I have the following sentence:

Quis lata in silva habitat? Diana, lunae clarae pulchra dea, lata in silva habitat.

I initially thought these words were emphatic:

  • Lata, the adjective, because it's separated from the noun.

  • lunae clarae, because it's a genitive that is put before pulchra dea

  • pulchra, because it's an adjective that is put before the noun.
  • Finally, the second lata for the same reason as the first one.

According to my key: the first lata is not emphasized and neither is lunae clarae, but the rest is correct.

Is there something I'm missing here?

My exercise is asking to show which parts of the sentence are considered to be emphatic, as in that the normal word order of the Latin sentence is changed to create a stylistic effect. Not sure if it makes sense said this way. For example, we usually put the adjective after the noun but if we wanted to put emphasis on the adjective we would switch it before the noun.

  • 1
    Perhaps you should indicate your textbook too. It's pretty subjective, but perhaps this book has a specific definition for what it means by "emphatic."
    – brianpck
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 18:23

2 Answers 2


Some variations in word arrangement are a matter of style and don't necessarily affect emphasis. Although textbooks may present some ideal arrangement of words and suggest that any deviation causes the words that are out of their 'proper' place to beome emphatic, the reality is much more nuanced.

For example, although lata is separated from silva, the arrangment adjective–preposition–noun is quite common when the object of a preposition is modified by an adjective. Therefore, the adjective may not gain any particular emphasis from the arrangement.

Additionally, although lunae clarae seems to be in an unusual position, because textbooks often teach that genitives belong after the noun that they depend on, some authors (e.g., Caesar) routinely put genitives in front. So again, the phrase doesn't necessarily gain any special emphasis.

Finally, because, in general, adjectives can go either before or after the noun, the use of one position instead of the other doesn't necessarily lend emphasis.

You need to ask yourself what, if anything, would be gained from emphasizing lata or lunae clarae or pulchra. In your sentences, the answer is 'Not much.' However, context is important too. For example, if the surrounding text made it clear that there were both a wide forest and a narrow forest, the position of lata could, in that context, give the word more emphasis, especially perhaps if the author doesn't typically use the adjective–preposition–noun arrangement. Likewise, especially if the author more usually puts genitives after the noun that they depend on, the position of lunae clarae could be a way of, e.g., drawing attention to Diana's role as moon goddess as opposed to goddess of the hunt (which is the role that we might expect here, given that she's being said to live in the forest).

As I see it, the emphatic words in your example are quis in the first sentence and Diana in the second. It's no coincidence that each is the first word in its sentence. In general, the first place(s) that I look for emphasis in a Latin sentence are the first word and – especially if it's something other than a finite verb – the last. Based on meaning, emphasis on these 2 words makes sense in your example. After all, as the interrogative word in a question, quis really is the crux of its sentence; and, as the word that directly answers the question, Diana is the crux of its sentence too.

  • 2
    So is this something that someone like me should bother about at this level ? I'm not even to the point where I read any text or anything.... Just basic sentences. My guess is that this is something I'll learn by reading lots of texts over time, right ?
    – copper
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 21:36
  • 2
    Yes, it comes from experience as you read more. Frankly, I've never heard of a basic textbook that bothered much with the subject of emphasis, particularly a textbook that's just giving you made-up sentences (i.e., not from ancient authors) in isolation, without context. Still, it's never too early to be aware of first and last words, and anything that's not where you expect it to be.
    – cnread
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 1:26
  • Looking back over your original question, I take it that your key indicates that pulchra is one of the emphatic words. Indeed, the fact that clarae and pulchra are next to each other forms a chiasmus (ABBA arrangement: here, noun-adj,-adj.-noun); so, yeah, I suppose there's a bit of 'extra something' because of the figure of speech, though I'm not sure that it's affecting pulchra more than clarae. I guess I would tend to use the term 'marked' rather than 'emphatic' to describe such instances, especially since, absent context, it's not clear what's gained from emphasizing those adjectives.
    – cnread
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 1:38
  • I agree. I see lunae clarae pulchra dea as chiastic word order used for style, not as putting pulchra before the noun for emphasis.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 8:45

I wonder whether we aren't all overthinking this, and the answers your teacher expects aren't "quis" and "Diana." The first word in the sentence in Latin is most frequently the one that receives emphasis, after all, and the fact that this would be an example of perfectly ordinary Latin word order doesn't mean there isn't emphasis in perfectly ordinary Latin word order. The fact that the core of the question is "Quis?" and the core of the answer "Diana," along with the fact that you say you're not up to reading texts yet, makes me think something simple and straightforward may be what's called for here.

  • Consentio et faustissimum annum novum tibi exopto!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 16:37
  • 1
    Et tibi! Spero me hoc ad forum revenisse—non, proh dolor, tam implicari possum quam antea, nam munus officiumque instant, hunc vero gregem desideravi. Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 17:11
  • Agreed. This is exactly the point that I made at the end of the answer that I submitted.
    – cnread
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 21:26

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