8-10 December 2017
Alpen Adria Universität Klagenfurt
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Alpen Adria Universität Klagenfurt - Mensagebäude (Hörsaal 11)

Null objects in the Homeric poems: a pragmatic and stylistic account


  • Mrs. Chiara ZANCHI

Primary authors


This paper aims to provide a syntactic, pragmatic, and stylistic analysis of referential null objects occurring with coordinated verbs in the Homeric poems. Recent years have seen an increasing interest in referential null objects, which have become a well-investigated topic within the fields of Indo-European studies and Ancient Greek (AG) linguistics (cf. Luraghi 2003; Keydana & Luraghi 2012; Haug 2012; Sausa & Zanchi 2016; Sausa, Zanchi & Mambrini 2016). In AG, the omission of referential direct objects in the accusative, genitive and dative cases has been demonstrated to be triggered under certain pragmatic and syntactic conditions, including coordinated clauses and verbs, as shown in (1), and to be linked to the more general feature of non-configurationality (cf. e.g. Baker 2001).

(1) Hḗrēi d’ oú ti tóson nemesízomai
H.DAT.F PTC NEG PTC so.much feel.indignation.PRS.1SG.MID
ou dè kholoûmai ø NEG PTC be.angry.PRS.1SG.MID
‘I am not so indignant at Hera, I am not angry (at her = ø).’ (Hom.Il.8.407=Il.8.421)

In this paper, I will precisely focus on referential null objects in coordinative contexts to assess whether direct objects are actually omitted, or rather shared by coordinated elements, thus constituting a by-product of the so-called ‘coordination reduction’ (cf. e.g. Harris-Delisle 1978; Luraghi forthc.). In order to do so, I will semi-automatically extract relevant data from the Homeric Dependency Treebank (https://perseusdl.github.io/treebank_data/; cf. Sausa & Zanchi 2015 for technical details on the extraction process and its limits), queried through the tree editor TrEd. The analysis will be grounded on the following assumptions: (a) certain constituent orders are associated with null objects, some other orders with object sharing (cf. verb-subject agreement with coordinated subjects: with single left-dislocated and single right-dislocated subjects, verbs show partial agreement, suggesting that the coordinated elements are not treated as a syntactic unit; see Mambrini & Passarotti 2016); (b) coordinated elements that build up a ‘natural couple’ (in opposition to an ‘accidental couple’, in Mithun 1988; Wälchli’s 2005 terms; cf. also Moore 1972 on ‘doublets’, or ‘hendiadys’) are more likely to behave as a single syntactic unit, and thus to share direct objects. Consistently with the above assumptions, data will be analyzed according to the following parameters: (i) constituent order; (ii) information structure; (iii) type of coordination (cf. Viti 2008; Bonifazi 2015); in cases of verbal coordination, (iv) semantics of the coordinated elements; (v) semantic roles played by second arguments of the coordinated verbs; (vi) argument structures of the coordinated verbs. Furthermore, parameters (i) and (ii) will be taken into account with a special eye on metric structure and formulaic diction, which have been blamed for deeply influencing Homeric word order. Lastly, the very rare examples of object repetition will be also considered, in order to account for the conditions that trigger the occurrence of this relatively infrequent syntactic pattern.