Review: Discourse Analysis; Historical Linguistics: Donati (2013)

AUTHOR: Margherita  Donati
TITLE: Il vocativo nel processo identitario dell’interazione linguistica
SUBTITLE: Prospettive dalle lingue classiche
SERIES TITLE: LINCOM Studies in Indo-European Linguistics 43
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Chiara Meluzzi, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano

This book deals with the classification of vocatives in grammatical and
linguistic theory, with a special focus on Ancient Greek and Latin. It
consists of a preface, a note on translation, an introduction with a
summarizing the book, four chapters, an appendix with references to all the
quoted lines, and a huge bibliography.

In the preface, Federica Venier points out how Donati’s book fills a gap in
the literature concerning the study of cases in classical languages, and how
it contributes to a better understanding of the importance of the
grammar-pragmatics interface in the analysis of linguistic phenomena.

In her note on translation, the author specifies how she has decided to
translate different terms found in classical texts and variously referred to
as vocatives by modern scholars: in particular, she translates the Greek words
“pragma” and “deixis” as “expression” and “deictic value” respectively,
whereas the Latin words “demonstratio” and “relatio” have been translated as
“deixis and “anaphor”.

The first chapter presents a history of the vocative among ancient grammarians
and modern linguists, in particular the inclusion of vocative in the number of
cases of both Ancient Greek and Latin. As a matter of fact, the vocative
presents many peculiarities, first in not marking syntactic reference to other
elements of the sentence. Moreover, vocatives are syntactically peripheral in
the sentence, thus allowing an interpretation as more pragmatic elements than
syntactic or semantic ones. In reviewing the history of the vocative, Donati
also points out how it is sometimes difficult to understand if ancient
scholars are referring to what we actually understand under the label
“vocative”. Despite this, Donati argues that the Stoics included vocative with
the other morphological cases, even if they pointed out its peculiarities, in
particular on the syntactic level: vocatives are indeed peripheral elements,
not involved in the morphosyntactic construction of the sentence. Moreover,
Apollonius and Priscian pointed out how the use of vocatives shows many
similarities with the deictic function of personal pronouns, and in particular
with the second person singular pronoun (Gr. “sù” you); moreover, these
scholars also argue that vocatives could be morphologically similar to
nominatives. These two issues have been addressed by modern linguistic
theories, but were fully discussed in ancient scholars as well. In the Middle
Ages, grammarians again addressed the problem of including the vocative among
the cases of Greek and Latin. Some scholars also adopted more pragmatic
explanations, discussing vocatives as part of the discourse level of analysis
more than the syntactic one. During the Renaissance and until the 19th
century, the vocative was uncontroversially listed among other cases, because
the semantic value of cases was particularly stressed in metalinguistic
reflections of this period. With the introduction of the comparative method in
historical linguistics, the vocative was seen as perfectly integrated into the
Indo-European nominal system. During the 20th century, scholars have
alternatively stressed the semantic or the syntactic dimension in their
analyses of vocatives: on the one hand, Hjelmslev defined the vocative on a
purely semantic level, in particular by stressing the three dimensions of
directionality, coherence, and subjectivity (cf. Hjelmslev 1935 [1972]); on
the other, authors such as De Groot stressed the importance of an analysis of
cases that simultaneously referred both the semantic and syntactic level. This
position was reinforced by Kuryłowicz, who argued that originally there was
only one case, which then evolved into two distinctive cases, i.e. nominative
and vocative, the first with a more syntactic value, and the latter with a
more semantic value. Conte’s generative analysis (1972) emphasized the
pragmatic value of vocatives, which in this view are superficial projections
of the 2nd person singular pronoun. In this approach, the peculiarity of
vocatives is again its problematic syntactic status compared to other elements
of the sentence. Given this complex state of the art, Donati then emphasizes
how the category of vocative can be fully understood only from a pragmatic
perspective, and at the level of discourse. The author argues that vocatives
are primarily forms of address, since they are used to establish a discursive
interaction, and are thus part of deixis (p. 75).

In the second chapter, Donati discusses the label “case”, by specifying that
she uses the term “vocative” to refer to the nominal form morphologically
marked as vocative, whereas she adopts the label “vocative construction”
(“costruzione vocativale”) for the cases in which the form of address is a
syntactic construction, involving a particle (e.g. Latin “o”, Greek “hō”) and
a name. The label “allocutive forms of the name” (“forme allocutive del nome”)
is then used as the main label including the two aforementioned phenomena.
Donati also emphasizes how vocatives are at the interface between grammar and
pragmatics, following Benveniste’s position, and that vocatives are primarily
used to address the hearer and have his attention.

In the third chapter, Donati analyses the evolution of vocatives in Ancient
Greek and Latin, by also focusing on the neutralization of the morphological
difference between nominative and vocative. As the author points out (pp.
99-101) the tendency to have the same morphological marker for both
nominatives and vocatives is common among Indo-European languages (e.g. Old
Irish, Proto-Baltic). A synchronic analysis of the oldest phases of Greek and
Latin testifies to how vocatives could be substituted by nominatives.
Traditionally, this was justified by metrics, but according to Donati this
explanation is not completely valid, at least for Plautus (p. 106). The author
introduces instead the notion of markedness: in her view, both nominatives and
vocatives have the peculiarity of being non-relational elements (i.e. not
having any syntactic-semantic information); however, vocatives are the marked
elements since their function is to introduce a deictic variable in the
dimension of discourse. Since nominatives are unmarked elements, they can be
used instead of vocatives, while the contrary is not allowed or attested.
Moreover, in her diachronic analysis, Donati shows that the tendency to
replace vocatives with nominatives is also attested in spontaneous writings
such as Pompeian inscriptions (p. 115). Another interesting topic addressed by
Donati is the grammaticalization of the “hō + vocative” construction in
Ancient Greek. The author points out that the presence of the particle “hō”
increases during the 5th century B.C. with common names and adjectives, that
is to say with words that are not normally used in a vocative form. In
Donati’s view, the particle “hō” is thus a marker of deixis, and this function
grammaticalizes in 4th century Greek in poetry as well as prose.

In her conclusions, Donati sums up the main points of her work: (1) the
vocative is an element at the interface between grammar and pragmatics, with
special emphasis on the dimension of discourse; (2) in the nominative-vocative
opposition, vocative represents the marked element; (3) the construction “hō +
vocative” could be seen as a process of grammaticalization from Homeric Greek
to 4th century Greek.

Donati’s work is a complex, well-structured book that aims to put order into
the linguistic theory of vocatives. The author’s metalinguistic awareness is
apparent from the very beginning of the book, where Donati discusses the
different labels used in ancient grammarians, and how and why she has decided
to translate those labels in her work.

The first chapter presents a comprehensive and articulate history of the
vocative case in grammatical and linguistic theory from Aristotle to the
construction grammar. In her survey, Donati is able to point out different
paths and issues variously addressed by different scholars over time.
Moreover, extensive quotations from both ancient and modern texts add value to
the author’s historical reconstruction of theories of the vocatives.

Donati also succeeds in moving from this complex metalinguistic background to
a new interpretation of the vocative, by distinguishing a more general label
(“forme allocutive del nome”, addressing forms of the name), and two precise
labels intended to limit the category of “vocative” to the morphological case
used to mark a nominal form of address, whereas constructions involving
particles (e.g. “hō + vocative” construction) are considered distinct separate
cases (“costruzione vocativali” vocative constructions).

Finally, the diachronic path of grammaticalization of the Ancient Greek “hō +
Vocative” construction proposed in the third chapter reinforces Donati’s
previous theoretical statements, and emphasizes how vocatives are elements at
the grammar-pragmatics interface. The diachronic analysis supplements Donati’s
theoretical reflections significantly. Moreover, this part provides an
important starting point for a broader reflection on the diastratic and
diaphasic variation of vocative use in ancient texts, as the author herself
points out (p. 135).

Donati’s book represents a large, detailed and cohesive analysis of the
category of vocative in Ancient Greek and Latin, with a particular emphasis of
metalinguistic aspect of grammatical reflection on this case and a precise
empirical analysis of the grammaticalization path of vocative construction.

Hjelmslev. Louis. 1935 [1972]. La catégorie des cas: étude de grammaire
générale. vol. 1. Aarhus: Universitetsfolaget I.

Conte. Maria Elizabeth. 1972. Vocativo e imperative secondo il modello
performativo. In G. Lepschy (ed.) Scritti e ricerche di grammatica italiana.
Trieste: Lint, 161-179.

Chiara Meluzzi earned her PhD at the University of Pavia and Free University of
Bozen (Italy) in January 2014. After an MA on the sociolinguistics and pragmatics
of Ancient Greek at the University of Eastern Piedmont, she moved to
sociophonetics for her PhD thesis, analyzing dental affricates produced by
Italian speakers in Bozen (South Tyrol, Italy). Her publications include a
pragmatic analysis of personal pronoun use in Aristophanes (in GLIEP 3
Proceedings), a survey of Italian spoken in Bozen (Il Cristallo), and an
analysis of Italian text messaging (in collaboration with I. Fiorentini, to
appear). Her research interests include sociolinguistics, pragmatics, Ancient
Greek, Italian, and phonetics.

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