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2.3. Interjection and other parts of speech – homonymy, confusion, conversion – problems of categorization

Numerous Latin authors, in the classical and especially late antiquity, pointed out the double use of some linguistic units, which, according to the context, can accomplish adverbial or interjectional role. Most frequent examples are heus, heu, eia, em (Diomedes, Priscian, "Probus" [5], Cledonius, Marius Plotius Sacerdos, Audax, etc.). However, most often the examples and the criteria for ascribing a given element to the correct word class are not convincing. The simple presence of a verb, next to an item categorized otherwise as interjection, is sufficient to make of it an adverb. In the same category are regrouped different phenomena, such the mere homonymy between some of the interjections and other linguistic units, or cases in which elements originally belonging to another word class have developed a secondary, interjectional use. An illustrative example can be found in Pompeius: heu fuge nate dea, where heu is analysed as an adverb for the simple fact that a verb follows it. The frequency of this observation in ancient grammars could be seen as an attempt to reconciliation or connection with the Greek grammatical system.

Diomedes, in Ars Grammatica, underlines the uncertain status, between interjection and adverbs, of some elements, as well as the possibility that other "parts of speech" may function as interjections:

"Sunt plurimae dictiones incertae inter adverbia et interiectiones, ut est heus heu eia em. Etiam aliae partes orationis pro interiectione singulae pluresve ponuntur, ut est mi, ellum, amabo, nefas, pro nefas, malum, miserum, infandum. Has enim, ut adserunt multi, in quibusdam locis interiectiones esse ipse declarat affectus."

For Priscian, the element o is also oscillating between an adverbial and an interjectional function:

"Possunt tamen esse quaedam dubiae inter adverbia et intriectiones, ut o, quando indignationem significat vel dolorem vel admirationem, interiectionem hoc accipiunt, quando vero vocandi est vel optandi, adverbium. Potest tamen etiam nomen esse ipsius literae, ut supra diximus."

The author distinguishes an interjectional valence of o for the context in which the expressive function, centered on the emittent's emotions, prevails and an adverbial valence, for two different context, one dominated by a phatic, vocative function, the other by an expressive, optative function. Priscian solves the oscillation between the two grammatical valences by correlating the expressive function to the interjectional use, while the vocative (phatic) and the optative (expressive and modalizing) function are related to the adverbial morphosyntactic valence. However there is no logical basis for a correlation between linguistic functions and word class in Priscian's classification.

"Probus" identifies three different uses for o, however without following some coherent criterion. The interjectional use of o is characterized semantically and intonationally:

"O, si cum animi affectu proferatur, hoc est per suspirationem, erit interiectio, ut puta o mihi sola mei super Astyanactis imago".

In order to explain the adverbial valence of o, the author starts from its syntagmatic combinations with the accusative case. When combined with a vocative case, o acquires according to "Probus" the value of an article.

"Si vero o ad accusativum casum proferatur, erit adverbium exclamantis ut o condicionem miseram, item o bellum magnopere pertimescendum. Nunc si o simpliciter proferatur, erit pronomen vel articulus vocativi casus, ut o iste. Sed quid intersit inter pronomen et articulum, in pronomine satis tractavimus."

For the preposition pro, the author does not provide any explanations. He only states the polyfunctional nature of this lexical unit and supports his affirmation with examples.

"Pro quoque tam praepositio est quam interiectio: praepositio, ut Virgilius in XII: Pro Latio obtestor, pro maiestate tuorum, et in V: Pro se quisque viri, et depronunt tela pharetris; interiectio ut Lucanus in III: pro, si remeasset in urbem / Gallorum tantum populis Arctoque subacta."

The interjectional value of pro is explainable by an elliptical conversion. The base is a series of exclamatory phrases of the type Pro Juppiter (iuro) , having an expressive function, centered on the speaker's mental state. The frequent use of phrases with a similar structure, sharing the recurrence of the preposition pro led to a function transfer from the nominal elements (cancelled by the ellipsis) to the preposition.

The other examples discussed by Priscian regard less the polyfunctional nature of the considered lexical units. They are often simple cases of homophones or homographs:

"A quoque et praepositio est et interiectio et nomen: praepositio ut "a summo ad imum"; interiectio, ut praemostravimus in bucolico esse positum; nomen, ipsius literae."

The examples of homonyms provided by "Probus" are interesting for supporting a series of phenomena concerning the evolution of Latin in late antiquity. The interjection member of the homonymous couples is generally identified by its specific mode of signifying, under an affective impulse. This specific mode of signifying would be able to determine the interjectional conversion of content words, with a full referential meaning:

"Sic et cetera talia, quae cum motione animi suspiranter promuntur, ad interiectionem pertinere probantur. Sane sunt interiectiones, quae et aliarum partium orationis habeant significationes, ut puta heu. Sed heu, si cum animi affectu proferatur, hoc est per suspirationem, erit interiectio, ut heu misero coniux ; si vero heu simpliciter proferantur, erit adverbium respondentis, ut heu, vel laudantis, ut heu bene fecisti." [6].

As most of the authors of its time, "Probus" oscillates in classifying the interjection heu between the grammatical class of the adverbs and that of interjections.

The author hesitates in classifying hei, whose occurrences in affective contexts are labelled as interjections, while in phatic contexts hei is assumed to fulfil the role of an exclamatory adverb. It is interesting that "Probus" warns on the confusion between the interjection hei and the dative form ei of the demonstrative pronoun is. Although the author specifies that the phonic structure of the interjection contains a nota aspirationis, this fact does not seem sufficient to distinguish on the formal level two words theoretically different. This remark certifies a specific stage in the evolution of Latin, when the aspirated laryngeal consonant /h/ is not anymore present in speech, and that makes possible the confusion between the interjection hei and the dative form ei.

"Hei, si cum animi affectu proferatur, hoc est per suspirationem, erit interiectio. Ut puta hei mihi quantum mutatus ab illo Hectore ; si vero hei pro vocatione aliqua proferatur, erit adverbium exclamantis, ut puta hei mihi / pater esse disce ab / illis, qui vere sciunt. Nunc si simpliciter, hic est sine aspiratione, ei proferatur, erit dativus casus pronominis is, ut ei."

Another example of "homonymous" couple, with relevance for the evolution of Late Latin, is the homophone and homograph form of the interjection ve (vae) and the coordinative enclitic conjunction ve (‘or'). The possibility of a graphic and phonic confusion between the two is attesting the evolution of the Latin diphthong ae which is monophtongized in e, by this time. A hesitant categorization of some occurrences of the interjection as exclamatory adverbs is also present:

"Ve, si cum animi affectu proferatur, hoc est per suspirationem, erit interiectio, ut puta ve misero mihi ; si vero ve pro vocatione aliqua proferatur, erit adverbium exclamantis, ut ve vobis. Si autem simpliciter ve proferatur erit coniunctio, ut Pariusve."

A similar oscillation characterizes the categorization as adverb or as interjection of the lexical element va. Affective contexts are favourable to an expressive, self-referential reading focused on speaker's mental states and classified as interjection, while the adverbial interpretation of va fulfils the phatic, alo-referential function:

"Va, si cum animi affectum proferatur, hoc est per suspirationem, erit interiectio ut puta va quemquamque hominem in animo instituere aut parare quod sit carius, quam ipse est sibi ; si vero va pro vocatione aliqua proferatur, erit adverbium irascentis, ut va hominum nequissime, hoc est ut, quotiens animum per suspirationem commovere inveniuntur, tunc suae potestatis esse intellegantur."

Cledonius considers that interjections would be closer to prepositions rather than to adverbs. The author identifies only the interjection only following the semantic-functional criterion of its occurrence in affective context. The similarities between the two uninflected word classes remain however unrevealed by the grammarian.:

"Nam sunt interiectiones similes praepositionibus, quae hinc intelleguntur, quod praepositiones non sint, per affectum aut gaudientis aut dolentis aut admirantis."

Cledonius also posits the current hypothesis among Latin grammarians of the double, interjectional and adverbial, valence of heu, which is to be categorized as an adverb for the contexts in which is responsible for the realization of the phatic function.

"Heu quando interiectio est dolentis, quando adverbium respondendi, hinc intelligimus : producta interiectio est, correpta adverbi respondendi. Et siqua sunt similia : quae ex affectu mentis colligenda sunt, id est quod sonum suum vocalibus misceant, ut he ohe vae."

In Cledonius' inventory of interjections, in Ars Secunda, De interiectione, both heu and hei are transcribed without the nota aspirationis, but the author overlooks the possible confusions with homonymous words:

"Interiectio est pars orationis interiecta aliis partibus orationis ad exprimendos animi affectus ; aut meutentis, ut ei, aut optantis, ut o ; aut dolentis, ut eu."

He insists however on the polyvalence of another item listed as interjection in his inventory, namely o, which is described as interjection when used in affective contexts, with a self-referential, expressive function. O is categorized as an article, a word class absent in Latin, for its syntagmatic combinations with the vocative case, and as an adverb when used in invocations to the gods:

"O multas particulas habet. Interiectionem dolentis pro sensu intelligimus, quotiens significat miserationem, ut o mihi praeteritos referat si I.a. Articulus est, quotiens vocativus casui applicatur : adverbium exclamantis est, quotiens invocamus deos, ut o caelum o terra."

Cledonius is trying to offer a general explanation for the double categorization as interjection or adverb that characterizes, in these ancient grammars, a certain number of linguistic units. His argumentation takes into discussion the fact that the categorization by Greek grammarians of items such as heu, evax, papae among adverbs was due to the fact that isolated occurrences of such items were not an acceptable grammatical construction in the Greek language. The Latin language, on the other side, would permit the isolated occurrence of such lexical units, thus the separation of a distinct class of interjection was a necessary enterprise, imposed by this specific use in Latin. The syntagmatic combination of the elements inventoried as interjections with other elements, especially verbs, would automatically lead to a grammatical status conversion justifying their categorization as adverbs:

"Interiectio, vel quod interiecta sit mentibus, vel quod ex affectu animi nascatur. Ut evax: heu et evax et papae et reliqua, licet apud Latinos interiectiones sunt, apud Graecos tamen adverbia : heu pro dicit Graecus, nos heu solum. Quod ideo Latini non faciunt: heu inde intellegimus, quando interiectio est, quando advrebium: si verbum sequitur, adverbium facimus, ut heu fuge nate dea; quotiens alteram partem sequitur, interiectio est ut ei mihi qualis erat et heu qua nunc tellus inquit."


Copyright©2004 Gabriela SAUCIUC, all rights reserved. The author's written consent is required in order to reproduce any part of this article. Free to use in Search Engines.

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