The Latin Period

Introduction to the Period

No, not this :         .

The Period is an extended and logically coherent sentence structure, with its subject and main verb placed at or near the final position in order to ‘hold suspense’ of sense until the entire sentence is read.

  • English is given to short sentences, not periodic sentences.
  • Latin (an inflected) is friendly toward period structure because the relationship between all words within a longer sentence are easily comprehended by the specific case of each word. Case lends internal structure or Latin sentences, where English relies on specific word order, clauses and their transitional particles.
  • The Period encourages Latin reads to view sentences as wholes, where English readers view (long) sentences as interrelated parts.
  • The Latin periodus, -ī (complete sentence) is from the Greek περιοδός, -οῦ (cycle, unit) [viz. περὶ + ἣ ὃδος, road]

Period Samples

An English period (rare):

High on a throne of royal state, which far

Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,

Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand

Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,

Satan exalted sat. —Milton, Paradise Lost, ii 1-5

————————————————————————————————————————

A Latin period (appreciably less rare [though not quite common]):

Volscī exiguam spem in armīs, aliā undique abscissā, cum tentāssent, praeter cētera adversa, locō quoquo inīquō ad pugnam congressī, inīquiōre ad fugam, cum ab omnī parte caederentur, ad precēs ā certāmine versī dēditō imperātōre trāditīsque armīs, sub iugum missī, cum singulīs vestīmentīs, īgnōminiae clādisque plēnī dīmittuntur. -Livy, iv.10

The Volscians, determined on trying the slender hope they had in arms, all others now cut off, besides many other disadvantages, having come to an engagement unfavorable for fighting, and still more so for retreat, when they were being cut down on every side, from fighting have recourse to entreaties, having given up their general and surrendered their arms, they are sent under the yoke and dismissed full of disgrace and suffering, with one garment each. (trans. Spillan)

The central verb of the unit, dīmittuntur, is held to the very end, and a grand tapestry of meaning, history and structure is woven from one clause to the next, all hanging in the air until that summary, ultimate note.

The Essential AG: 601

Famous Phrase: quārē nōn, ut intelligere possit, sed, ne omnīnō possit nōn intelligere, cūrandum

[therefore, we must care that the reader be unable to misunderstand, not able to understand]

Related Link: Hyperekperissou, “Translating

(periodic sense-shift in action)

 

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