A  syntax-based  approach  to  the  language  of  causality  in  Thomas Aquinas.   The   case   of principium and causa (Summa   Contra Gentiles, books I-II). Explorative study and first results.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Despite being well-studied with respect to his philosophical and theological production, there is still not a robust scholarship dealing, from a linguistic viewpoint, with the writings of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). This dissertation aims at establishing this new line of research by proposing a case-study of syntax-based analysis of the lemmas principium and causa, which are relevant for the Thomistic language of causality. The case-study, conducted by means of the PML Tree Queries language, is based on the annotation of a corpus of sentences corresponding to the first two books of the Summa Contra Gentiles, which are part of the Index Thomisticus Treebank Project (IT-TB), developed in continuity with the Index Thomisticus (Index) created last century by Roberto Busa SJ. Drawn up in the context of Busa’s theory regarding the existence of “two philosophies” in the mind of a philosopher, the fundamental aim of the research is to cast light on Aquinas' mind according with a threefold structure: a) investigating the connection between what we already know about the meaning of these lemmas and their syntax-semantic relation with the verbal heads to which they are related as syntactic arguments in accordance with the linguistic framework (the Prague Dependency Guidelines and Harm Pinkster's categories) adopted by the IT-TB; b) disclosing more refined meanings of the lemmas in the context of their relation with the same verbal heads, and c) analyzing the implications of the theory of valency for explaining the meaning of the lemmas themselves. In continuity with Busa's wish for a syntactic study of Aquinas' texts, the dissertation aims to contribute also to two other fields of research: a) Computational/Corpus linguistics for Latin, which is currently attracting the interest of an increasing number of scholars, and b) the general development of the debate in digital humanities, by proposing a language-based approach to informatics along with the concept of linguistic annotation as language-causative activity.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorWillard McCarty (Supervisor) & Andrew Prescott (Supervisor)

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