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optative/subjunctive translation help

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optative/subjunctive translation help

Postby xanthos64 » Tue Jul 06, 2004 7:31 pm

Hello again to all,

I'm at a mid-point in Pharr where I'm digesting subjunctives and optatives. My question is as follows: How best to translate each? Pharr's explanation (one desrcribes the will of the spealer, the other describes the wish) is not helping me with my translations, particularly when I match up my translations against Murray (revised).

Regards and much thanks in advance.
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Re: optative/subjunctive translation help

Postby annis » Tue Jul 06, 2004 8:37 pm

xanthos64 wrote:I'm at a mid-point in Pharr where I'm digesting subjunctives and optatives. My question is as follows: How best to translate each? Pharr's explanation (one desrcribes the will of the spealer, the other describes the wish) is not helping me with my translations,


And is not entirely accurate.

I'm afraid there is no single best translation for either. Each mood has several uses, and you have to match your translation to the function.

I don't have time for a full explanation right now, but if you could give an example or two that you're having difficulty with (type out in Greek, or give section numbers for Pharr), I can work from those to explain more in a day or two.
William S. Annis — http://www.aoidoi.org/http://www.scholiastae.org/
τίς πατέρ' αἰνήσει εἰ μὴ κακοδαίμονες υἱοί;
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Postby Thucydides » Tue Jul 06, 2004 9:10 pm

Surely the translation options for the subjunctive are much like those for the optative: I would, I might, I may, I could, I should...
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Postby Paul » Sun Jul 11, 2004 4:55 pm

Hi xanthos64,

To attempt to summarize Homer's use of the subjunctive and optative is to embrace failure. All that remains is how splendid a failure it will be....

After much reading and some thinking, I find myself in the camp that regards the subjunctive and optative as kinds of futures. Thus, after Goodwin (and others), I would say that Homer has six ways of expressing futurity:

1. mere future
2. modified future
3. mere subjunctive
4. modified subjunctive
5. mere optative
6. modified optative

where 'modified' means accompanied by the modal particles [face=SPIonic]ke[/face] or [face=SPIonic]a)/n[/face].

One of the things that makes such a 'summary' so daunting is Homer's fluid and seemingly chaotic combinations of these six modes of futurity.
Much of this confusion arises from the 'when' of the Homeric language. In Homer's Greek we see a language whose modal particles
had not yet lost their original force. This loss was, eventually, caused by the well developed system of moods and tenses that Greek inherited from Indo-European.
That is, the subjunctive and optative began to take over meanings once imparted chiefly by these particles. But in Homer we still see them in promiscuous
combination not only with these moods, but with the future tense as well.

We might contrast this movement of modal force from particle to mood in Greek with the example of Hittite. There, apparently, a considerably less
developed system of moods and tenses failed to subsume the modal particle function.

By the way, the argument that the fundamental idea of the subjunctive is 'will' and that of the optative 'wish', comes from a German scholar named Delbruck. Goodwin does an especially good job of refuting this argument. This is not to say that there is no sense of 'will' or 'wish' in these moods, only that these are not essential components of the moods.

Within the subjunctive mood, then, we distinguish between the 'voluntative' and 'prospective'. The voluntative does indeed involve notions of 'will':

Voluntative Subjunctive

Iliad 1.26

[face=SPIonic]mh/ se, ge/ron, koi/lh|sin e)gw\ para\ nusi\ kixh/w[/face] - "let me not come upon".

[face=SPIonic]i)/wmen[/face] - "let us go"
[face=SPIonic]mh\ i)/wmen[/face] - "let us not go"

The voluntative subjunctive is practically limited to the first person where, in the singular, it is often accompanied by some exhortation like

[face=SPIonic]a)/ge, ei) d'a)/ge, i)/qi[/face].

The voluntative subjunctive typically takes the prohibitive negative particle [face=SPIonic]mh/[/face].


Prospective Subjunctive

The 'prospective' subjunctive either shows no notion of will or it shows a mixture of futurity and will:

Iliad 1.262

[face=SPIonic]ou) ga/r pw toi/ouj i)/don a)ne/raj ou)de i)/dwmai[/face] - "For I have never seen such men nor do I expect to see."

Iliad 6.459

[face=SPIonic]kai/ pote/ tij ei)/ph|sin[/face] - "and some one will say".

Iliad 1.32

[face=SPIonic]..saw/terpoj w(/j ke ne/hai.[/face] - "so that you may return safer"

Iliad 1.205

[face=SPIonic]..ta/x' a)/n pote qumo\n o)le/ssh|.[/face] - "..presently he will lose his life"

Iliad 1.262 and 6.459 are notable because they contain no notion of 'will'; they function as future indicatives.
But in 1.32 and 1.205 you can sense not just futurity but some component of interest as well.

The prospective subjunctive is often accompanied by the modal particle. But there are many exceptions to this 'rule'.

It typically takes the 'denying' negative particle [face=SPIonic]ou)[/face]:

[face=SPIonic]ou)k i)/dwmai[/face] - "I shall not see"




Parallel to the voluntative and prospective subjunctives are the 'wish' and 'potential' optatives.

Wish Optative

Iliad 1.18

[face=SPIonic]u(mi=n me\n qeoi\ doi=en..[/face] - "May the gods grant you.."

Iliad 1.42

[face=SPIonic]ti/seian Danaoi\..[/face] - "May the Danaans atone.."

[face=SPIonic]i)/oimen[/face] - "may we go"

Like the voluntative subjunctive, the wish optative typically takes the prohibitive negative particle [face=SPIonic]mh/[/face]:

[face=SPIonic]mh\ a)po/loito[/face] - "may he not die"




Potential Optative

Iliad 1.60

[face=SPIonic]..ei)/ ken qa/nato/n ge fu/goimen[/face] - "..if we might escape death"

Iliad 1.64

[face=SPIonic]o(/j k' ei)/poi..[/face] - "who could say.."


The potential optative is often accompanied by the modal particle.

Like the prospective subjunctive, the potential optative typically takes the 'denying' negative particle [face=SPIonic]ou)[/face]

[face=SPIonic]ou)k a)\n a)po/loito[/face] - "he would not die"


It is simply impossible to abstract from these cases a few simple rules to describe Homer's use of future, subjunctive, and optative. The general guidelines
are:

Voluntative subjunctive and wish optative - no modal particle, negative is [face=SPIonic]mh/[/face]
Prospective subjunctive and potential optative - modal particle, negative is [face=SPIonic]ou)[/face]

Because there is yet no rule with regard to the use of the modal particles, the negative particle is often a sounder indicator, at least of
volitional force. That is, use the presence of [face=SPIonic]mh/[/face] as a clue to an 'interested' speaker.

I hope this is of some help.

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby Thucydides » Mon Jul 12, 2004 1:25 pm

:shock:
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Postby Paul » Mon Jul 12, 2004 2:22 pm

Hi Thucy,

Is that 'good' shock or 'bad' shock?

Cordially,

Paul
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Thanks, and give up your sources!

Postby xanthos64 » Mon Jul 12, 2004 2:58 pm

Paul,

That is the most helpful, clear cut explanation I've read in many years. Whence your information? I'd love as a long term project to distill some hard and fast translating rules for the Homeric subjunctive/optative by analyzing their occurrences and their accepted meanings. From the examples you gave (Iliad), I see no distinction in how each is translated, for both moods seem to be used for "permission" or "possibility", i.e., both moods appear to be translatable using the English "let", "may" or "might".

Regards.
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Postby Paul » Mon Jul 12, 2004 4:18 pm

Hi,

I am really pleased you found it helpful.

Sources include:

Goodwin - "Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of Greek Verbs"
Palmer - "The Language of Homer"
Hahn - "Subjunctive and Optative - Their Origin as Futures"

Goodwin is readily available. But the other two are hard to find.

In re translating the moods: the literature tells us that the essential distinction between future, subjunctive, and optative is one of 'immediacy' or 'vividness'. The future is most immediate or vivid, the subjunctive less immediate or vivid, the optative least immediate or vivid.

My first reaction to this 'distinction' was something like "Ah, clear as mud". But I think I understand it now.

The 'mediation' referred to is not temporal, rather it is the mediation of other grounds or conditions on which depends the act described by future, subjunctive, or optative. The 'immediate' is certain of fulfillment, the less immediate is not.

The use of the Greek future indicative to say "I will go to Troy." means that my going is a certainty; not unlike "the sun will rise tomorrow".

In "Let us go to Troy", the Greek subjunctive expresses not only futurity and my interest (will) in such a trip, but also possible conditions on which the trip depends, namely that there are others involved who may not want to go to Troy. The literature would call this 'less immediate'.

In "May we go to Troy", the Greek optative expresses not only futurity and my interest (wish) in such a trip, but also the sense that there is a greater likelihood that we may not get to Troy - that some condition stands in the way. This is 'least immediate' or 'remote futurity'.

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby Thucydides » Mon Jul 12, 2004 6:10 pm

Paul wrote:Hi xanthos64,
After much reading and some thinking, I find myself in the camp that regards the subjunctive and optative as kinds of futures.


So...Even in sentences where the optative/subjunctive is depedent on a past tense main verb the subj./opt. can still be a kind of future... c.f. use of future infinitive in past tense sentences
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Postby Emma_85 » Mon Jul 12, 2004 6:16 pm

I think I must agree with Thucydides...
:shock:

(it's good shock :wink: )
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Postby Paul » Mon Jul 12, 2004 10:29 pm

Thucydides wrote:So...Even in sentences where the optative/subjunctive is depedent on a past tense main verb the subj./opt. can still be a kind of future... c.f. use of future infinitive in past tense sentences


Hi Thucy,

Are you asking about protasis and apodosis in conditional sentences?

Cordially,

Paul
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Postby Thucydides » Tue Jul 13, 2004 7:51 am

No... I'm just speculating generally. All the uses of the subj./opt. seem to be "future" in some sense, even in a past tense sentence as a relative future.
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