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De Praepositione: The Emerging of Donatus’s Thought on Syntax?


The paper aims at investigating the syntax treatment in late Antiquity through the analysis of the description of prepositions within Donatus‟s Artes. As far as an organic and dedicated description of syntax is concerned, the Roman tradition of grammatical studies in late Antiquity shows an overall gap. However, reflections on syntax emerge from the parts of speech descriptions made by grammarians. The ultimate purpose of this paper is to understand if, and to what extent, traces of emerging thought on syntax can be found in Donatus‟s description of prepositions. These are regarded as a syntactic object of study by the modern linguistic theory. To that end, the paper focuses on the textual analysis of the de praepositione sections included in both Donatus‟s Ars maior and minor, with particular reference to metalinguistic terminology. The analysis highlights some emerging traces of Donatus‟s reflection on syntax, although his concept of syntax is distant from the modern one, particularly in reference to a double perspective that concerns his description of the relation between praepositio and casus.