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ambiguity in "filium exspectare oportet"?

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ambiguity in "filium exspectare oportet"?

Postby arthad » Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:45 pm

I have a question about the following sentence:

"Filium exspectare oportet dum redeat pater."

Is there ambiguity here? In relation to "exspectare," is it possible to take "filium" either as the object or as a subject accusative? The first option would give "It is proper to await the son . . ." and the second would give "It is proper for the son to wait . . ." Are both of these possible? Or would a dative of reference be the more likely way to express "It is proper for the son to wait . . ." (i.e., "Filio exspectare oportet . . .")?

Many thanks!
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Re: ambiguity in "filium exspectare oportet"?

Postby Caecilius » Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:15 am

I think it's semantically quite clear: "The son ought to wait [i.e., it is fitting for the son to wait] until his father returns."

But as you say, oportere takes the accusative and so would exspectare, I suppose there could be ambiguity in that it could well be "It is fitting to wait for the son until his father returns", yes. I might be wrong on this note, though. I normally wouldn't think that there's any rule governing oportere when it's used as an intransitive, but maybe there's something else that could be mentioned to help distinguish further. At the moment, though, to me there's nothing (technically) wrong with either.
mirantur quidem divinam speciem, sed ut simulacrum fabre politum mirantur omnes.
- Psyche et Cupido, Lucius Apuleius
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Re: ambiguity in "filium exspectare oportet"?

Postby thesaurus » Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:27 pm

Caecilius wrote:I think it's semantically quite clear: "The son ought to wait [i.e., it is fitting for the son to wait] until his father returns."

But as you say, oportere takes the accusative and so would exspectare, I suppose there could be ambiguity in that it could well be "It is fitting to wait for the son until his father returns", yes. I might be wrong on this note, though. I normally wouldn't think that there's any rule governing oportere when it's used as an intransitive, but maybe there's something else that could be mentioned to help distinguish further. At the moment, though, to me there's nothing (technically) wrong with either.


I agree. I would say the first rendering ("The son ought to wait...") occurs to me as most obvious, while the second ("It is fitting to await the son...") is grammatically possible. If there is in fact any reason to prefer one over the other, it probably comes down to word order, although I'm not qualified to give a proper alternative. Possibly something like "Oportet expectare filium..." would signal that "filium" is the object of "expectare" and not "oportet."
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute
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