fuller details, see Buch: de attractione quae dieitur inversa apud scriptores latinos, Strasburg, 1888.) We often find the Antecedent recurring in the Relative Clause, e.g. This repetition is suitable to legal precision and is often found in laws, e.g. Lex Agrariaquaestores co iure ea lege viatoressublegunto, quo iure qua lege quaestoressublegerunt.

But when the Antecedent is mentioned only once, it is, curiously enough, in the Relative Clause, rather than in the Main Clause, that Plautus seems to prefer to place it. When it stands in the Relative Clause, it is naturally attracted to the Case of the Relative; and so we have that peculiar feature of Old Latin the ‘Attraction of the Antecedent to the Relative’ (imitated in Virgil's “urbem quam statuo, vestra est1.573). It seems very strange that in a line like Amph. 1009Naucratem quem convenire volui, in navi non erat”, Plautus should prefer Naucratem to Naucrates; but that is evidently the favoured mode of expression with him.

As other examples of Attraction may be cited:—

and as examples of Plautus' predilection for the Relative clause:

With this importance attached to the Relative Clause we may connect the very frequent omission of the Antecedent, e.g.

But is is often used, even when the Subject has been placed in the Relative Clause, e.g.

We find the same phenomena in other dependent Clauses; (1) the repetition of the Antecedent — e.g. Bacch. 442quom patrem adeas postulatum, puero sic dicit pater”, Cas. 393nunc tu, Cleustrata, ne a me memores malitiose de hac re factum aut suspices, tibi permitto” — which is the true explanation of the apparent use of hic, iste, ille for is in lines like

— contrast, e.g. (2) the attraction of the Antecedent, e.g. even when a Relative Pronoun plays the part of Antecedent, e.g.

The ordinary treatment of Relative and Antecedent prevails in Plautus when the Relative is in Genitive, Dative, or Ablative Case or is accompanied by a Preposition or is in Accusative Case before an Infinitive, e.g.

also when the Relative Clause does not come first in the sentence, e.g. Amph. 546nunc te, nox, quae me mansisti, mitto, ut concedas die.

Of the attraction of the Relative to the Antecedent (like Horace's “iudice quo nosti populo,Sat. 1.6.15) there is apparently an example in Terence, Heaut. 87A. scire hoc vis? B. hac quidem causa qua dixi tibi”; but not in Plautus; for in Cas. 932inde foras tacitus profugiens exeo <hoc> ornatu quo vides”, we can easily supply me exeuntem (See R. Foerster ‘die Casusangleichung des Relativ-pronomens im Lateinischen’ in the Jahrbücher class. Philologie, Suppl. xxvii, pp. 170 sqq.).

The peculiar treatment of the Relative Clause in Plautus is probably rather a feature of Early Latin than of colloquial Latin. To the carelessness of every-day speech we may refer irregularities of construction like the following: Change of Subject, e.g. and other changes of construction, e.g. So violent a change as to be quite ungrammatical is seen in Men. prol. 64ingressus fluvium rapidum ab urbe haud longule, rapidus raptori pueri subduxit pedes”, Poen. 659tu, si te di amant, agere tuam rem occasiost” (cf. Epid. 77te cupio perire mecum benevolens cum benevolente”), and the use of ut opinor with the construction of opinor in Ter. Adelph. 648ut opinor eas non nosse te” (cf. Cic. Rep. 1, 58 and ὡς οἶμαι, etc., in Greek) and ut aibat with the construction of aibat in Ter. Phorm. 480ut aibat de eius consilio sese velle facere”. Besides Anacoluthon, we find naturally Aposiopesis in the Dramatists' imitation of talk, e.g. Truc. 504 (for other examples see Niemeyer ‘Plautinische Studien’ p. 3).

These may serve for the present as samples of Plautus' colloquialisms. Others, e.g. the use of the Ablative Absolute of the Subject of the Sentence (II. 59), Parataxis (V. 28), suus sibi for suus ipsius (IV. 2), will be mentioned at their proper place.

Redundancy of expression, so marked a feature of Plautus' style, may be classed with these colloquialisms, for undoubtedly it reflects every-day speech. Like the repetition of the Antecedent is e.g. Pleonasms like occur on every page. (On nemo homo, see IV. 21 on the double Negative, VIII. 8 on magis with Comparative, III. 2 for statistics of Terence's use of Pleonasm, E. Johnston: de sermone Terentiano quaestiones duae. Königsberg, 1905). They evidently come direct from every-day talk, in which emphasis is sought by repetition and laboured statement, e.g. Two different forms of expression are jumbled together in lines like Rud. 587praeter animi quam lubuit sententiam”, Epid. 625e tuis verbis meum futurum corium pulcrum praedicas.

We have a two-sided remark apparently in Pseud. 1044Quid tu intus, quaeso, desedisti quam diu?”, like the exclamation in Ter. Heaut. 363persuadere illi, quae solet quos spernere!” A few may possibly be put down to the non astrictus soccus of Plautus, e.g. the recurrence of ut (in different senses) in Mil. 70 sqq. or of arbitror in Stich. 82 sq.quom nil quam ob rem id faciam meruisse arbitror. minime, nolo turbas; sed hoc mihi optumum factu esse arbitror”, or even of aio in

although this last does indeed seem to echo every-day talk (like our ‘says he, . . says he’). (For other examples of repetition, e.g. ut . . ut Capt. 248, mihi . . mihi Aul. 551, me . . me Curc. 577, Most. 202, see Rauterberg, Quaestiones Plautinae. Wilhelmshaven (progr.), 1883). The heaping up of Assonances like Capt. 358,quod bonis bene fit beneficium”, is a deliberate rhetorical ornament which all the early Dramatists, except Terence, assume, and even Terence in his Prologues (see Leo: Analecta Plautina II. Göttingen, 1898).

1 See however Donatus on Ter. Phorm. 249, Eun. 432, 792, etc., and compare my note on p. 48 of No. 111. of this Series.

2 The elasticity of the dialogue metres allowed a fairly exact reproduction of every-day speech, except occasionally at the end of a line. Thus, while causa, gratia are always preceded, not followed by their Genitive, Adjective, or Pronoun, we find occasionally at the end of a line causa mea, causa tua. The poetical ornament of alliteration may also interfere. (See F. Leo: Bemerkungen über plautinische Wortstellung, Göttingen, 1895.) The distorted arrangement which is normal in adjurations, e.g. Bacch. 905per te, ere, obsecro deas immortales”, apparently reflects every-day speech. Also an arrangement like “tua Bromia ancillaAm. 1077 ‘your slave-girl B.’ (See IV. 2

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  • Cross-references from this page (127):
    • Plautus, Cistellaria, 1.1
    • Plautus, Cistellaria, 2.3
    • Plautus, Cistellaria, 3.1
    • Plautus, Curculio, 1.3
    • Plautus, Curculio, 3.1
    • Plautus, Curculio, 4.4
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 2.4
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, 1.2
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, 1.3
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, 1.4
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, 2.2
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, 3.1
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, 4.3
    • Plautus, Mostellaria, 4.4
    • Plautus, Persa, 1.2
    • Plautus, Persa, 1.3
    • Plautus, Persa, 2.2
    • Plautus, Persa, 3.1
    • Plautus, Poenulus, 1.2
    • Plautus, Poenulus, 3.1
    • Plautus, Poenulus, 4.2
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 1.1
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 1.3
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 1.5
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 2.1
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 3.2
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 4.2
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 4.4
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 4.6
    • Plautus, Pseudolus, 4.7
    • Plautus, Rudens, 1.3
    • Plautus, Rudens, 2.1
    • Plautus, Rudens, 2.7
    • Plautus, Rudens, 3.5
    • Plautus, Rudens, 4.1
    • Plautus, Rudens, 4.3
    • Plautus, Rudens, 4.4
    • Plautus, Rudens, 5.2
    • Plautus, Stichus, 1.1
    • Plautus, Stichus, 1.2
    • Plautus, Stichus, 1.3
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 1.2
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 2.1
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 2.4
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 3.3
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 4.2
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 4.3
    • Plautus, Trinummus, 5.2
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.573
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 6.129
    • Vergil, Eclogues, 3
    • Horace, Satires, 1.6.15
    • Terence, The Self-Tormenter, 1.1
    • Terence, The Self-Tormenter, 2.3
    • Terence, The Self-Tormenter, 2.4
    • Terence, The Self-Tormenter, 3.1
    • Terence, Phormio, 2.1
    • Terence, Phormio, 3.1
    • Terence, Phormio, 5.6
    • Plautus, Amphitruo, 1.1
    • Plautus, Amphitruo, 1.3
    • Plautus, Amphitruo, 2.1
    • Plautus, Amphitruo, 2.2
    • Plautus, Amphitruo, 4.1
    • Plautus, Amphitruo, 5.1
    • Plautus, Asinaria, 1.1
    • Plautus, Asinaria, 2.1
    • Plautus, Asinaria, 2.4
    • Plautus, Asinaria, 3.3
    • Plautus, Aulularia, 2.2
    • Plautus, Aulularia, 3.6
    • Plautus, Aulularia, 4.4
    • Plautus, Aulularia, prologue.0
    • Plautus, Bacchides, 1.2
    • Plautus, Bacchides, 3.3
    • Plautus, Bacchides, 4.5
    • Plautus, Bacchides, 4.7
    • Plautus, Bacchides, 4.9
    • Plautus, Captivi, 1.2
    • Plautus, Captivi, 2.1
    • Plautus, Captivi, 2.2
    • Plautus, Captivi, 3.4
    • Plautus, Captivi, 4.2
    • Plautus, Casina, 1.1
    • Plautus, Casina, 2.6
    • Plautus, Casina, 2.7
    • Plautus, Casina, 2.8
    • Plautus, Casina, 5.2
    • Plautus, Casina, 5.4
    • Plautus, Epidicus, 1.1
    • Plautus, Epidicus, 1.2
    • Plautus, Epidicus, 2.2
    • Plautus, Epidicus, 3.4
    • Plautus, Epidicus, 5.1
    • Plautus, Menaechmi, 1.3
    • Plautus, Menaechmi, 4.1
    • Plautus, Menaechmi, 5.2
    • Plautus, Menaechmi, prologue.0
    • Plautus, Mercator, 1.2
    • Plautus, Mercator, 2.3
    • Plautus, Mercator, 4.4
    • Plautus, Mercator, 5.4
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 1.1
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 2.1
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 2.2
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 2.3
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 2.5
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 3.1
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 3.3
    • Plautus, Miles Gloriosus, 4.2
    • Plautus, Poenulus, prologue.0
    • Plautus, Truculentus, 1.2
    • Plautus, Truculentus, 2.2
    • Plautus, Truculentus, 2.6
    • Plautus, Truculentus, 3.2
    • Plautus, Truculentus, 4.2
    • Terence, The Brothers, 3.2
    • Terence, The Brothers, 4.5
    • Terence, Andria, 1.2
    • Terence, Andria, 3.2
    • Terence, Andria, 4.1
    • Terence, Andria, prologue.0
    • Terence, The Eunuch, 2.1
    • Terence, The Eunuch, 4.3
    • Terence, The Eunuch, 4.5
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 3.45
    • Cicero, De Republica, 1.58
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (5):
    • Terence, Phormio, 2.1
    • Plautus, Amphitruo, 5.1
    • Plautus, Bacchides, 4.8
    • Terence, The Eunuch, 3.1
    • Terence, The Eunuch, 4.7
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