12

In Latin, there are prepositions that may be followed by a noun in accusative (like ad), ablative (cum) or both (in).

I once thought ope was a preposition to be used with genitive, which I found pretty interesting because most Latin grammars do not mention it (I think I once read one that did, but I can't find it now). Then I realized it is just the dative of ops (in my defense, ope -by the power or support of sth- has a very preposition-ish meaning). Nevertheless, doing some linguistics-fiction I wondered it was a feasible way for such a preposition to evolve after the desappearence of other uses of ops.

And then I found this site, stating that there is the preposition tenus, which actually works with genitive. I've never heard of that one, and the page does not cite any sources, but there are other sources that favor the point.

My Latin is mostly ecclesiastical, so I am more or less ignorant of many classical- and medieval-specific features.

My question is: were prepositions/adpositions with genitive a real thing at any point in Latin history? Is there more than one such adposition?

Update: some people have pointed that tenus is indeed a postposition, since it goes after the noun being modified. In the meantime, I have learnt that in linguistics there is a more general word, adposition to embrace both pre- and postpositions. I was unaware of any of these two words: good to learn new things. Thanks @Cerberus.

I added the concept to the question's title. I left the word preposition here and there for a number of reasons: 1) both sources cited treat tenus as a preposition (even clarifying it has to be used after the noun), 2) there is no adposition tag in Latin.SE, 3) in English, prepositions may be used after nouns in certain circumstances (see here, under the title Usage Note), and some definitions confirm it.

  • 2
    It seems that you could make the argument that "causa," "gratia," and "ergo" when preceded by the genitive act as prepostions. – SAG May 14 '16 at 4:16
  • 1
    But...can tenus be used as a preposition? I've only ever seen it used as a postposition. – Cerberus May 27 '16 at 16:00
  • 1
    @Cerberus, interesting. I rather look for an authoritative ruling, like a grammar textbook or an academic paper saying they are/aren't prepositions -postpositions included-. I haven't heard the case of tenus before, and I don't think gratia or causa qualify, because they are obviously nouns. – Rafael May 27 '16 at 17:10
  • 2
    Or, if most people agree, I can change the word preposition for the more proper adposition, of which I wasn't aware up to 1 min ago O:) – Rafael May 27 '16 at 17:19
  • 2
    Considering what you're after, I think adposition would be better. – Cerberus May 27 '16 at 17:48
4

I was able to find several examples thanks to Cassell's "Latin Dictionary," and Allen and Greenough's "New Latin Grammar." First, tenus is mentioned as taking either the genitive or ablative. It references Vergil, Livy, and Lucretius as having examples of the genitive use.

From the grammar book, it mentions that pridie, postridie, and ergo can take the genitive. Some examples:

eius legis ergo - on account of this law
pridie (postridie) eius diei - the day before (after) that

So there you have at least two examples of a preposition taking the genitive and placed in front of the word. The grammar book points out that the second example there is from prose of the Republican Period, and not found elsewhere at that time.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    I am tempted to read pridie and postridie as temporal ablatives of a noun that is rarely used in other cases. In this reading genitive is natural: pridie eius diei is "on the preceding day of that day". The line between a declined noun requiring a genitive attribute and a preposition requiring genitive is thin. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 18 '16 at 10:18
  • 1
    @coralv Lewis and Short list pridie, postridie and ergo as adverbs (the first two derived in fact from abl. die). Can you confirm there is a dictionary listing them as prepositions or other type of adpositions? – Rafael Jun 20 '16 at 13:26
  • That's a good point, the grammar book doesn't say that they're prepositions, it just gives them in reference to using the genitive. Tenus and ergo are listed in my dictionary as prepositions but, indeed, pridei and postridie are adverbs. – coralvanda Jun 20 '16 at 16:47
  • @Rafael Prepositions are just adverbs that lost independent adverbial usage. – C. M. Weimer Apr 21 '17 at 0:59

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.