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Indirect Statements ACC+INF

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Indirect Statements ACC+INF

Postby ArthurusNoviEboraci » Sun Mar 29, 2009 7:03 pm

Another quick question...

Chapter 25 in Wheelock deals with Infinitives in Indirect Statements with an Accusative subject... Similar to "he said that..." statements in English.

In the Sententiae Antiquae of the Exercises I see the following example:

"Dico te, Pyrrhe, Romanos posse vincere".


... which Benissimus translated as "I say that you, Pyrrhus, can conquer the Romans".

... to which what I had translated:

"I say to you, Pyrrhus, that the Romans can conquer".


... I appreciate that the sense is entirely different but I'm not sure where I went wrong... "Romanos" is in the ACC so it could be the subject of that being reported, "posse" is in the infinitive, as is customary with the indirect statements...

I just didn't think that "te" was part of that indirect statement... I thought it simply marked an "I say to you", which sounded even more plausible to me owing to the fact it preceded the Vocative "Pyrrhe".

... Any help, advice?
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Re: Indirect Statements ACC+INF

Postby MiguelM » Sun Mar 29, 2009 7:32 pm

The Indirect Statement, or Accusative Clause, takes both in the accusative. Your logic is correct, except that "dicere" takes dative as indirect object (I say to you" "that X happens")

"Dico te, Pyrrhe, Romanos posse vincere".

Remember that "vincere" needs an object as well -- that which is beaten, which also takes (obviously) accusative. This sentence can be translated both ways as "I say, Pyrrhus, that you can beat the Romans" and "I say, Phyrrus, that the Romans can beat you". This ambiguity of the Accusative Clause is real, because both the subject and the object take accusative, and so sometimes it can only be deduced from context. In this context (we all know the story) it is likely that he's saying that Pyrrhus can beat the Romans, but there's nothing in the words that expressly means it.
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Re: Indirect Statements ACC+INF

Postby Alatius » Sun Mar 29, 2009 7:37 pm

MiguelM has already said what I was going to say, but since I had already written it, I might as well post it. :)

"To say to someone" is usually constructed with the dative, i.e. "dico tibi", so that is what speaks against your translation. But you are quite right that there is a possible confusion here: if we disregard context and word order, we can't be entirely sure which one of accusatives is the object, and which one is the subject accusative, as it is called. So, "dico te Romanos posse vincere" could theoretically be translated as "I say that the Romans can conquer you".

However, you would usually put the subject first (or at least so my intuition tells me), so, to express that the Romans can conquer you, one would rather say "dico Romanos te vincere posse".
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Re: Indirect Statements ACC+INF

Postby ArthurusNoviEboraci » Sun Mar 29, 2009 8:20 pm

Indeed, I had neglected the fact that to say "I tell you, Phyrrus...", I would have needed "Dico TIBI, Pyrrhe...", being a verb of saying/giving... You guys have also helped me uncover the other element, however, which accounted for much of the reason why my interpretation was so different...

THANKS a lot for the clarification... As you can infer I am a novice sailing through Wheelock myself for the first time so all this is very valuable to me at this stage :D
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Re: Indirect Statements ACC+INF

Postby ptolemyauletes » Mon Mar 30, 2009 4:58 pm

A bit of help on Accusative Infinitive.
In a perfect world Latin DOES follow a fairly strict word order. Of course authors will play with this word order, because they can, and because it sounds nice, and because it fits the metre, and because they may fancy themselves poets (Livy, anyone?). It pays to gain a thorough grammatical understanding of Accusative Infinitive, but hereis one way to help.

Imagine a simple Latin sentence.
tu Romanos vincere potes.
You area able to conquer the Romans.

When this goes into Acc + Inf the word order will usually not change. What does change is that the subject turns into Accusative case, while the verb changes into an Infinitive.

Hence:
tu Romanos vincere potes.
becomes
dico te Romanos vincere posse.

The addition of 'Pyhrre', I suspect, is what may have cause confusion, as it is placed between the 'te' and the rest of the sentence. This position after 'te' makes sense, however, if you consider that the speaker is addressing Pyrrhus.

Referring to Alatius's comment about word order, his intuition is correct. The Romans will stick to normal word order to avoid ambiguity (unless it is poetry, or the author intends ambiguity, or is Livy)
Note another example with a similar sentence.

Romani te vincere possunt.
becomes
dico Romanos te vincere posse.
See how the word order is preserved in Accusative Infinitive Constructions.

Again, this is in a perfect world, but it is a good guideline.
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