title.none: RESPONSE to Wright on Karlsen (Karlsen)

identifier.other: baj9928.9910.003 99.10.03

identifier.issn: 1096-746X


publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999


type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medeival Review

The Medieval Review 99.10.03

Reviewed by:

Espen Karlsen responds to Roger Wright's review of Karlsen's The "Accusativus cum Infinitivo" and "Quod" clauses in the "Revelaciones" of St. Bridget of Sweden (TMR 99.09.05).

In his review of my thesis on the variation between the accusative and infinitive construction (henceforth abbreviated as a.c.i.) and quod-clauses in the Revelations of St. Bridget of Sweden (1303-73), Dr. Roger Wright has suggested interesting ideas about the need for a new discipline of sociophilology. The Revelations were written or dictated in Old Swedish by the saint herself and translated into Latin by the saint's Swedish confessors, most notably Magister Mathias (died c. 1350). The work was revised and edited by the Spanish bishop Alfonso of Jaen (died 1389). Wright wants to determine the authorial input of these persons. One of Wright's main points is that there is a possibility of Spanish influence on the Latin through Alfonso.

In particular, there are three passages in his criticism that I want to discuss. First I will discuss his suggestion in the following passage: Verbs of perception are included in this analysis. They are more likely to be used with the accusative and infinitive than with quod. Again, whether we think that the careful statistics (23-24) of 69% (quod with indirect statements) versus 45.5% (quod with verbs of perception) are significant, rather than just being a restatement of the data, is debatable. In the event, if Karlsen had been using his data for some interesting purpose, such as determining the relative authorial input of Bridget, Mathias and Alfonso, these differences between perceptive and declarative complements might incline us to attribute a significant role to Alfonso; for in the Ibero-Romance that underlay his written language, indirect statements normally had a complement introduced by que, but verbs of perception regularly had, and indeed still have, the accusative and infinitive (or, more often in Modern Spanish, the infinitive and accusative: e.g. vi comer a la madre, "I saw the mother eat", where the a marks the mother as being the object of the seeing while being at the same time the subject of the eating).Surprisingly, Dr. Wright has not posed the question about the situation in Old Swedish in this field. In fact, in Old Swedish the non-finite constructions frequently occur with verbs of perception and, indeed, it is with the verbs of perception we most frequently find the a.c.i. in the modern Scandinavian languages as well (Old Swedish material is presented by Grimberg, p. 345-350). This will not bring us any further in determining the relative authorial input of St. Bridget, Mathias and Alfonso. As for the accusative with agreeing participle constructions (a.c.p.) which are frequent in the more vivid part of different revelations ("audiuit vocem Patris de celis dicentem"), they may be typical of the revelation genre from the Vulgate (Revelation of St. John) on, as I have pointed out on page 19 in my thesis.

Furthermore, Wright discerns a possible influence from Spanish through the editor Alfonso in another field as well, namely the post-verbality of the quod-clauses: The fact, discovered by Jozsef Herman, that in Late Latin quod-clauses always follow the main verb while the accusative and infinitive construction has no relative positional preference, further supports the latter's role [i.e. that of Alfonso], since the Revelations follow the same pattern and Herman, as Karlsen refrains from pointing out, was analysing texts written by native speakers (whose speech would have post-verbal quod).Wright has apparently made the assumption that the conjunctional clauses which in Old Swedish correspond to the quod-clauses are not necessarily post-verbal. With very few exceptions such clauses are post-verbal in today's Norwegian and Swedish, and this corresponds well with the situation in Old Swedish. The fact that quod clauses are post-verbal in the Revelations does not support the point Wright is trying to make, namely that the Spanish influence through Alfonso was stronger than that of Old Swedish.

Wright has also proposed a third way of determining the input of Alfonso and the Swedish intermediaries: The statistical truths that are discovered in this analysis concern for the most part an increasing preference for quod-clauses correlative to greater syntactic complexity in the sentence as a whole. This tendency could be compared by an analysis with the pedagogical grammars probably used for the training of the Swedish intermediaries, for if it corresponds to reconstructable technical advice mentioned in their professional formation, then we could assign an important role in the text to Bridget's Scandinavian colleagues; if not, this would be a further argument for a fundamental role played by Alfonso in the text that survives.It is a well known fact that the pedagogical grammars of St. Bridget's day were mainly concerned with morphology, so that technical advice of the kind Wright assumes the existence of in this field hardly exists at all. It is striking that even Lorenzo Valla (1407-57) recommended improving "putare quia" or "quoniam" with "putare quod," not "putare" + the a.c.i. in his Elegantiae (Wirth-Poelchau, p. 138). The grammarian Niccolo Perotti was perhaps the first humanist grammarian to state explicitly that the quod-clauses and the a.c.i. are equivalent from the semantic point of view, and he gave advice on which construction to prefer in his Rudimenta grammatices, written in 1468 (quoted more extensively in my thesis, p. 7): Quid hic in primis notandum est, quod ea quae per subiunctivum verbum cum coniunctione quod dici possunt longe elegantius sine quod per infinitivum dicuntur.(It is noteworthy that Perotti commences his appeal for the a.c.i. instead of quod-clauses by using a quodclause.) However, the technical instruction used in the 14th century in Sweden could hardly have been more advanced than this. As for grammatical theory in the 14th century, the syntax was mainly focused on the phenomenon of verbal government (a general picture is given by Percival, p. 233-38). In one of the most widely disseminated grammars, the Doctrinale of Alexander de Villa Dei (c. 1200), only some 170 hexameter lines out of 2600 are devoted to syntax (use of case-forms, tenses, relative pronouns, conjunctions and so on).

A final point is the fact that from the linguistic point of view the statistical exceptions to the main tendencies are very few (I refer in particular to subsections 5.2.3 - 5.4.6, on assertive, mainly scholastic formulaic expressions and various kinds of complexity, chapter 6 on the moods, chapter 7 on the sequence of moods and tenses, and chapter 9 on the same phenomenon with the verba voluntatis). Moreover, the same formulas occur in the entire corpus of the text (e.g. p. 21-22, 35-40, 51-52, 96, 104-108, 110-12). It is in this sense that the corpus is homogeneous. The chapter rubrics of Alfonso form no good control group as Wright suggests, since a heading will often differ considerably from the text below (cf. modern newspaper headings). A comparison between rhetorical devices in the prologue of Mathias to the Revelations and Book I of the Revelations show considerable differences (Odelman), but on the other hand a closer examination of Mathias' Copia exemplorum would probably show that this latter work exhibits a clearer resemblance to the Revelations as regards language (many passages in the Revelations are related to the genres of examples and sermons, as pointed out by Odelman, and one could compare such passages with that kind of material). Mathias had studied abroad, most probably in Paris, and his classical education is evident in his textbooks on rhetoric and poetry. Another project would be to investigate other surviving writings of Alfonso, but his work differs considerably in respect of style and genre from the Revelations. Since the Revelations form a homogeneous textual corpus from the linguistic point of view, it could be possible that one person is responsible for the final version of the work, but discussing possible vernacular influences in the field of the a.c.i. and quod-clauses will not bring us much further.

Wright does not mention in his review that there are very few large-scale investigations of the Latin language after A.D. 1000. Before discussing vernacular influence on texts, such as the Revelations, it would be very useful to know more about what was the normal Latin of the day in similar texts. We may assume that the Revelations exhibit features usual in the revelations genre (for instance in the use of the a.c.p., as pointed out above). Wright has certainly proposed interesting thoughts on the need for a new discipline of sociophilology, but unfortunately his suggestions will not help us much in reaching the results he considers more interesting. A slightly revised edition of my thesis is forthcoming in the Lateinische Sprache und Literatur des Mittelaltersseries (Peter Lang AG).


Grimberg, C. "Undersoekningar om konstruktionen ackusativ med infinitiv i den aeldre fornsvenskan," Arkiv foer nordisk filologi 17 (Lund and Leipzig: Gleerup/Harassowitz, 1905) 205-35, 311-57.

Herman, J. "Accusativus cum infinitivo et subordonnee a quod, quia en latin tardif - nouvelles remarques sur un vieux probleme", Subordination and Other Topics in Latin: Proceedings of the Third Colloquium on Latin Linguistics(Bologna, April 1-5, 1985), Gualtiero Calboli, ed. (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1989) 133-52.

Odelman, E. "Uppenbarelsernas retorik", Heliga Birgitta - budskapet och foerebilden: Foeredrag ved jubileumssymposiet(Vadstena, October 3-7, 1991), A. Haerdelin and M. Lindgren, eds. Pp. 15-21. Series: Kungliga Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitetsakademiens Konferenser 28, Stockholm (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell 1993).

Percival, W. K. "The Grammatical Tradition and the Rise of the Vernaculars", Current trends in Linguistics, T. A. Sebeok, ed. Series: Historiography of Linguistics 13, (The Hague-Paris: Mouton, 1975) 231-75.

Wirth-Poelchau, L. AcI und quod-Satz im lateinischen Sprachgebrauch mittelalterlicher und humanistischer Autoren, (Erlangen-Nuernberg: Friedrich-Alexander-Universitaet, 1977)