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‘Heresies I’ Again

  • C. Macdonald


This salutary series got off to a flying start with W. F. Witton's article upon a subject in bad need of treatment—the gerund and gerundive. Textbooks and grammars, when discussing the use of ‘gerundive attraction’, waver, through many shades of loosely expressed opinion, from a prudent silence to a complete prohibition of the use of this construction when it involves a genitive plural with nouns of the first and second (or sometimes all) declensions. The basis of this prohibition is the allegedly ugly sound of -arum -arum and -orum -orum. In connexion with this construction Witton not only perpetuated a heresy but confirmed it in clear and forthright language. He concludes his discussion with this statement: ‘Thus we arrive at the rule that in normal Latin the gerund does not govern an accusative unless for the purpose of retaining the distinctive neuter termination, as in aliquid agendo, or to avoid a sequence of genitive plurals: consiliorum tuorum cognoscendorum causa was too much of a mouthful even for Cicero.’ Let us now see what is Cicero's practice in reality.



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page 188 note 1 ‘Heresies I. -Di, -Do, -Dum’, Greece and Rome, ii (1933), 173–4.

page 189 note 1 Agr. ii. 34. This practice seems to suggest a lack of strong feeling in the matter. There is also a sprinkling throughout the speeches of the gerund in other cases governing an accusative noun where no charge of ugliness could be made against the sound which has been avoided.

page 189 note 2 Cat. i. 7.

page 189 note 3 Verr. iii. 43. 103. Even if ‘aratorum’ which appears in O alone and is accepted by Peterson in his edition of the Verrines for the Oxford Classical Texts is rejected, we are still left with four -orum's in sequence.

‘Heresies I’ Again

  • C. Macdonald


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