In Latin, word order is mostly free. This is used intensively by poets and other authors to achieve a desired rhythm or rhetoric figures like chiasms. However, this does not apply to regular, spoken language and also to writings without any stylistic aspirations.

My (limited) linguistic experience tells me that languages tend to use such a freedom to encode some information. For example, in the German language, word order is used to encode emphasis when it is free.

Do we know anything similar about a function of word order in colloquial Latin? Note that this is not about aspects of the word order that are fixed by the grammar, such as prepositions coming before the word they refer to.

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    I'm not completely sure what "writings without any stylistic aspirations" means. Would Cicero's letters, for example, be included? Would you mind giving a few examples of the kind of writing you mean? Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 14:43
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    @JoelDerfner Contracts, personal letters not meant to be published (so not Pliny's letters), and graffiti that isn't a literary echo (arguably hard to detect at times) could all count.
    – cmw
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 17:41
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – cmw
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


I've read in various places that Latin, too, encodes emphasis in word order—for example that the first and last positions in the sentence get particular stress (especially the first). Unfortunately I don't remember any of the places I read that, so I can't, alas, be more helpful than this.

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