"The soldiers do not fight in Italy" potentially says something different from, "The soldiers in Italy do not fight." The first can mean, the described soldiers fight other places, but in Italy, they are peaceful. The second can mean that that Italian soldiers fail to fight.
So...how does one fix this sentence to make one point or the other?
Yeah! Since Latin, unlike English, doesn't rely on word order, the sentence can't have different meanings depending on order.
here's what i think, and i could be wrong, but: here we have "soldiers" and we have "in italy", as seperate parts of a sentence. meaning, the soldiers are unspecified and could be from anywhere. right now they are in italy, where they do not fight.
i'd say, if you want to make clear the soldiers are /from/ italy, either say italian soldiers or "milites ab italia" - "the soldiers from italy"
That's not true that the Latin meaning is totally independent of the word order. It's a simplification, destined for the beginners, but not always nor totally true.
First, there is the emphasis,
And second, there's the part of the sentence an emphatic word or an adverb acts.
Latin seems more far subtile that it seems, with the all free word order that people think.
See for "quoque", the meaning is totally different when you place "quoque" in a different place. It comes right after the word that to which it serves to add a meaning to.
So, I really do agree with Septimus.
I'm certain that the word order does count in the ambiguous sentences, but I'm still too much a beginner to be sure of the following, so it's only an opinion:
"Milites in Italia non pugnant"
I think the "milites in Italia" is a part and "non pugnant" a part. So, it's rather "The soldiers who are in Italy, do not fight", than "Those soldiers fight everywhere but not in italy."
"Milites non pugnant in Italia" would probably bring the emphasize more on "in Italia", changing the meaning of the sentence.
I will study more, read a lot of Latin texts, and maybe one day I'll know if I was right. There are logical parts that go together in a Latin sentence, I'm sure of that, but the uncertainty is in the way to connect them together.
Hm, i had Latin in school for six years, and we were tought that word order is irrelevant except for emphasis (but not meaning!).
I won't say this is necessarily true, i am a mere beginner myself, but i feel that with short sentences like this, "milites non pugnant in Italia", it feels kind of off that the predicate shouldn't be at the end.
but yeah, might be completely false. i'd just be careful to draw those direct relations from English to Latin - English is a language heavily depended on word order, and works different than latin.
It might be, too, that you just can't tell which meaning it is without further context.
I agree with your answer, although I think that this sentence could have been ambiguous even in Classical Rome; readers could have argued over what parts of the sentence "went with each other" even if those parts were rearranged for emphasis.
For example: Person one says "milites in italia non pugnant" means "The soliders who are in Italy are not fighting," while person two says, "Normally I would agree, but I think the speaker is rearranging word order for emphasis; he wants us to know that rumors of fighting in Italy are untrue and that the soldiers are instead fighting elsewhere."
The question here seems to be whether "in Italia" is an adjectival phrase describing milites or an adverbial phrase describing non pugnant.
On another sentence where a similar question arose (and I'm afraid I can't remember what it was, and regret that I didn't take better notice at the time) I saw a comment that suggested that this sentence could only mean "The soldiers do not fight in Italy" and that prepositional phrases such as in Italia cannot be used in Latin as we can use them in English to describe a noun. According to the comment, to achieve that, you would need a relative clause, resulting in the sentence "Milites qui sunt in Italia non pugnant" meaning literally "The soldiers who are in Italy do not fight".
And then, I think we should look at this more from Roman times. Italia would be the peninsula, the core of the Republic, and the Home, if you like, in opposition to what became the external empire.
There were restrictions towards the placement of armies in Italy. It just was not acceptable to have legions in there before Caesar, and indeed the crossing of the Rubicon, if I remember accurately, was a great upheaval because it a general was precisely violating this sanctity of Italy by bringing an army to fight in there.
My history is very hazy, so don't quote me, but that is how I feel and interpret this phrase. It should refer to Roman soldiers and saying they must not fight in Italian soil.
In discussions about similar sentences, a contributor, who I'm sure has considerably more experience of Latin than I do, commented on this structure. In the sentence "The soldiers in Italy do not fight", the phrase "in Italy" is being used like an adjective to describe the soldiers. In "The soldiers do not fight in Italy", the phrase "in Italy" is being used like an adverb to describe (or modify, or limit) the fighting.
It appears that in classical Latin in the sentence structure of "Milites in Italia non pugnant", the "in Italia" can only be used like an adverb to modify pugnant. If you wanted to say "The soldiers in Italy do not fight", you would need a relative clause that would be translated literally into English as "The soldiers who are in Italy do not fight." In Latin that would be "Milites qui sunt in Italia non pugnant".
I assume that, whereas in English the word order makes it clear which of the two possible meanings is intended, because in Latin word order is more flexible, an additional grammatical structure is required to make it plain which meaning is intended.