Stylistic Analysis of Latin Prose: A Checklist

Prepared by Timothy J. Moore
The University of Texas at Austin

I. Morphology and Orthography

  1. What choices has the author made between alternate forms and spelling (e.g., ere or erunt in the third plural perfect active indicative; is or es in the accusative plural 3rd declension)?
  2. Are any forms or spelling used which you might not expect in a prose author of this period (e.g., quum for cum, qui for quo)?

II. Diction

  1. Are words or phrases used here which are rare elsewhere in this author? in this period? in this genre? in prose? in Latin?
  2. Are there words or phrases which seem to reflect the formulaic language of law, diplomacy, government, or religion?
  3. Are there words or phrases which seem archaic, poetic, or colloquial?
  4. Are any words or phrases repeated in the passage, or is diction deliberately varied?
  5. To what extent does the author use metaphorical expressions?
  6. Are any expressions particularly effective in their imagery?
  7. What words does the author choose to make transitions from one sentence to another?
  8. Does the author prefer abstract or concrete nouns?
  9. What choices has the author made between synonyms?

III. Syntax

  1. What syntactical features stand out (e.g., historical infinitives, impersonal passives, repeated grammatical elements)?
  2. Which sentences are long, which short?
  3. How are the longer sentences constructed?
    1. Are clauses strung along paratactically, or hypotactically?
    2. How are clauses subordinated (e.g., with participles, or with conjunctions)?
    3. Which thoughts occur in the main clauses, which in subordinate clauses?
    4. Do the clauses follow one another by an easily comprehensible logic, or must the reader work to piece the sentences together?
    5. Are the sentences "periodic," i.e., constructed in such as way that the reader/hearer is left in suspense until the end of the sentence?
    6. How are clauses arranged according to rhythm and length?
    7. Has the author placed the longest clauses last?
    8. Does the author show concern for the rhythm of phrases, especially the last phrase of each sentence (clausula)?
    9. Does the author use pairs, tricola, or other numbers of clauses?
    10. To what extent does the author use parallelism in arranging his clauses?
  4. Word order
    1. How are words, phrases, and clauses arranged for emphasis? Remember that the first and last positions in the sentence are most emphatic.
    2. What other effects has the author produced through manipulation of the order of words (e.g., juxtaposition of contrasting words, hyperbaton, chiasmus)?

IV. General

  1. Does the passage provide echoes of previous authors in diction or phraseology? Do these echoes seem to be deliberate or unconscious?
  2. Has the author said only what is necessary to make his point (brevitas), or are unnecessary words, phrases and sentences added (copia)?
  3. Reported speech
    1. Which speeches in the passage are reported indirectly, which directly?
    2. To what extent are the syntax and diction of the speeches manipulated to characterize speakers?
  4. Aside from reported speeches, does the author provide the perspective of anyone besides himself (e.g., through descriptions of reactions)?
  5. Does the author use any rhetorical tropes (e.g., anaphora, apostrophe, asyndeton, zeugma)?

V. What is the effect of all this?


last modified 1 September, 2010 by timmoore@mail.utexas.edu