In grammar, a paratactic construction is one in which elements of equal status are linked by pronunciation, or juxtaposition and punctuation. It contrasts with a hypotactic construction, where one element is signalled as subordinate to another. The paratactic theory of indirect speech, proposed by Davidson, suggests that the construction ‘Gorgias said that nothing exists’ is to be thought of as equivalent to two utterances: one of ‘nothing exists’, and another of ‘Gorgias samesaid that’, where samesaying means that Gorgias said something equivalent, and ‘that’ picks out the previous utterance. This last feature proves controversial, especially in connection with repeated contexts. Suppose I say truly ‘Aristotle said that Gorgias said that nothing exists’, then I cannot be presenting Aristotle as saying something about Gorgias's relation to my own utterance of ‘nothing exists’, occurring at the end of my remark, since that utterance lies beyond Aristotle's ken and he cannot have been commenting on Gorgias's relation to it. Grammatically an analysis in which this problem is met by having the demonstrative pick out an abstract object, such as a proposition or statement, would still be paratactic.
Subjects: Philosophy — Literature.