Propositional Frame Structure Of A Word Family: Latin Verba Dicendi


The object of the research are word families of Latin verba dicendi dicere , loqui , fari . The aim is to determine the range of functional roles of the speech in the structure of the denotative situation according to the Latin language world picture and cognitive specificity of each family. The main method is the propositional frame analysis. The proposition corresponding with the frame “to speak” consists of the components, they are slots of frame: speech action (P), speaker (S1), interlocutor (S2), object or topic (O), product or result of the speech (R), circumstances of the speech (Sk). By word-formation means can be realized slots P, S1, O, R. Word-formation means correlate with slots partially: suffixation and substantivation are presented in all slots, prefixation – only in the slot P. Slot sets in all word families coincide fully, except of the absence of the slot “Object” in the family loqui . Slots S1 and O include besides the names of subjects and objects names of their properties, connected with speech; in the slot O this principle of nomination is the most frequent. The role of each slot can be expressed mathematically: dicere R > P ≥ S1 > O; loqui P > S1 > R; fari O ≥ R > P > S1. Differences are explained by etymological meanings of the stems in the parent language and cognitive dominants in the meanings of the verbs: “the process of the speaking” ( loqui ), “the comprehended and purposeful speech” (dicere ), “the speech as suprapersonal phenomenon” ( fari ).

Keywords: Speech verbsthe Latin languageword familyframeproposition


Speech verbs are the traditional research object in linguistics, but exactly by reasons of persistence of the theme this object is studied principally from the point of view of the semantics and on the material of living languages ( Chzhan & Red'kina, 2016; Dvornik, 2003; Ermolaeva, 2017; Sokolovskaya, 2002). In this paper we appeal to the material that has not been enough analysed yet, – verba dicendi in the Classical Latin. The object of the study are verbs, for which the meaning ‘to speak’ is primary and isn’t conjugated with additional modificational semes,– dicere , loqui , fari .

The importance of the Latin language material

We suppose, that the material of the Latin language, analysed within the current anthropocentric linguistics paradigm, is important, on the one side, because it characterize the language world picture of the nation, that has played an important role in the history of the modern civilization, and on the other side, because it outlines the base, on which language world pictures of roman nations have been formed and by that affords ground for their matching.

Elaboration of the problem

In works of foreign linguists Latin verba dicendi are examined mainly from the angle of their grammar possibilities ( Rosen, 2010; Schoof, 2003). There are only few works, which present results of the semantics examination of these verbs. Thus, the second of the indicated above areas is developed in the monograph ( Barbu, 2013), where on the material of 440 verbs the author traces evolution of the semantics in the group verba dicendi from the Late Latin to the modern Roman languages in detail. Some steps in the first direction are made in the papers ( Danilina, 2016) (the influence of the cognitive specificity on the syntactic combinability); ( Danilina, 2018) (metaphors in the designation of speech) ( Danilina, 2020) (the cognitive specificity of the verb fari and its family), but its further development seems to stay actual.

Problem Statement

The choice of the object of the analysis

The word as an element of the language world picture shows specificity not only in the set of the proper primary and secondary meanings, but also in the structure and in the semantics of its derivatives, thus the important object by the studying of the concept “to speak” should be not only speech verbs, but also their families.

The choice of the analysis aspect

In the cognitive derivatology the word family is analysed from two points of view: as a system of interrelated cognitive areas ( Abrossimova, 2015) and as a frame, reflecting the denotative situation ( Araeva & Li, 2019; Araeva, Obraztsova, Proskurina, Abdullaeva & Likhun, 2018; Evseeva & Ponomaryova, 2019; Evseeva & Kreidlin, 2017). The frame approach to word families allows to access the following issues: to correlate the content of the derived words with the form of their expression and to determine by them possible roles of a phenomenon, named by the root morpheme, in the denotative situation; to correlate on the unified base content and structural features of several word families; to determine the cognitive specificity of each family by the comparison of word families of one lexical-semantic group. Different slots of frames can be realized both by means of word formation, i.e. by derived words, and by means of syntax, i.e. by the particularity of the combinability. In this paper we analyse possibilities of the word formation derivation in the realization of the frame.

Research Questions

  • To determine the set of slots of the frame “To speak”, which can be realized by means of the word formation, and means of realization of each slot.

  • To correlate word families dicere , loqui , fari from the point of view of the sets of realizable slots and of the capacity of each slot in the composition of each family,

  • To make a supposition about the reasons for the marked similarities and differences.

Purpose of the Study

Analysing the structure of derivatives of verba dicendi we expect to determine the range of functional roles of the speech in the structure of the denotative situation according to the Latin language world picture, and to identify the cognitive specificity of each word family with the meaning “to speak”.

Research Methods

The main method is the propositional frame analysis, the additional methods – the morphemic analysis, the semantic word definition analysis, the methods of corpus linguistics. As source of the illustration material served the text corpus ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020), from which we will quote Latin texts and their English translations.


The proposition, corresponding to the frame “To speak”, includes the following components, corresponding to the frame slots: speech action (P), speaker (S1), interlocutor (S2), object or topic (O), product or result of the speech (R), circumstances of the speech (Sk).

Slots, which can be realized by means of the word formation

After the analysis of the content of the word families of three verbs with the primary meaning ‘to speak’ we have determined, that the word formation means can realize slots P (examples 1-3), S1 (examples 4-6), R (examples 7-10), partially O (examples 11-13), whereas slots S2 and Sk can be realized only at the sentence level i.e. syntactically, and are not filled with derivatives of verba dicendi (examples 14, 15) ( Danilina, 2016). Slots P and O can be also expressed syntactically (example 16).

Verba dicendi and their derivatives in the role of the speech action:

  • Obsecro ut per pacem liceat te alloqui, ut ne vapulem. I'll not speak unless peace is concluded, since you are the stronger with your fists. (Plaut. Amph., act 1, sc. 1) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • Sese pro Caesaris in se beneficiis plurimum ei confiteri debere, quod eius opera stipendio liberatus esset… That he confessed, that for Caesar's kindness toward him, he was very much indebted to him, inasmuch as by his aid he had been freed… (Caes. Gal. 5.27) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • Moneo, praedico, ante denuntio… I warn, I forewarn, I give notice beforehand (Cic. Ver. 1.1.36) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

Derivatives of verba dicendi in the role of the subject of the action, accompanying by speech:

  • (4) Qui sunt leves et futiles et importuni locutores quique nullo rerum pondere innixi verbis uvidis et lapsantibus diffluunt… The talk of empty-headed, vain and tiresome babblers, who with no foundation of solid matter let out a stream of tipsy, tottering words… (Gel. 1.15) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • (5) Albucius, non obscurus professor atque auctor, scientiam bene dicendi esse consentit. Albutius, a distinguished author and professor of rhetoric, agrees that rhetoric is the science of speaking well . (Quint. Inst. 2 15) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • (6) Credo ego vos, iudices… I imagine that you, O judges … (Cic. S. Rosc. 1) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020).

Derivatives of verba dicendi in the role of the product or result of speech action:

  • (7) Puppique deus consedit in alta, Phorbanti similis, funditque has ore l oquelas … Upon thy ship the god in guise of Phorbas stood, thus whispering… (Verg. A. 5.827) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • (8) … nondum ad eum fama de Tituri morte perlata. … the report of the death of Titurius not having as yet been conveyed to him . (Caes. Gal. 5.39) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • (9) Romae composui edictum. I drew up my edict at Rome . (Cic. Fam. 3.8) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • (10) … aut, pro praede litis vindiciarum cum satis accepisset… or if he had taken security for the claim (Cic. Ver. 2.1.115) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020).

Derivatives of verba dicendi as characteristics of the object of the speech or action, accompanying by speech:

  • (11) Non ut redire ex Macedonia nobilis imperator sed ut mortuus infamis referri videretur? so that you did not appear to be returning from Macedonia as a noble commander, but to be being brought back as a disgraced corpse? (Cic. Pis. 22) ( Perseus Digital library 2020);

  • (12) Aeque enim perfidiosum et nefarium est fidem frangere quae continet vitam, et pupillum fraudare… For it is equally perfidious and wicked to break faith, which is the bond of life, and to defraud one's ward… (Cic. Q. Rosc. 6) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • (13) Hanc tibi legem Clodius scripsit spurciorem lingua sua, ut interdictum sit cui non sit interdictum? Did Clodius frame this law, more infamous than even his own tongue?—that it has been i nterdicted to a person to whom it has not been interdicted? (Cic. Dom. 18) ( Perseus Digital library 2020).

Filling of the frame slots with syntactical means:

  • (14) … dicam ea quae dicenda hoc tempore arbitror. I say those things concerning… which I think myself bound to say at the present time . (Cic. Phil. 1.1) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • (15) …sic honestissimi homines inter se et mecum loquebantur… …the most honourable men spoke to one another and to me in this manner … (Cic. Ver. 1.1.20) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020);

  • (16) Ego autem si omnia quae dicenda sunt libere dixero… But if I should say all the things which must be said with ever so much f reedom … (Cic. S. Rosc. 1) ( Perseus Digital Library, 2020).

Features of the realization of each slot in different families

The slot P is presented by 1) non derivative verbs dicere , loqui , fari , 2) suffixed and prefixed derivatives of parent verbs, 3) syntactical derivatives-nouns, built from the verbs of the groups 1 and 2. Examples of the second group: dicare ‘to proclaim, make known’, dictare ‘to dictate’, interloqui ‘to interrupt, speak between’, praeloqui ‘to speak/say first’, fateri ‘to admit, confess, acknowledge, praise’, confiteri ‘to confess, admit, acknowledge, reveal, disclose’, praefari ‘to say beforehand’ et al. The main formant by the syntactic derivation is -io. Examples of the third group: dictio ‘speaking/saying/uttering’, locutio ‘speech, act of speaking’, obloquium ‘a contradiction’, effatio ‘a speaking’, fabulatio narration discourse ’ etc. The share of the slot P in the comparison word families is not equal: in the family loqui derivatives of this group constitute about one half, in the families dicere and fari – about one fourth.

It should be said about the following feature of the slot P in the family dicere . This Latin verb is not always a speech verb. In many meanings, which were secondary in the Classical Latin, the seme of the speaking paled beside giving place to the semes of thought or will: dicere ‘to relate; call; name, designate; assert; set, appoint; plead; order’. Therefore the verb dicere and their derivatives could denote not speech actions, more or less accompanying by speech.: edicere ‘to proclaim, declare; appoint’, addicere ‘be propitious; adjudge, sentence, doom; confiscate; award, assign; enslave’ et al. This feature is characteristic also for other frame slots, e.g.: S1: indicare ‘to point out, show, indicate, expose, betray, reveal; inform against, accuse’ → index ‘sign, token, proof; informer, tale bearer’, judicare ‘to judge, give judgement; sentence; conclude, decide; declare, appraise’ → judex ‘judge; juror’.

We suppose, that both the detected feature of the verb dicere , and the quantitative representation of the slot P in different word families are explained by those meanings which were characteristic for the stem of analyzed verbs in the parent language and by those cognitive dominants, which have been formed on their base in the semantics of each verb in the Latin period. So, the meaning of the parent stem for loqui is ‘to produce a sound’, therefore in the Latin language this verb denotes speaking as process, confronted with other human actions (for example walking, silence, reasoning). The verb dicere goes back to the parent language stem with the meaning ‘to show’, therefore in the Latin language the seme of the comprehension, purposefulness of the speech is obligatory component of all its secondary meanings. The verb fari although had in the parent language the meaning ‘to speak’, but was principally connected with the culture sphere, with the translation of God speech and will ( Danilina, 2020).

The slot R, like the slot P, is homogeneous in ways of realization. It consists of nouns, built both from parent verbs, and from prefixed derivatives. Here are frequent presented nouns with formant -io, which was able in the Latin language to combine meanings of the process and of the result, e.g.; condicio ‘agreement; terms, proposal; situation; stipulation; marriage; spouse, bride; relation of lover/mistress; paramour’, indictio ‘imposition (of duties); duty/tax imposed, impost; declaration of war; valuation/value/price; indicating/setting/rating value’, professio ‘formal declaration; profession’, interlocutio ‘a speaking between, interlocution’ and others. Also occur derivatives with other formants ( dictus ‘word; command’, dicteria ‘joke, witticism’), especially frequently in the family fari : fama ‘rumor; reputation; tradition; fame, public opinion, ill repute’, fas ‘divine law/will/command; that which is right/lawful/moral/allowed’, fabula ‘story, tale, fable; play, drama’, fatum ‘utterance, oracle; fate, destiny; natural term of life; doom, death, calamity’. According to the cognitive dominant of the purposefulness, the most” interest” in the expression of the result of the speech action demonstrates the verb dicere : in its word family derivatives of the slot R constitute 34%, whereas for loqui this index equals 23%, for fari – 29%. At the same time more formal, semantic and cognitive diversity in the realization of this slot, how examples show, is presented in the family fari .

The slot S1 demonstrates the most diversity of the derivatives. In all three word families it consists both the names of speaking subject and his characteristics, connected with speech. As word formation mean for the signification of the subject is used as a rule the formant -or. Examples; fabulator ‘storyteller’, professor ‘a public teacher, professor’, dictator ‘dictator’, collocutor ‘he who talks with another’. The features of the subjects are expressed by adjectives and nouns, built from these adjectives, principally nomina abstracta. Examples: loquax ‘talkative, loquacious’, loquacitas ‘talkativeness’, dicax ‘witty, smart, sarcastic’, dicacitas ‘biting wit’, professorius ‘authoritative’. The need in the nomination of the subject of the speech and his characteristics is least perceptible in the family fari , thus according to the cognitive dominant of the cult, the subject of the action of this verb is often thought as higher power. The share of the slot S1 in the family fari constitutes only 19%, while in the families loqui and dicere – 28% and 25% accordingly. At the same time not only the quantitative, but also the cognitive feature of the family loqui should be mentioned: within this slot the cognitive sphere “eloquence” as rating of the speaking subject according to his speech and the rating of the quality of the speech itself, is realized. Examples: eloquentia ‘eloquence’, eloquens ‘eloquent, articulate’ and others.

The slot O, like the slot S1, includes the names both of objects, expressed by nouns, and of their features, expressed by adjectives and nouns, and besides features are named more often, than objects. Examples: contradicibilis ‘that may be contracted or spoken against’, condidionalis ‘conditional, contingent upon certain conditions’, famosus ‘famous, noted, renowned; talked of; infamous, notorious; slanderous, libelous’, infamia ‘disgrace, dishonor; infamy’ and others. The representation status of the slot O demonstrates the most important distinction of the analysing word families from each other. In the family loqui this slot is absent, because the speech, expressed by this verb, is thought as nondirectional process. The most significance (31% of all derivatives) has this slot in the family fari by virtue of the apriori importance of the information, comes from higher power. In the family dicere slot O is presented insignificantly (14% derivatives), but it should be said, that the cognitive significance of this slot at the level of the common frame has other expression forms and is shown in the ability dicere in contrast to loqui and fari , to connect direct and indirect speech ( Danilina, 2016).


In the structure of the frame “To speak” by means of the word formation can be realized slots “Speech action”, “Subject”, “Object”, “Product or result”. Derivational means correlate with slots partially: suffixation and substantivation are presented in all slots, prefixation – only in the slot “Speech action”; there are formants, which are able to combine the meanings of the process and the result. Slot sets in the families dicere , loqui , fari are the same, except of the absence of the slot “Object” in the family loqui . The role of each slot in each of the word families can be expressed mathematically by the following way: dicere R > P ≥ S1 > O; loqui P > S1 > R; fari O ≥ R > P > S1. Detected differences are explained by the etymological meanings of the stems in the parent language and cognitive dominants in the meanings of the analysed verbs developed from them: “the process of the speaking” for loqui , “the comprehended and purposeful speech” for dicere , “the speech as a suprapersonal phenomenon” for fari .


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03 August 2020

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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation

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Danilina, N., & Nosacheva, M. (2020). Propositional Frame Structure Of A Word Family: Latin Verba Dicendi. In N. L. Amiryanovna (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 86. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 332-339). European Publisher.