Is "a priori" and "a posteriori" grammatically correct?

Linda Wu

New Member
I'm a Latin beginner and I'm confused by the construction of the two phrases. Both "prior" and "posterior" are comparative adjectives, which are supposed to be constant-stem (as opposed to i-stem) for declension. So the ablative case -- which is what's used with the preposition "a" -- should be "priore" and "posteriore", respectively, shouldn't it? Why are the phrases "a priori" and "a posteriori" then? Is it using the dative case here, or is it using the ablative case but treating the comparative as i-stem?

Thanks very much!
Linda
 

Imber Ranae

Ranunculus Iracundus
It's treating the comparative as i-stem. I'm not sure why. It's a renaissance Latin term, not Roman, which may explain it.
 

Tacitus Arctous

Active Member
Yes they should be priore and posteriore. Perhaps mediaeval Latin has its influence over these terms, someone else can illuminate us.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
I read something about this... but I forgot what. If I forgot, it was certainly nothing exceptional. In any case, as others say, it isn't classical Latin.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima
Staff member
No, it wasn't an e-mail. It was in some book, but which one I don't remember.
 

Oups

Active Member
In the Post-classical period, the ablative in -i becomes more prominent. Pliny writes "a priori parte capitis" in Naturalis Historia, XI, 47, often corrected in recent edition.
 

Linda Wu

New Member
Thanks everyone for the replies! Glad to know what it is, even though it's not a very satisfactory reason.
 

Imber Ranae

Ranunculus Iracundus

Linda Wu

New Member
Hi Imber and Abbatissae, I don't think Allen and Greenough 114 is relevant here either, but 120 is, which says the comparative can have ending '-ī' in the singular ablative too even though ending 'e' is more common:

ABL. meliōre (-ī)​
(Allen and Greenough, 120)
 
The diſtinction between conſonant ſtems and 'i' ſtems ſeems always to have been at leaſt ſomewhat fluid, with different authors of different periods demonstrating conflicting tendencies to level the field in one direction or the other.
All third declenſion nouns are properly athematic anyway, and although it would be leſs confuſing if we could honeſtly ſay that all the 'i' ſtems originally had the ſemi vowel 'j' as a final ſtem conſonant, and ſo automatically adopted ablative ſingulars on the thematic model (lengthen'd ſtem vowel + 'd') when ſtem final ſemivowels became full vowels, such a tempting ſimplification would alas have always fail'd in practice.
 

Gregorius Textor

Civis Illustris
Why are the phrases "a priori" and "a posteriori" then?
I too was bothered about "a priori", "a posteriori", and also "a fortiori"; but thinking Immanuel Kant's understanding of Latin grammar couldn't possibly have been worse than mine!

So glad for the reference to A&G #120. Now I have marked up my Wheelock's page that presents declension of comparitives by adding two (-ī)s and one (-īs).

I have to remember that an elementary textbook doesn't present all the details, and when in doubt, consult the advanced reference.
 
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