Relative Clauses as Alternatives to Nouns

In Latin, a relative clause can function as an alternative to (a) a participle, (b) an appositive or (c) a noun of agency.

This should be incredibly familiar: English relative clauses may perform all the same roles.

As participles:

  • lēgēs nunc stantēs : lēgēs quī nunc stant (the existing laws)
  • uxor librum dans : uxor quae librum dat (the wife giving the book)

As appositives:

  • iūsta glōria, frūctus virtūtis, ērepta est : iūsta glōria quae est frūctus virtūtus, ērepta est.
  • (true glory, the fruit of virtue, has been snatched away)
  • Iuppiter caelestī potestātis solium : Iuppiter, quī est caelestī potestātis solium
  • (Jupiter, the seat of heavenly power)

As nouns of agency:

  • Caesar victor Galliae : Caesar quī Galliam vincit (Caesar, conqueror of Gaul)
  • Seneca omnilector : Seneca quī omnēs legit (Secena, reader of everything)

Essential AG: 308c.

One comment on “Relative Clauses as Alternatives to Nouns

  1. Kyle says:

    I think A.G is making arbitrary distinctions and confusing syntax and semantics. Participles and nouns are just lexical categories and how they may function in a sentence is quite another thing. A participle can be used predicatively (‘the man walking’) or attributively (‘the walking man’); a noun can be used as the head of a noun phrase (‘the man’) or appositively (‘the man, president of CP’). So a word can’t function as a noun or as a participle. Apposition is a function; noun is a lexical category. A noun can be in apposition but a relative clause cannot be a noun.

    So, I fail to see any meaningful syntactic distinction between iusta gloria, fructus virtutis, and Caesar, victor Galliae. Presumably AG has distinguished these two because the relationship between Caesar and victoria (agentive) is different to that between gloria and fructus virtutis (a nice epigrammatic equation).

    If we are going to make distinctions of relative clauses, I think the semantic difference between determinative and predicative is more important. Leges stantes means specifically ‘the current laws’ (determinative), but uxor librum dans would normally mean something like ‘the wife, as she gives the book…’.

    The interesting question would then be what is the meaning of Seneca omnilector and Seneca qui omnes legit? The relative clause is ambiguous. In context, it could mean something like ‘Seneca, the one who reads everything, is my nephew’ or predicatively ‘Seneca, who is reading everything, has gotten poor eyesight.’I think omnilector is actually a funny compound (not used by Latins except in imitation of Greek, especially Roman comedy). A relative clause doesn’t really equate to the Greek/comedic feel of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s