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Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

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Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby brookter » Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:06 am

Salvēte amīcī,

For example, in the phrase (from Matthew 26.52, vi LLPSI...):

Omnēs enim quī cēperint gladium, gladiō perībunt.

If I've understood this correctly, cēperint could be both "who might have taken up the sword (already)", or "will have taken up the sword (in future)". There seems to be a distinction in meaning there - is it one Latin recognises? How can you tell which is being used?

Many thanks

David
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby lauragibbs » Wed Mar 16, 2011 2:53 pm

There is a huge amount of overlap between the future and the subjunctive in Latin, because in a sense the future is subjunctive; it is not an event actually taking place or which has taken place - the future cannot really be indicative when you think about it, right? Indo-European did not have a future tense because it is not really indicative... and so all the I-E languages had to evolve the notion of a future tense. They did that in a lot of different ways (look at "will" in English), and the subjunctive was one common way that languages used to express the idea of the future. That is what happened with Latin. The actual forms of the Latin future (hodge-podge that they are) actually EVOLVED from old forms of the subjunctive in Latin. (If you have a copy of Palmer's The Latin Language, there is a good description of how that happened on p. 271-272).
So, making a distinction between the perfect subjunctive and the future perfect is a bit of a grammatical red herring: there is a reason why the forms are (almost) identical - it is because the meaning is identical, too.
So, think about it this way: the future really IS a subjunctive kind of thing, something that may/might happen but which has not happened yet, so the idea of subjunctive perfect and future perfect are really the same thing. If someone will have or if someone might have grabbed the sword, he will (surely) die by it. Same meaning either way.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby brookter » Wed Mar 16, 2011 3:06 pm

Laura

Thanks very much for the explanation- fascinating how different languages approach common concepts and how they evolve. I shall add Palmer to my already too long reading list...

Regards

David
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby lauragibbs » Wed Mar 16, 2011 3:32 pm

The future tense in particular is absolutely FULL of weirdness of all kinds, as you can see just from the odd imbalances in the verb tables: there is a present subjunctive, and a perfect subjunctive... but no future subjunctive! Right there, that sets off all kinds of alarm bells: if the indicative mood and subjunctive mood are "paired" (as they clearly are)... then the absence of a subjunctive mood for the future is a clue right there as to the weird evolution of the future tense, which is really only sort-of-indicative! :-)
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby brookter » Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:14 pm

Would that I were such who one day might understand all this... ;-)
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:23 pm

Not strictly the same, I reckon. Consider the first person plural.
Eadem strictìm non sunt, ut puto. Personam pluralis numeri primam tractemus.

Non subjunctivo modo // not subjunctive

"Nōs omnēs quī cēperīmus gladium [per i longam, id est perfecti temporis subjunctivo modo], gladiō perībimus."

sed indicativo // but indicative

"Nōs omnēs quī cēperimus [per i correptam, id est futuri perfecti temporis indicativo modo] gladium, gladiō perībimus."

quod vividior affectus temporis futuri habetur cum protasis perfecta ante est apodosis // because a vivid future condition is intended with protasis completed before apodosis.*

Had it been less vivid, it would have been // Si minùs vividum, ità fuisset:

"Nōs omnēs quī cēperīmus gladium [per i correptam, id est perfecti temporis subjunctivo modo], gladiō pereāmus."
("All of us may die who would take up the sword")

*QUI clause as protasis // Clausula pronomine relativo incepta ut protasis habeatur (A&G §519)
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:55 pm

adrianus wrote:Not strictly the same, I reckon...

because a vivid future condition is intended with protasis completed before apodosis.


I think that's a little too technical and splitting hairs. How many native Latin speakers could cite a technical grammar "rule" like this? Real language is about communicating ideas, not rigorous adherence to "rules". I bet that if we could go back in time and ask an everyday native Latin speaker that he/she wouldn't register any difference in meaning between the two. Or wait, should I say "I bet" or should I say "I would bet"... what's the difference in meaning?

Maybe someone 2000 years from now will look back in time and split hairs over the differences in Ancient English "I bet" and "I would bet". They'd probably love to analyze the enormous semantic difference between "If I was a rich man" and "If I were a rich man". One is technically past tense, while the other is subjunctive. The interesting thing is that 99% of native English speakers couldn't care less, and the only real difference to them is that the use of the subjunctive (If I were) sounds more "formal".

Don't take offense adrianus, I just think we can get a little too rigid with our understanding of how grammar really relates to language sometimes. I quit fussing over future perfect indicative/perfect subjunctive a long time ago. They're identical in form except in 1sg, and as laura said they are nearly identical semantically. After considering how my own native language is very confused sometimes about how to express probable/possible/future/conditional events, I realized it has more to do with the fact that probability/possibility/futurity are incredibly complex concepts which have inspired entire philosophical tomes. No wonder the grammar that deals with such ideas is not so neatly packed into a little box... the concepts themselves are deeply philosophical in nature. Note that the future tense is always learned by children after the present and past tenses (this has been noted by linguists studying children acquiring their native tongue). It's the most complex tense conceptually. It references something that is non-existent.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:57 pm

A speaker need not articulate a rule but may still subtly and fluently use it. I said that I thought there is a basis for distinguishing usage or distinguishing meaning. Caring about that is a separate matter.

Possible est oratorem regulam grammaticam non citare atqui eum eâ facundè subtiliterque uti posse. Argumentum exstare quod usus sententiasque varias distinguere possit modò expressi. Utrum curae alicui sit, id rem non spectat.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:46 pm

I'm not so sure that there is that much of a difference in actual usage, but it's hard to say since they are identical in form in almost every instance. So it becomes circular reasoning: We (grammarians) make a distinction between the two and then we use instances as proof of that distinction by saying ceperimus --> perfect subjunctive and then ceperimus --> future perfect indicative and the only way we know one is subjunctive and the other indicative is because of the rule we previously formulated since they are identical in form (circular reasoning). A native speaker wouldn't go through such over-analysis. I'm not a grammar-anarchist in any way, but I have an aversion to overly rigid analysis of language because it's quite simply unrealistic. Language is much more flexible than we make it appear to be in the vacuum of a textbook.

Take my example from English. What, if any, is the difference between "If I was the President" and "If I were the President"? As a native English speaker I recognize no difference in meaning between the two. Is it possible that the same situation was present with the future perfect indicative and the perfect subjunctive in Latin? I think so. In fact, this is not that uncommon. It's not that people are not educated enough to know the grammar well, because even uneducated speakers make proper distinctions between the various past (simple, progressive) and present (simple, progressive) tenses. It's always in the area of future/probability/wish/desire/possibility/etc. As I said, I think it has to do with the fuzziness of these ideas. Making fine distinctions between these various aspects of unrealized potentiality is a philosophical pursuit at base. In one sense, they are all the same. In another sense they might express subtle shades of meaning.

Some grammarians have noted that analysis of conditional statements into categories is not as helpful as might be thought at first. The intended meaning of the author is usually discovered by analysis of the context of the conditional statement and not by analyzing it's category inside a vacuum. The intended meaning can go contrary to what a particular protasis-apodosis combination is "supposed" to mean.

As a linguistics major, I treat language primarily as a means of communicating ideas. The systems by which that is done are a secondary (and very interesting) concern. Those systems are not perfect, and are very flexible. Take the present tense in English, which is described as the tense of "now". In everyday speech it's used regularly in place of the future. It may even be used more often than the future in normal speech. "We fly out tomorrow" "Next week I'm buying that book" To say that these are an exception to the normal usage of the present tense is very deceptive, because it happens quite frequently. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if every one of us use the present tense like this every single day.
Last edited by calvinist on Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:50 pm

calvinist wrote:...since they are identical in form in almost every instance.

Not so // Minimé!
cēperō cēperim
cēperis cēperīs
cēperimus cēperīmus
cēperitis cēperītis

four out of six forms differ between those tenses. Similarities of spelling are more likely to confuse the non-native speaker, not the native speaker, except if they don't care, of course (which is possible, indeed).
quattuor figurae ex sex inter ista tempora distinguuntur. Is qui sermones latinos non sonat ante qui facundè sonat figuras eiusdem orthographiae confundet, nisi id non curae ei sit, certé (quod benè possibile est).
Last edited by adrianus on Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:20 pm

adrianus wrote:
calvinist wrote:...since they are identical in form in almost every instance.

Not so // Minimé!
cēperō cēperim
cēperis cēperīs
cēperimus cēperīmus
cēperitis cēperītis

four out of six forms differ between those tenses. Similarities of spelling are more likely to confuse the non-native speaker, not the native speaker, except if they don't care, of course.
quattuor figurae ex sex inter ista tempora distinguuntur. Is qui sermones latinos non sonat ante qui facundè sonat figuras eiusdem orthographiae confundet, nisi id non curae sit, certé.


Do we know with certainty that the distinctions in pronunciation were maintained by everyday speakers? Have you seen some of the graffiti in Rome that reveals that actual Latin wasn't as pristine as we sometimes think it was? If we based English usage on a select few highly educated elitists we would have a very caricatured view of the language.

I still believe that if we could go back in time we would find that everyday speakers made little or no distinction between the two tenses. There's a certain beauty to a perfect system... I agree. But sometimes we try to press a language into a perfect system when it really isn't. And to be honest, there's even greater beauty in a fluid, dynamic, constantly adapting language. Some hate the fact that languages are like this. Remember your high school English professor who made it very clear that "Can I go to the bathroom?" is incorrect, even though she was somehow the only person you knew that couldn't understand the utterance, perhaps because she was sooo smart?
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:47 pm

calvinist wrote:Do we know with certainty that the distinctions in pronunciation were maintained by everyday speakers?
Knowledge of ignorance is not a basis for deduction. Variation is likely between people and peoples, but that's not a reason to throw away the textbooks.
Hic ratiocinandi modus est exemplum argumenti ad ignorantiam. Quod variet usus inter et intra nationes credibile est; non autem praeter hoc ignorandae grammaticae.

calvinist wrote:I still believe that if we could go back in time we would find that everyday speakers made little or no distinction between the two tenses.

That's nice but evidence is good, too.
Placet at et bona vestigia.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:07 pm

The question was rhetorical; We do know that Latin was spoken differently than what we find written.
It's widely known that Classical Latin was limited to writing and some rhetoric of the elites. Even the elites spoke differently in their everyday conversations. This is historical fact. You are aware that final -m was probably never pronounced or if it was it may have represented a nasalization of the final vowel? This has been deduced by the scansion of Latin poetry. http://www.lingua.co.uk/latin/tour/pron ... ccusobsol/

Of course we don't have written evidence (except in some graffiti and some other sources), because the written form was meant to be the high form of the language. It's the same as when a student is writing a term paper. It is written in a style that is more elevated than even that of a formal speech. It's not the way people (even educated people) speak though.

My point is that it's important to realize that Latin authors were writing in a somewhat unnatural style from their everyday conversational medium and that can have an effect on their language.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:36 pm

All (well, sort of) true, yes, Calvinist, but not grounds to deduce that there was no distinction between the future perfect indicative and the perfect subjunctive,—to contradict the textbooks.

Vera quidem plerumque dicis, Calvinistice, sed rationes non das cur careant discrimina inter tempora dicta, cur grammaticae errent.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:08 am

Yes, I agree with you adrianus. But back to the original question in this thread, I think it's a distinction that can be for the most part disregarded, especially when one is just beginning to read Latin. I spent a lot of time when I first started reading Latin feeling that I was stuck with an ambiguous form when I came across a form such as ceperimus and I couldn't tell if it was subjunctive or indicative. After a while I realized it would mean basically the same thing either way, so I quit worrying about it. I'm still aware of the two possible parsings when I come across a form like that, but I just don't worry about it anymore.

This is a much different case than in Greek where the 2pl present imperative is identical in form with the 2pl present indicative. There are instances in the NT where the context doesn't make it certain which form is being used and you have a true ambiguity with two very different meanings.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Sat Mar 19, 2011 1:08 am

According to Diomedes in his Ars Grammatica (the only thing I can find on this in Keil and not a "classical" grammarian, I know, but still an authority) these tenses are pronounced differently:
Secundum Diomedem in libro Artis Grammaticae (de hâc re solum argumentum apud Keil à me repertum at non classicus ille grammaticus, scio,—verumtamen verus peritus):

In Keil, I, p.340, ll.28-32, he wrote:Et in hac subiunctiva numero plurali uniformem declinationem perfecti et futuri temporis accentus distinguit. perfectum enim acuto accentu declinatur, futurum circumflectitur, quasi perfecto cum dixerimus, item futuro cum dixerimus.
.

(I confess I would have said the opposite: there's an acute on an accented future-perfect antepenultimate and that it wouldn't be circumflected, and the accented penultimate of the perfect subjunctive would be circumflected!)
(Ut fateor, adversùm dixissem: acui non circumflecti futuro syllabam antepaenultimam et circumflecti paenultimam perfecti conjunctivi!)
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Sat Mar 19, 2011 2:29 am

As you know, reconstructing pronunciation is a very difficult task. And it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that the desire for a distinct pronunciation between the tenses could influence one's research... Keep in mind the text you cite was written during a time when linguistic "evidence" was used to prove that humans hadn't fully developed color vision at the time of Homer because of the peculiar color descriptions he gives objects (his most frequent color words by far are 'black' and 'white'). It's very desirable to have distinct pronunciations for pedagogical reasons, and that desire could influence one's research. I'm a realist... I don't believe there's such a thing as "objective" research, unless it's a rock doing the research.

I was recently reading how the desire for a separate, distinct pronunciation for each Greek letter led to inaccurate descriptions of the "historical" pronunciation.

If there was a significant difference in meaning and pronunciation wouldn't we expect some ancients mentioning the ambiguity in the written form that would be so obvious (and make a difference in meaning) in the spoken language? Anyone who surveyed the literature of our own time 2000 years from now would not have much difficulty finding discussions of the fact that "read" can be ambiguous as either present or past tense (which is obvious in pronunciation).
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Sat Mar 19, 2011 2:42 am

Disregard my last post; I was confused with another text. That source carries a lot of weight considering when it was published. Late 4th century I think I read? Either way, I still contend that in most cases the difference in meaning is non-existent. Worrying about which form it is in order to distinguish pronunciation makes it even more cumbersome I believe.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:58 am

I believe it to be possible that differences can be real and can have tiny significances on various levels, and that subtleties and nuances make the use of language artful and lovely, and worth the cumbersome effort of study. And if I'm wrong about those differences, I hope to be corrected.

Exstare credo discrimina inter tempora sufficientes per modos varios significationes subtiles, quae significationes in ipsas artem loquendi blandam merentemque redunt, et operam studii gravem remunerant. Et si errem de discriminibus, corrigenda quaesam.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Sat Mar 19, 2011 3:27 pm

I rummaged in Palmer but don't see evidence there to support the notion that, with the future perfect and the perfect subjunctive, "the meaning is identical". Palmer is far more careful, I think, and instead allows lots of room for distinction.

He talks about the "cautious" nature of the subjunctive and I see that as the basis for opposing the more assertive notion of an indicative future in classical latin. For example, he says

Palmer, The Latin Language, p.314 wrote:But in the main the use of the Latin subjunctive of cautious assertion of future events is derivable from the ancient IE. potential optative.


And there are other ways in which the perfect subjunctive is certainly not a future perfect (as in a reported or oblique subjunctive in speech, A: "tecum fui" B: "tun mecum fueris!" or "A: "Quid fecit?" B: "quid ille fecerit? [me rogas]", (Palmer, opus citatum, p.312).

Surely if I say (in "Latin and English), "By tomorrow night I will not have eaten a thousand bananas", that does not mean the same as "By tomorrow night I might/would not have eaten a thousand bananas." Ambiguous third-person forms are ambiguous precisely because they embody both meanings, not because there is no difference between meanings.

LIbrum Palmeris percurri at indicia nullubi inveni quae sustinent ut futurum perfectum indicativum et subjunctivum perfectum itidem interpretari possunt. Diligentior ille auctor qui multas distinguendi possibilitates admittit, ut opinor,—quae possibilitates contemplativam et pertinacem naturas discriminare possunt.

"Ad crastinum nocte mille arienas non edero", nonne id aliter vult dicere quàm "Ad crastinum nocte mille arienas non ederim" et anglicè et latiné. Ambiguae quidem formae tertiae personae sed duplicitatem ambiguitas significat, non unitatem significationis.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby lauragibbs » Sat Mar 19, 2011 8:26 pm

You two certainly have more stamina than I do for disputing about such things; I'll just say that my sympathies are very much with Calvinist here. My Latin interests are fables and proverbs, which range from the low-brow to the high-brow and are certainly not confined to use in classical times or even to use by native speakers - and I'm quite certain that for great swaths of Latin speakers (classical and later, native and non-native) who both made and used those Latin fables and proverbs, the distinctions Adrianus maintains here would not be especially pertinent, although it is an interesting topic in its own right of course.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Sun Mar 20, 2011 1:48 am

lauragibbs wrote:I'm quite certain that for great swaths of Latin speakers (classical and later, native and non-native) who both made and used those Latin fables and proverbs, the distinctions Adrianus maintains here would not be especially pertinent

Sorry, Laura, but I disagree. Among proverbs you yourself note (http://latinviaproverbs.pbworks.com/w/p ... 3/group263), is there ambiguity about which tense is involved? For example, in "Ne citò credideris! (with long final i)" ("Nor must you hastily believe!") it can't be future perfect indicative, can it? Isn't it subjunctive? If the tenses meant the same thing, I could say "Non citò credideris! (with short final i)" ("You will not hastily have believed!") but isn't that far from the intended meaning?

Me paenitet sed tecum dissentio, Laura. Inter adagia à te ipsâ nota, ubi est ambiguitas temporis? Exempli gratiâ cum "Ne citò credideris! (per i ultimam longam)", nonnè subjunctivo modo est verbum? "Non citò credideris (per i ultimam correptam)" eandem rem aliàs significet, quod clarè falsum est, nisi fallor.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby lauragibbs » Sun Mar 20, 2011 5:20 am

Adrianus, when it is used with ne, of course it is subjunctive... Indeed, we know it is subjunctive because of the ne. The essential issue there, linguistically, is the REDUNDANCY: Latin needs not just indicatives and subjunctives, but also distinctions like the distinction between ne and non to make sure the meaning is clearly conveyed; the form credideris by itself would not be enough - hence the distinction also between ne and non. The words ne and non are clear and unambiguous markers, and as such they are very important words - with non instead of ne, the meaning would indeed be different; we would interpret the form differently because ne and non each give a different context (in addition to the larger context in which the statement is being used, which would further reinforce the meaning). It's the context that resolves the ambiguity of the form, insofar as it needs to be resolved... and really, once you distinguish between ne and non, I'm not sure whether Latin speakers, even highly educated ones, would even consciously resolve the verb form ... but that's a purely hypothetical question, unless you can think of some way to actually answer it - is there a Latin grammarian who discusses such examples? My guess is that a grammarian would tell you that it must be the context - whether pragmatic, or metrical, but some kind of context - is what allows you to resolve the form, right?
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Sun Mar 20, 2011 4:05 pm

lauragibbs wrote:Adrianus, when it is used with ne, of course it is subjunctive... Indeed, we know it is subjunctive because of the ne. The essential issue there, linguistically, is the REDUNDANCY: Latin needs not just indicatives and subjunctives, but also distinctions like the distinction between ne and non to make sure the meaning is clearly conveyed; the form credideris by itself would not be enough - hence the distinction also between ne and non.

No, "credideris" spoken can be enough. Speech is supremely important. It is capable of more than the written word.
Minimé. "Credideris" sonari sufficit. Maximi momenti sunt sermones, capaciores vocabulis scriptis.

lauragibbs wrote:and really, once you distinguish between ne and non, I'm not sure whether Latin speakers, even highly educated ones, would even consciously resolve the verb form ... but that's a purely hypothetical question, unless you can think of some way to actually answer it - is there a Latin grammarian who discusses such examples?

Well, I did already say that Diomedes does mention it,—that there need be no ambiguity when spoken because, even though they are spelt the same, the words sound different. You wouldn't say "venī" and "vēnī" mean the same thing. Nor are they ambiguous is speech, unless spoken without due regard.

If "crediderim" and "credidero" do not mean the same thing, why should "crediderīs" and "credideris" etc. And even when they have the same sound, as in "crediderit/crediderint", it's ambiguous, i.e., it is capable of two different meanings. The perfect subjunctive does not have the same meaning as the future perfect indicative.

Iam dixi Diomedem rem discriminis per sonum summatim tractasse, etiamsi orthographia (sine signis) non mutetur. Clarâ voce sonita "venī" et "vēnī" verba distinguuntur. Non ambiguua locutione sunt, nisi incuriosè sonita.

Non synonyma sunt "crederim" et "credero"; cur ergo "crēdideris" et "crēdiderīs" et sequentes? Et cum "crediderit/crediderint" verè ambigua est figura, id est, duplex est eius significatio, non simplex, quod mutat sensus inter subjunctivum modum et indicativum.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby lauragibbs » Sun Mar 20, 2011 4:31 pm

Hi Adrianus, I imagine you would be appalled by most of the kinds of Latin that are of interest to me, when the vowel length distinction had long since broken down. There's a reason why the modern Romance languages distinguish between long and short vowels; the distinction had broken down already in so-called vulgar Latin and was no longer phonemic in proto-Romance. As to exactly how and exactly when the breakdown in vowel length occurred, especially in final syllables which have no reinforcement from accent, it is hard to say - but that's because we have only the written evidence. So, yes, speech does much that writing cannot and it is an entirely different experience to learn a living language rather than a dead one; the grammarians did their best to keep an understanding of Latin vowel length alive amongst the hyper-erudite, but the Romance languages themselves show what a losing battle that was.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby lauragibbs » Sun Mar 20, 2011 4:34 pm

This same discussion has come up many times at LatinTeach as well so I thought I would share this remark from John Traupman there, who is a keen student of the Latin grammarians:

The ancient grammarians referred to a future subjunctive in place of "our" future perfect indicative.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Sun Mar 20, 2011 5:48 pm

Salvete Adriane et Laura. First I want to say that I enjoy discussions like this. They are very edifying because they force me to think through my own positions as well as listen to and analyze other positions.

I want to clarify my position, which I think Laura will agree with as well. I am not saying that there is no distinction between the two. I am saying, however, that the distinction is one that an average speaker probably either did not notice or did not care to pay attention to. I am also saying that I believe the two began to merge into one, and this was probably well under way by the Imperial period. This would be due to two things: 1) the similarity in form (even if there was a distinction in accent) 2) the similarity in meaning/usage (even though there was a subtle distinction). As far as pronunciation goes, keep in mind that the accent in Classical Latin was very subtle and not comparable to the stress accent in modern European languages (Greek originally had pitch accents).

I want to give a few examples to show how common this process is in languages. All of us on Textkit understand the subtle distinction between "in" and "into", because both Latin and Greek make these distinctions more than our native language does. However, we see that in Koine Greek εις (into) and εν (in) were beginning to merge in meaning. We find εν where we would expect εις and vice versa. The authors didn't care what the purist grammarians would've said... to them the distinction was not necessary to communicate their ideas, and obviously the language community as a whole was in agreement.

In English, "in" can be used in any instance where "into" can, but the reverse isn't true; "into" can only be used for movement in and not static location: "I put it in/into the car" but "It's in the car" ("It's into the car" is ungrammatical) So is there a distinction? The answer is somewhat complex. Sometimes there is, and sometimes there isn't.

Another example we are all familiar with is "can/may". It can be said that the former expresses ability while the latter represents permission, but in real spoken English that isn't true. There is considerable overlap between the two. Talk of exceptions is not an adequate description... if a usage is widespread it's not an exception, even though it destroys some grammarians' idealistic perfect semantic distinctions between the two. The question "Can I have some water?" is not understood by any native English speaker to be a question of the speaker's own abilities. It's a request. In fact "can" is probably much more frequent in this construction than "may", even though some English teachers might be rolling in their graves... but they don't own the language, the speakers as a community do.

In an earlier period of English the two probably did not overlap like this, but that is not the situation now. In fact, the only distinction between "Can I have some water?" and "May I have some water?" is not denotative but connotative. That is to say, there is really no semantic difference, but the latter expresses politeness. So the English professors that explained that "Can I... " is wrong because it expresses ability and not permission were flat wrong. They both express permission/request, one just carries more formality/politeness.

This antithesis between grammar purists and the reality of the language is as old as language itself. Grammarians, both ancient and present, are suspect for this reason. We must listen to them, but we must also be careful. It's quite possible that the distinction between future perfect indicative and perfect subjunctive was like our own "in/into" or "can I/may I". It's a distinction that is at the most very subtle, if even present at all. A distinction unobserved by the native speaker, and only really noticed (and then only sometimes maintained) after education. Is the phrase "I jumped in the pool" ambiguous? Those who have studied Latin and Greek might say so... but we'd have to explain why it's ambiguous to most native speakers, as they wouldn't have any difficulty understanding exactly what was meant, and without even considering the distinction between "into/in". As Laura said earlier.... CONTEXT.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby lauragibbs » Sun Mar 20, 2011 6:08 pm

Thanks for bringing up formality/politeness, Calvinist - that kind of distinction is almost impossible for us to recover from the limited written record of Latin, but of course there were different registers in Latin; sociolinguistics and pragmatics are linguistic dimensions that are just as important as phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. As English speakers, we can appreciate the tremendous difference between saying -- It's me -- or -- 'Tis I -- statements which are both grammatical English... but obviously still very different linguistically.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Sun Mar 20, 2011 6:36 pm

lauragibbs wrote: I imagine you would be appalled by most of the kinds of Latin that are of interest to me, when the vowel length distinction had long since broken down.

Don't. I don't know why you would imagine that. I'm personally more interested in Renaissance+ latin than in classical latin. That's why I mark the accents the way I do when I try to write in Latin.

Noli consternata esse. Id contrarium esse opineris. Lingua latina renascentiae aevi ante eam classici mihi majoris curae est. Quare accentus distinguentes in scriptis denoto, vel sic saepè conor.
Last edited by adrianus on Sun Mar 20, 2011 6:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Sun Mar 20, 2011 6:40 pm

lauragibbs wrote: that kind of distinction is almost impossible for us to recover from the limited written record of Latin, but of course there were different registers in Latin; sociolinguistics and pragmatics are linguistic dimensions that are just as important as phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

Exactly. And since we are forced to construct our understanding of the language from a limited collection of writings mostly from highly educated authors (and may I say elitist, although not in a negative way), we can sometimes miss real distinctions such as register and at the same time over-exaggerate distinctions that may have gone mostly unnoticed by the average speaker. For instance, was "amicus" the term that friends used for each other? Or was there a word equivalent to our "bro" or "dude" or "hey, man... what's up!" Most of this type of language is lost in the formal writings of the elite.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby lauragibbs » Sun Mar 20, 2011 6:51 pm

Hi Adrianus, the chaos is in the Middle Ages - the Renaissance is imitating classical style and usage (even hypercorrectly); this was not always the goal of medieval writers. The medieval writers often had no idea about vowel quantities, and they also had no erudite references to help them as the Renaissance writers did. The rhyming Latin poetry of the Middle Ages is like nothing classical, and like nothing neo-classical from the Renaissance - but I find it to be wonderful stuff. Often the rhymes depend on very un-classical pronunciation.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Sun Mar 20, 2011 7:08 pm

If we could find lyric books for the hip-hop music of that time (folk poetry) we would probably find a very different Latin:

The new moon rose high in the crown of the metropolis
Shinin', like who on top of this?
People was hustlin', arguin' and bustlin'
Gangstas of Gotham hardcore hustlin'
I'm wrestlin' with words and ideas
My ears is picky, seekin' what will transmit
the scribes can apply to transcript, yo
This ain't no time where the usual is suitable
Tonight's alive, let's describe the inscrutable
The indisputable, we New York the narcotics
Strength in metal and fiber optics
where mercenaries is paid to trade hot stock tips
for profits, thirsty criminals take pockets
Hard knuckles on the second hands of workin' class watches
Skyscrapers is colossus,
the cost of living is preposterous,
stay alive, you play or die, no options
No Batman and Robin,
can't tell between the cops and the robbers,
they both partners, they all heartless
With no conscience, back streets stay darkened
Where unbelievin' hearts stay hardened

-Mos Def "Respiration"
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby lauragibbs » Sun Mar 20, 2011 8:01 pm

Medieval Latin is a glorious hodge-podge of folk tradition and erudite tradition, twisted and tangled. One of my favorites is the way the Goliardic poets will take a rhythmical meter and then throw in a dactylic hexameter, kind of like they are showing off that they can go either way - for example, see below, where the first three lines of each stanza are rhythmic (you can sing it to the tune of Yankee Doodle or Good King Wenceslas), but the fourth line is a hexameter... yet all four lines rhyme. It's the fable of the rooster and the gemstone:

Quidam Gallinacius victum quaeritavit.
Pretiosus interim lapis latitavit
In luto quem proferens, maerens suspiravit,
Quod victu caruit, quem sic reperire putavit:

"Escam mihi petii, sed cum te iacere
In luto perspiciam, nil mihi praebere
Potes; si te cupido velles exhibere,
Tunc poteris fieri praeclarus eique placere."
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:14 pm

lauragibbs wrote:...the chaos is in the Middle Ages - the Renaissance is imitating classical style and usage (even hypercorrectly); this was not always the goal of medieval writers. The medieval writers often had no idea about vowel quantities, and they also had no [!?] erudite references to help them as the Renaissance writers did. The rhyming Latin poetry of the Middle Ages is like nothing classical, and like nothing neo-classical from the Renaissance - but I find it to be wonderful stuff. Often the rhymes depend on very un-classical pronunciation.

Changes and regional variation may look chaotic but may often be healthy. Certainly latin never ever existed as a single dialect. Many medieval writers certainly understood about vowel quantities and marked them in many manuscripts (otherwise certain poets couldn't continue to write or play with classical scansion, or word emphasis would be chaotic indeed,—and poets and songsters in any language often twist pronunciation to suit their needs) and Vergil and Priscian et cetera et cetera were great model references, surely, in the middle ages. But why on earth should people imitate how others spoke over a thousand years before? Academism (and Renaissance academism especially, ironically) only hobbled the language.

Mutationes variationesque regionum medio aevo indigentae videntur; immò salubres saepè sunt. Nec unquàm obiter ut dialectos simplex latinum. Multi aevo medio qui quantitatem vocalum cogitaverunt nec carent apices in multis manuscriptis (aliter nec continuò poetae metris classicis capaces scribendi aptandique mansissent, nec continuò vocabula publica eandem vim plerumquè possedissent,—nota quoque, multis linguis aliquorum aevorum, ut suspicor, carmen et musica sermones mutant), et certè etiam tunc exstant fontes docti ut opus Vergili ut opus Prisciani ut opera multorum aliorum. Cur quidem hercule ut homines ampliùs mille annos discessi loquaris? Scholastici fuerunt (praesentìm ironicè Renascentiae aevi) qui linguam claudere fecerunt.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Mon Mar 21, 2011 12:00 am

Adrianus, I still would like to hear your response to my long post from earlier today explaining why I think the distinction can be ignored.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby calvinist » Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:54 am

I want to bring up a point you made earlier, Adrianus. You referred to English "I will have... / I might have...". I contend that there isn't a significant difference semantically at all. If I say, "By tomorrow morning I will have finished my paper" and I have to go to the emergency room I will be found to be a liar. However, I will probably say that of course the act of me finishing the paper was dependent upon some certain conditions. This is understood even though the indicative mood is used.

I could've said "By tomorrow morning I may have finished my paper" making the idea of conditionality more explicit, but anything that is yet to happen is always conditional, unless you are God. This has nothing to do with language, it has to do with reality. To say that when the future perfect indicative is used there is not an idea of conditionality is wrong. The subjunctive just expresses it more explicitly. One cannot guarantee a future event simply by using the indicative mood.

If we describe the indicative mood as the mood of "fact/reality" then a future indicative is by definition a contradiction. I think you are hanging on to the distinction between indicative/subjunctive --> fact/hypothetical too much. Any future tense in any language carries the idea of conditionality/hypothetical. As Laura said earlier, it isn't a coincidence that the Latin subjunctive/future tenses are similar in form, they come from the same forms, and slowly acquired subtle distinctions. In this case though, I think the distinctions are pretty much non-existent.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:06 am

calvinist wrote:Adrianus, I still would like to hear your response to my long post from earlier today explaining why I think the distinction can be ignored.

This is the what you're referring to, I suppose, Calvinist.
Hoc est quod denotas, Calvinistice, ut suppono:
calvinist wrote:I want to clarify my position, which I think Laura will agree with as well. I am not saying that there is no distinction between the two. I am saying, however, that the distinction is one that an average speaker probably either did not notice or did not care to pay attention to. I am also saying that I believe the two began to merge into one, and this was probably well under way by the Imperial period. This would be due to two things: 1) the similarity in form (even if there was a distinction in accent) 2) the similarity in meaning/usage (even though there was a subtle distinction).

That's not what is in controversy ('though it was said there was no difference in meaning). I know that pronunciation of these tenses would have blurred in five out of six cases/persons. Certain latin speakers did try to restore distinction in pronunciation (and many text-book writers still do) but even then it is possible for anyone to hide ignorance of distinction by not observing differences in accent, and not unreasonably justifying that by past practices. But in the first-person singular case it is not possible to hide ignorance. That to me is crucial and it addresses the original point of this thread: is there any basis to discriminate? ["There seems to be a distinction in meaning there - is it one Latin recognises?"] Had brookter asked, "How do I put this into Latin substituting "ego" for "omnes"? you couldn't dodge the issue by saying "it doesn't matter whether you say "cepero" or "ceperim" because they mean the same". There are subtle bases for using one tense over the other, and the knowing speaker or writer understands which tense they intend, even though a reader needs to disambiguate (if they care to take the trouble) in cases other than first-person singular.

Non dubitandum; non autem contentio nostra (dictum verò est discrimina sensus non exstare). Locutionem horum temporum per aeva cum quinque è sex personis mutare scio et discrimina inter se perdidisse. Sunt qui distinctiones restituere affectabant (multi eorum grammatici moderni) at iam possible est morum anteriorum denotando ignorantiam distinctionum operire. Cum unâ autem personâ id non possible est: eâ primae personae. Hoc mihi transversum est quod ad rem huius fili pertineat: estne possible inter usus distinguere? Si rogasset brookter quomodo hanc sententiam in sermones latinos vertat si "ego" pro "omnes" substituatur, rem fugere non potest ita in dicendo: nihil refert an "cepero" vel "cererim" scribatur quia synonyma. Subtilia discrimina deprehendantur quae oratori vel scriptori docto clara sunt, etiamsi lectori (illi cui id curae est) omnibus cum personis separatim primâ singulariter significationem verbi deliberari oportet.
Last edited by adrianus on Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby brookter » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:31 am

I've been following this thread with interest - and I'm glad I asked the question: it's been really stimulating.

What I've taken from it so far is:

  • In the sentence I quoted, there is no way of knowing whether Orberg had in mind the perfect subjunctive or the future perfect. Each would have been grammatically correct.

  • It is possible to distinguish a difference in meaning, between the two, although this is slight — because the concept of the subjunctive and the future both include uncertainty — and one that may well have been ignored by most speakers.
Once clarification, please: given the Roman's propensity for shoving the subjunctive into every possible occasion (OK, I exaggerate a little: given their greater fondness for the subjunctive than ours in English), is it possible to say whether they would have been more likely to use the subjunctive here than the future perfect (in those occasions when the form of the verb makes them choose: cēperim vs cēperō...)? I'm thinking that if the distinction is so fine, then most would opt for the more 'comfortable' rather than the most accurate form: the difference between "may" and "can" mentioned in a post above.

Again, thanks for the very interesting discussion,

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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:52 am

calvinist wrote:I want to bring up a point you made earlier, Adrianus. You referred to English "I will have... / I might have...". I contend that there isn't a significant difference semantically at all. If I say, "By tomorrow morning I will have finished my paper" and I have to go to the emergency room I will be found to be a liar...In this case though, I think the distinctions are pretty much non-existent.

You see no difference of meaning in English between "I will" and "I might" and you believe that to fail to deliver what you predicted means that you lied? I speak a different English than you, calvinist.

Estne verum ut inter anglicè "I will" et "I might" mutationem significationis non agnoscas, ut non facere id quod facere dixisses mendacium esse credas? Non sicut tu, calvanistice, anglicè loquor.
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Re: Perfect subjunctive or Future perfect

Postby adrianus » Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:07 pm

brookter wrote:* In the sentence I quoted, there is no way of knowing whether Orberg had in mind the perfect subjunctive or the future perfect. Each would have been grammatically correct.

* It is possible to distinguish a difference in meaning, between the two, although this is slight — because the concept of the subjunctive and the future both include uncertainty — and one that may well have been ignored by most speakers.

"Omnēs enim quī cēperint gladium, gladiō perībunt."

As I said above, brookter, "ceperint" is future perfect here, not past perfect subjunctive. There is no reason for it to be past perfect subjunctive, but there is a reason for it to be future perfect (completed in the future at the time to which "peribunt" refers). [Only ancient grammarians such as Priscian or Probus etc refer to the future perfect as subjunctive; we today say indicative for the future perfect.]

Ut suprà dixi, brookter, verbum "ceperint" enim illîc futuri perfecti temporis est, non praeteriti perfecti. Nulla ratio exstat cur praeteriti perfecti sit, at exstat ratio cur sit futuri perfecti (quia tempore ad quod principale verbum "peribunt" pertinet veteraverat actio "ceperint" verbi). [Solùm grammatici antiqui ut Priscianus ut Probus et sequentes illum modum futuri perfecti temporis "subjunctivum" nomen vocant; nos nunc istum modum "indicativum" vocamus.]
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