Studying word order changes in Latin

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The main aim of this contribution is to argue that a linear string of Latin words can correspond to more than one syntactic structure, and that this potential for structural ambiguity has important methodological consequences for the synchronic and diachronic study of Latin word order. On the basis of a detailed case study on the much-discussed OV/VO alternation in the history of Latin, it will be shown that whether or not one controls for structural ambiguity is not a theory-internal choice, but that it has major empirical consequences. The conclusion is that quantitative results that emerge from a study that only takes into account syntactically non-ambiguous environments provide a more accurate characterization of the syntactic changes that took place during the evolution from Latin towards the (early) Romance languages.


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