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ablative help, please?

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ablative help, please?

Postby puellabella » Wed Mar 31, 2004 2:44 am

what would be the use of the ablative in the sentence

The sailor is frightened by the sword.

It seems almost like ablative of agent, yet it isn't personal, but it doesn't seem like means either. Can someone please offer a solution?
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Postby benissimus » Wed Mar 31, 2004 3:00 am

"sword" would be the ablative of agent. If it is not a person, then you just use ablative. If it is personal, when the agent is a person, you have to use the preposition ab. Since the agent is not a person, you just use the ablative, gladio or ferro or some similar word. It could be argued that it is ablative of means in this case, and it wouldn't make a difference unless the agent were a person. I think if it were a person it would be more likely to be an ablative of agent though.
Last edited by benissimus on Wed Mar 31, 2004 3:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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Postby puellabella » Wed Mar 31, 2004 3:01 am

Thanks for your help!
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Postby phil » Wed Mar 31, 2004 7:50 pm

With some trepidation I beg to differ with Benissimus. I think it is ablative of means. Ablative of agent is the person by whom the action is performed, and ablative of means is the thing by which the action is performed. In your example the sailor was frightened by a thing.
Wheelock also always refers to ablative of agent as ablative of personal agent, which I think is a clue.
I think an ablative of agent has to be a person (or a god) or some living thing.
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Postby Ulpianus » Wed Mar 31, 2004 11:17 pm

I think I agree with Phil. As I understand it:

(1) Ablative with a or ab = ablative of agent. The agent is always either a person or a personified thing.

(2) Ablative used to express the instrument or means by which something occurs. No preposition. Generally of things, rather than people, though occasionally of human beings when they are regarded as a mere tool in the hands of another. Woodcock gives as an example armatis hominibus expulsi sunt fabri de area nostra The workmen were driven off my building site by means of armed men (not just by the armed men, but using the armed men as an instrument).

(3) Agency (in the sense of one person "using" another) may also be expressed of people using per + accusative.

So to be really picky, an instrumental ablative does not express the thing by which an action is performed, but rather the thing using which an action is performed or by which some effect is produced. In Puellabella's sentence, the sword does not actually "do" anything: it causes something to happen. So instrumental ablative/ablative of means.

(And of course, all this classification is really slightly mad. An ablative is not an ablative of anything: it is just an ablative. How we choose to classify and name its uses is a matter of convenience, rather than some deep insight into the 'true nature' of the case in any particular instance.)
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Postby benissimus » Thu Apr 01, 2004 6:53 am

Ulpianus wrote:(And of course, all this classification is really slightly mad. An ablative is not an ablative of anything: it is just an ablative. How we choose to classify and name its uses is a matter of convenience, rather than some deep insight into the 'true nature' of the case in any particular instance.)

This is definitely my feeling too. Sorry if I messed up on which ablative, I have trouble separating them because they seem rather arbitrary to me :oops:
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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