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Some of the medieval treatises continue the tradition of grammars of late antiquity; so there are versions based on Donatus and Priscian, often with less incorporation of the classical poets and writers.

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Another genre of writing involves simultaneous consideration of grammatical distinctions and scholastic logic; modern linguists are probably inadequately trained to deal with these writings. For the development of the Western grammatical tradition, work of this genre was the second great milestone after the crystallization of Greek thought with the Stoics and Alexandrians.

The scholastic philosophers were occupied with relating words and things—i. The aim of the grammarians was to explore how a word an element of language matched things apprehended by the mind and how it signified reality. Since a word cannot signify the nature of reality directly, it must stand for the thing signified in one of its modes or properties; it is this discrimination of modes that the study of categories and parts of speech is all about.

Thus the study of sentences should lead one to the nature of reality by way of the modes of signifying. The modistae did not innovate in discriminating categories and parts of speech; they accepted those that had come down from the Greeks through Donatus and Priscian. The great contribution of these grammarians, who flourished between the midth and midth century, was their insistence on a grammar to explicate the distinctions found by their forerunners in the languages known to them.

12. Don Quixote, Introduction to Part II

Whether they made the best choice in selecting logic, metaphysics , and epistemology as they knew them as the fields to be included with grammar as a basis for the grand account of universal knowledge is less important than the breadth of their conception of the place of grammar. Before the modistae , grammar had not been viewed as a separate discipline but had been considered in conjunction with other studies or skills such as criticism, preservation of valued texts, foreign-language learning.

The Greek view of grammar was rather narrow and fragmented; the Roman view was largely technical. They wondered whether grammarians or philosophers discovered grammar, whether grammar was the same for all languages, what the fundamental topic of grammar was, and what the basic and irreducible grammatical primes are.

Signification was reached by imposition of words on things; i. Those questions sound remarkably like current issues of linguistics, which serves to illustrate how slow and repetitious progress in the field is.

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While the modistae accepted, by modern standards, a restrictive set of categories, the acumen and sweep they brought to their task resulted in numerous subtle and fresh syntactic observations. A thorough study of the medieval period would greatly enrich the discussion of current questions. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback.

Load Previous Page. Greek and Roman antiquity The emergence of grammatical learning in Greece is less clearly known than is sometimes implied, and the subject is more complex than is often supposed; here only the main strands can be sampled.

Themes in Greek Linguistics: Volume II (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory)

Load Next Page. More About. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. Greek word order patterns. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory — Catsimali, Georgia.

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    Lingua — Haidou, Konstantina. Thesis, SOAS. Horrocks, Geoffrey. The order of constituents in Modern Greek. Pullum eds. Dordrecht: Foris Publications.

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