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Allen and Greenough/ New Latin Grammar

Structure of the Period

600. Latin, unlike modern languages, expresses the relation of words to each other by inflection rather than by position. Hence its structure not only admits of great variety in the arrangement of words, but is especially favorable to that form of sentence which is called a Period. In a period, the sense is expressed by the sentence as a whole, and is held in suspense till the delivery of the last word.

An English sentence does not often exhibit this form of structure. It was imitated, sometimes with great skill and beauty, by many of the earlier writers of English prose; but its effect is better seen in poetry, as in the following passage:—

    High on a throne of royal state, which far

    Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,

    Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand

    Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,

    Satan exalted sat.— Paradise Lost , ii. 1-5.

But in argument or narrative, the best English writers more commonly give short clear sentences, each distinct from the rest, and saying one thing by itself. In Latin, on the contrary, the story or argument is viewed as a whole; and the logical relation among all its parts is carefully indicated.

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