Clitics and configurationality in ancient Greek

Ann Taylor, University of Pennsylvania


This study examines the changes which take place in clitic position from Homeric to Koine Greek (pre-700 BC to 100 AD), with data from Homer, Herodotus, Plato and the New Testament. It is shown that the classic statement of clitic positioning in Homeric Greek (Wackernagel's Law), which refers solely to word count, does not adequately cover the data and that clitics are rather positioned with respect to the left periphery of IP. In light of this the proper analysis of second position, given the well-known phenomenon of first position constituents split by clitics, is raised, and its relation to the configurationality debate is examined. It is demonstrated that Homeric (and later) Greek is best analyzed as configurational with scrambling rules, rather that with base-generated free order. Clitic positioning in later Greek is quite different from that found in Homer. The concept of "home domain" is introduced and it is shown that at this stage clitics may appear attached to the left periphery of IP, as in Homeric Greek, or of their home domain. In addition, it is demonstrated that the requirement that clitics adjoin to the left periphery forces the conclusion that the verb phrase begins to undergo a change from OV, as in Homeric, to VO order in the Classical Greek period. Finally an overall analysis of the change in clitic position across the Ancient Greek period is given. It is clear that clitics originate in their home domain and that second position clisis is the result of movement to the periphery of IP. The loss of the second position option over time, therefore, results from an increasing restriction on the extraction of clitics from their home domain. This limitation on the movement of clitics is matched by an ongoing decrease in extraction of all kinds and it is therefore proposed that the leftward movement of clitics is simply an instance of a more general rule of stylistic movement available in this language.

Subject Area

Ancient languages|Linguistics

Recommended Citation

Taylor, Ann, "Clitics and configurationality in ancient Greek" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9112632.