10

The enclitic particle -ne can be used to form a binary (yes/no) question. I would like to know how attaching it to different words changes the meaning of the question. I have a clear idea of how it should behave, but that may well be because this is exactly how the Finnish enclitic -ko/-kö works, so I want confirmation from someone without a Finn's bias.

This is my idea:

The question concerns the word -ne is attached to. For example, consider these questions related to Gaius cum Marco loquitur:

  1. Loquiturne Gaius cum Marco? — Does Gaius speak with Marcus? (The question is whether speaking takes place.)
  2. Gaiusne loquitur cum Marco? — Is Gaius the one who speaks with Marcus? (The question is whether Gaius is the one who speaks.)
  3. Cum Marcone loquitur Gaius? — Is Marcus the one Gaius speaks with? (The question is whether Marcus is the one spoken to.)

(For some reason I prefer to put the word with -ne towards the beginning of the sentence.) It is most common to attach -ne to the predicate, and it does change the meaning to put it elsewhere. Here is another set of examples:

  1. Legisne librum bonum? — Are you reading a good book?
  2. Bonumne librum legis? — Is the book you are reading good? Or maybe: Are you reading a good (with emphasis) book?
  3. Librumne bonum legis? — I don't seem to be able to parse this as naturally. Perhaps: Are you reading a good book (emphatically, as opposed to watching a good movie)?
  • I think you're right, though "cum Marcone...?" strikes me as awkward. – brianpck Mar 3 '17 at 16:15
  • I can only think of examples where -ne is attached to the first word, either a verb, or the adverb non (as in nonne). – Rafael Mar 3 '17 at 17:00
  • Pinkster 2015 addresses this question on pp. 323-326, with lots of examples. – Alex B. Mar 3 '17 at 23:34
  • 2
    @AlexB. A summary of those pages would be great. The grammars I have access to don't discuss this at all. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 4 '17 at 9:32
  • @vectory You should ask a separate question about Latin having that German construction! I'm pretty sure you'd get an answer. – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 29 at 8:04
6

Your idea is correct.

Lewis-Short is not terribly clear:

added in a direct question, as an interrogation mark, to the first or principal word of the clause

but, if you know German, Georges is much clearer: ‑n(e) is attached to the focus of the question, therefore mostly at the beginning of the sentence.

To answer your question completely, a quotation from Terentius, Phormio, v.851 is very interesting: Sed isne est, quem quaero an non?

  • It shows ‑ne attached to the word asked about, instead of the verb: is it he?
  • It is an example of what can precede the ne-marked word in direct questions: connectives and such stuff, not real constituents.
  • It reminds us that alternatives can be introduced by an; sometimes ‑ne is repeated instead.

If you read on at the Georges link, you see that, when used as a conjunction in indirect questions, ‑ne can be attached to words in whatever position; however this is not the case for direct questions.

In particular, I have strong doubts about your cum Marcone: I couldn't find a single example of a prepositional phrase Prep+Noun+ne, and I would say it is impossible: the forms justified by the extant corpus are Nonne cum Marco? (confirmation expected) or Num cum Marco? (denial expected).

Mecumne loqueris? does work and is OK with me, even if I could find it only in modern exercise books, but here ‑cum works as a suffix, almost a case ending, and it is a construction closer to mihine than to the PP above. Possibly even magnone cum gaudio could work, but I couldn't find any examples. I don't know what prevents enclitics to be attached to nouns after prepositions: but I'd bet the same holds for ‑que and ‑ve as well.

A difference with Finnish (I think: please correct me if I'm wrong) is that ‑ko/‑kö is used exclusively and obligatorily in yes/no questions, while ‑ne is not obligatory (at least in later periods) and can sometimes (rarely) be attached to interrogative adverbs and pronouns: see the above links for examples.

  • Thanks, this is very useful. The Finnish -ko/-kö is not always used in a strictly binary manner, but some argue that any deviation is ungrammatical. For example, "paljon" (much) in questions often becomes "paljonko" instead of "kuinka/miten paljon" (how much) and "kauan" (for a long time) is similar. The Latin analogue of this phenomenon would be replacing quam diu with diune. It is true that -ko/-kö is flexible and can be attached almost anywhere, so it is good to know that -ne is more restricted. – Joonas Ilmavirta Mar 7 '17 at 11:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.