An examination of diathesis and its didactic practices in Latin grammars from late antiquity to the early Middle Ages

O'Rorke, Jason
This thesis traces the origin and development of the category of diathesis (or voice) in Antiquity. According to modern linguistic theory, diathesis is a verbal category which describes the relationship between the action expressed by the verb and other participants involved in the sentence. There are two primary diatheses, active and passive, the former signifying that the subject performs an action and the latter indicating that the subject experiences an action. This thesis primarily examines the Late Antique Latin grammatical artes which date between the third and sixth centuries AD. However, it also incorporates discussions of various other texts in an attempt to shed light on the understanding of diathesis prior to the third century. For example, it deals with philosophical treatises composed by Plato and Aristotle, grammatical and philosophical fragments attributed to Alexandrian philologists and Stoic philosophers, rhetorical treatises authored by Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Quintilian, and encyclopaedic texts compiled by the Roman polymaths Varro and Aulus Gellius. In addition, it treats the Greek grammatical works by Apollonius Dyscolus and the Τέχνη Γραμματική ascribed to Dionysius Thrax. This thesis demonstrates that, up to the fourth century AD, there was a great variety of opinions regarding how best to characterise diathesis. It also reveals that by the fifth century authors were starting to reach a consensus as to the most appropriate way of explaining this category. And, finally, it evaluates Macrobius and Priscian’s contribution to development of the theory of diathesis: in particular, it shows that their understanding of the category was greatly enhanced through direct reliance on the works of Apollonius Dyscolus.
Publisher DOI
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland