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The morphology of classical Latin

6. Morphology of Pronouns

After nouns and adjectives, Latin Grammars study what they call pronouns, explaining that pronouns are used as nouns or as adjectives. It is true that pronouns are declined like nouns and adjectives, but they have special forms of declension. It is even possible to say that they have two different types of declension.

  • 6.1. Personal ProNP

There is firstly the specific declension of so-called personal pronouns, which are morphems belonging to the functional class of NP, which they commute with (cf. Touratier, 1994, Syntaxe latine, p. 23-24), not the class of nouns. “The pronoun is an available synthetic noun phrase (NP)”, as Georges Van Hout1) says; this paradoxical definition means that the so called pronoun alone is a NP, while a NP is formed at least by two or more than two constituents, which is called “an analytic NP” by Van Hout. We can therefore say that these pronouns are ProNPs.

There are in Latin five personal ProNPs: ego (“I”) ProNP of the first person, (“thou” or “you”) of the second person, nōs (“we”) of the fourth person (grammars would say of the second person plural, but we doesn’t mean “several I”, but “I and others persons”2) ), and uōs (“ye” or “you”) of the fifth person. If Latin has no ProNP of the third person, similar to Engl. he, she, it and they, there is in Latin a ProNP of third person reflexive, s-ē “himself”.

1th. Pers 2d. Pers 3th. Pers
NOM. ego
GEN. me-ī tu-ī su-ī
DAT. mi-hiti-bi si-bi
ABL. m-ē t-ē s-ē
ACC. m-ē t-ē s-ē
4th. Pers. 5th. Pers.
NOM. nō-suō-s
GEN. nostr-ī
DAT. nō-bisuō-bis
ABL. nō-bis uō-bis
ACC. nō-s uō-s

These ProNP have a specific feature in common. The Genitive leads to an allomorph which is the same as the genitive of possessive adjectives (it would be better to call them personal adjectives), namely me-us, -a, -um “my”, tu-us, -a, -um “your”, noster, str-a, str-um “our”, uester, str-a, str-um “your”, su-us, -a, -um “his, her, its”. The Genitive is therefore the morphological segment of the second declension: me-ī, tu-ī, nostr-ī, uestr-ī, su-ī:

  • m-ē tu-ī pudet
    “I am ashamed of you”
  • memor sīs nostr-ī
    “be mindful of us”.

The short allomorph -um of the genitive plural -ōrum corresponding to a genitive of partitive sense, can of course! be used only with nō-s and uō-s:

  • Unusquisque nostrum
    “each one of us”,
  • uestrum omnium
    “of all of you”.

The ProNP of the first three persons has an allomorph with a vowel i brought by an original morphological segment of Dative in ī: -hī for the first person (mihī), and -bī for the second and third person (tibī and sibī), and an allomorph without vowel brought by a same segment of ablative and accusative (m-ē, t-ē, s-ē).

Because of the shortening of the iambic words the poets scan as well mĭhĭ, tĭbĭ, tĭbĭ as mĭhī, tĭbī, sĭbī. But, the classical poets know only ěgŏ.

The ProNPs of the fourth and fifth person, except for the genitive, have a same morphological segment nō- “we” and uō- “you”, which is combined with particular casual forms: -s for the nominative and accusative, and -bis for the dative and ablative.

In the third person, Latin uses a reflexive ProNP in oblique cases to refer to the subject of the sentence like: se amat, “he loves himself”. In the other persons, Latin has no special reflexive ProNP; then it is simply said m-ē uideo whereas in Engl. “I see myself”, or t-ē laudas, in Engl. “you praise yourself”, nō-bīs persuādēmus, in Engl. “we persuade ourselves”.

Beside this declension of the personal ProNP, there is another specifically pronominal declension which all the so-called pronouns belong to. The morphological common feature of this declension is to show, in the three genders, a Genitive singular -ius and a Dative singular –ī, the syntactical feature of these constituents being to function as Determiner and ProNP. In fact they are first of all determiners, which can be turned into a substantive, i. e. appear alone in the paradigm of the NP3) .

Their Genitive -ius is either monosyllabic or dissyllabic. When it is monosyllabic, it corresponds to a phonematic sequence /iius/, and both phonemes /ii/ being between vowels are realized [jj]4) . When it is dissyllabic, it corresponds to a phonematic sequence /i:ius/, where /i:i/, being before vowel, are realized [i:j]. The two segments of Genitive -ius are in complementary distribution, /i:ius/ appearing after consonant, and /iius/ after vowel.

  • 6.2. The Determiner is, ea, id, “that”

is not a demonstrative, not even a weaker demonstrative than the others, as grammars sometimes claim; it would be rather an anaphoric. Actually, it is a pronoun of the third person. But its declension is the same as for the true demonstratives: it is different of the first and second declension only in genitive and dative singular, and in nominative singular.

Declension of is, e-a, id:

+ Plural
Nom. is e-a id e-ī e-ae e-a
Gen. ē-ius ē-ius ē-ius e-ōrum e-ārum e-ōrum
Dat. e-ī e-ī e-ī e-īs (i-īs) e-īs (i-īs) e-īs (i-īs)
abl. e-ō e-ā e-ō e-īs (i-īs) e-īs (i-īs) e-īs (i-īs)
Acc. e-um e-am id e-ōs e-ās e-a

In nominative singular, it uses the same casual segment as the interrogative pronoun, hence the nominative singular masculine is, like qu-is, and neuter id, like qu-id.

The true originalty of this morpheme is the fact that beside a morph e-, it shows an allomorph Ø, when it is combined with these segments of masculine or neuter nominative:

  • is = / Ø-is/ and id =/Ø id/.

And this morpheme can show another allomorph, namely i-, when it is before an ī, therefore before the casual segments of Nominative, and Dative and Ablative Plural, hence

  • i-ī beside e-ī, i-īs beside e-īs.

This assimilation of e- by /-ī is similar to that of di-ī beside de-ī “gods (Nom.)”, and di-īs beside de-īs; and, as di-ī can be contracted to , we can find ī and īs. This explanation by a contraction seems to be better than if ī and īs were analyzed with the same morph Ø as the nominative masculine or neuter Ø-is or Ø-id. But that supposes that the rule of contraction de i-ī to ī is not a phonological rule, but a morphological.

The genitive e-ius corresponds to a phonematic sequence /e-iius/, which is realized [ejjus], and written eius, but with a first syllable which is long by position, since it is closed by two consonants [jj].

The morpheme of identity īdem, eadem, idem, “the same” is declined exactly like is, ea, id. Both visible differences, namely the nominative masculine ī-dem in front of is and neuter i-dem in front of id, are phonological, [i:dem] being the phonetic realization of /is-dem/: because the sibilant /s/ before a voiced is realized by the lengthening of the previous vowel; and [idem], the phonetic realization of /id-dem/, because of the Latin, which has not any apicodental geminate consonant, even in internal position5) , ordinarely give a simply realization to geminate consonants which the morphology can produce.

Declension of ī-dem, e-a-dem, i-dem, “the same”:

+ Plural
Nom. ī-dem e-a-dem i-dem e-ī-dem (i-ī-dem) e-ae-dem e-a-dem
Gen. ē-ius-dem ē-iusdem ē-ius-dem e-ōrum-dem e-ārum-dem e-ōrum-dem
Dat. e-ī-dem e-ī-dem e-ī-dem e-īs-dem (i-īs-dem) e-īs-dem (i-īs-dem) e-īs-dem (i-īs-dem)
abl. e-ō-dem e-ā-dem e-ō-dem e-īs-dem (i-īs-dem) e-īs-dem (i-īs-dem) e-īs-dem (i-īs-dem)
Acc. e-un-dem e-an-dem i-dem e-ōs-dem e-ās-dem e-a-dem
  • 6.3. Relative and interrogative determiners

As the other members of the pronominal declension, the so-called interrogative and relative pronouns are determiners in Latin, which can function as NP (traditionally grammars speak of relative or interrogative pronouns and adjectives).

Declension of the relative

Besides Casual segments of singular Genitive and Dative /-ius and –ī, common to the pronominal declension, the relative uses segments of singular Nominative (qu-ī, qu-ae, qu-od) and plural neuter Nominative (qu-ae), peculiar to itself. For the other case, it uses few segments of the third declension: the masculine Accusative (qu-em) and the plural Dative and Ablative (qu-ibus); all the others are some casual segments of the first and second declension: the feminine Accusative (qu-am), the singular Ablatives (qu-ō, qu-ā, qu-ō) and the plural Genitives (qu-ōrum, qu-ārum, qu-ōrum).

If we assume that the relative has two allomorphs, either qu- (i. e. /kw-/, which would be the unmarked allomorph), or /kwu-/, in the context of Genitive or Dative, the genitive will correspond to a phonological sequence /kwu-iius/, both /ii/ of which will be realized [jj]¸ since they are between two vowels. And if we assume that a phonological rule, before a consonant, leads to the phonetical realization [ku:] of the phonematic sequence /kwu/ not separated by a morpheme border6) , we shall get a phonetical realization [ku:jjus], which will be naturally written cuius, and “ordinarly scaned with the first syllable long” (cf. Ernout, 19537), p. 87).

The dative cui, realization of /kwu-i:/, is less clear: it is, as it seems, “a long monosyllable, spelt quoi until the time of Quintilianus” (cf. Ernout, 19538), p. 87), the u of which was probably vocalic, like the u of the dative huic, and therefore the i could be only a consonantal i [j] and form with the u a diphthong [uj]. But, if the classical scansion processes quoi as a long monosyllable, the old scansion was probably bisyllabic, a form quoiei (which quoī comes from) being very attested in C.I.L. (I9), 11 and 583). And the later scansion cŭī easily would be explained by the neutralization of the opposition of quantity before a vowel, if we assumed a phonematical sequence /ku:-i:/. But, how to explain this radical /ku:-/ from /kwu/? May be by analogy of [ku:jjus]?

Declension of the relative:

+ Plural
Nom. qu-ī qu-ae
1) Van Hout, Georges, 1973, I p. 148.
2) , 3) Cf. Touratier, 1994, p. 89-90.
4) Cf. C. Touratier, 1994, « Quelques problèmes de phonologie à propos de i », p. 625-629.
5) Cf. Touratier, 2005, p. 123, and Lehmann, 2005, p.169-170, Touratier, (ed.), 2005, Essais de phonologie latine, Publications de l’Univ. de Provence
6) Cf. about locū-t-us/, the participle of loquor “I speak”, solū-t-us, the participle of solu-ō “I loosen”, p. 242-244 in C. Touratier, 1985, Contribution informatique à l’analyse phonologique, in: Revue informatique et Statistique dans les sciences humaines, 21, 1-4, 223-245
7) , 8) Kuryłowiz, Jerzy, 1949, Le problème du classement des cas, in :Biuletyn Polskiego Towarystwa Jezykoznawczego, 9, 20-26-43.
9) Bloomfield, Leonard, 19585, Language, London, George Allen & Unwin, 566 p.