Some Observations on relatio and demonstratio in the Middle Ages: a Metalinguistic Glance at a few Texts of Ockham

  • Stella Merlin Defanti University of Verona


The present contribution deals with some meanings and uses of the terms relatio and demonstratio during the Middle Ages, in a very particular and narrow perspective. Two essential steps for the discussion are proposed: the first part summarises the grammatical observations contained in the Greek and Latin treatises on grammar written between the 2nd and 6th century, whereas the second part discusses two texts and a selection of a few quotations of one particular author, interestingly linked to both the concepts and terms of relatio and demonstratio, relativus and demonstrativus, from different points of view: William of Ockham (henceforth simply Ockham, as he is traditionally called), philosopher, theologian and Franciscan friar, born in 1285 in Ockham and dying in Munich in 1347. The reading of the selected texts, involving some discussion on demonstrative and relative pronouns, seems to suggest that at least two traditions are involved: on the one hand, the philosophical (logical and theological) perspective, mostly based on a long-standing tradition coming from Aristotle, and on the other, the grammatical and metalinguistic heritage, derived from the work of ancient grammarians of the Hellenistic era. This second approach is the focus of the analysis and comments.