Tuesday, July 26, 2016


A Grammatical Anomaly

In the controversy over celebration of the Mass versus populum or ad orientem, General Instruction of the Roman Missal, § 299, is often cited:
Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.
The "official" translation:
The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible.
Translation by Father John Zuhlsdorf:
The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out.
Much ink has been spilled in discussing the antecedent of the neuter relative pronoun quod, with everyone agreeing that it cannot be the feminine celebratio. For a lark, I tried to find an example of relative quod with a feminine antecedent. The one example I found comes from a textually dubious passage in a medieval text which is far from being a model of correct, standard Latin, viz. Anonymi Gesta Francorum et Aliorum Hierosolymitanorum, ed. Heinrich Hagenmeyer (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1890), p. 497 (39.16; August 12, 1099; footnotes and most of apparatus omitted):
Veniens itaque ammiravissus ante civitatem, dolens et maerens lacrimando dixit: O Deorum spiritus! Quis unquam vidit vel audivit talia! Tanta potestas, tanta virtus, tanta militia, quae nunquam ab ulla gente fuit superata, modo a tantilla gente Christianorum, quod in pugillo potest claudi, est devicta! Heu mihi tristis ac dolens! Quid amplius dicam? Superatus sum a gente mendica, inermi et pauperrima, quae non habet nisi saccum et peram.

quod ... claudit om. ABCDERM
See John Joseph Gavigan, "The Syntax of the Gesta Francorum," Language 19.3, Suppl. (July-September, 1943 = Language Dissertation No. 37), p. 18, § 7:
The following example shows a neuter relative referring, not to the thought of the preceding sentence, but to a feminine collective antecedent: a tantilla gente Christianorum, quod in pugillo potest claudi 39.116-7 (96).

However, quod ... claudi is omitted by Mss. ECB and by editions R and Ha.
The translation by Nirmal Dass, The Deeds of the Franks and Other Jerusalem-Bound Pilgrims: The Earliest Chronicle of the First Crusade (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011), p. 107, omits the relative quod clause:
Then the emir came up before the city, grieving and sorrowing, and he said, weeping, "O spirits of the gods. Who has seen or heard of such things? Such might, such courage, such an army has never before been defeated by any nation, as has been defeated by these few Christian people. Alas, what pain and suffering for me. What more can I say? I have been defeated by a race of beggars, unarmed and poverty stricken, who have nothing but a sack and a beggar's bag."

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