Redefining constructio praegnans: On the variation between allative and locative expressions in Ancient Greek

Abstract : In traditional grammar of Ancient Greek, the term constructio praegnans refers to an apparent syntactic anomaly whereby the idea of motion is missing from either the verb or the prepositional phrase: a verb that does not express motion is combined with a directional prepositional phrase (e.g., 'slaughter into a container') or a motion verb combines with a static prepositional phrase describing a goal of motion (e.g., 'throw in the ship'). This study explores such usages in the period from Archaic to Classical Greek and argues against treating constructio praegnans as a unitary phenomenon. The seemingly aberrant combinations of the verb's meaning and the type of prepositional phrase are shown to be motivated by four independent factors: * lexical (some individual non-motion verbs select for a directional argument); * aspectual (static encoding of goals is allowed with substantivized perfect participles); * the use of resultative constructions (directional expressions can encode results with change of state verbs); * and the archaic use of static prepositional phrases in directional contexts (the goal argument of a motion verb is described by a static prepositional phrase). The four types of "pregnant" use are paralleled by different phenomena in other languages. Based on statistical analysis, they are also argued to undergo different kinds of diachronic development. Some of these developments, nevertheless, fall into a more general pattern: as Ancient Greek moves toward a more consistent use of specialized directional expressions to mark goals of motion, it conforms increasingly to the "satellite-framed" type of motion encoding.
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Contributor : Tatiana Nikitina <>
Submitted on : Friday, December 20, 2013 - 8:56:58 PM
Last modification on : Friday, January 4, 2019 - 5:33:05 PM

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Tatiana Nikitina, Boris Maslov. Redefining constructio praegnans: On the variation between allative and locative expressions in Ancient Greek. Journal of Greek Linguistics, John Benjamins Publishing, 2013, 13, pp.105-142. ⟨halshs-00921698⟩

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