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Aorist Imperative

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Aorist Imperative

Postby Vitance » Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:06 pm

Hey again guys. Can someone please briefly explain the aorist imperative to me? I mean, what use could a language possible have for a past-tense imperative? If there is a reasonable explanation, I'd love to hear it.

If not, I'd at least like to know how I'm supposed to translate it. Is it syntactically Present? Does it have a force different from the present imperative (such as being more or less urgent)?

All the best.
This thing which they call love, O Cupid,
Unite or else dissolve entire:
Inspire both with equal passion,
Or else inspire neither.
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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby Gaius » Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:48 pm

Χαιρε Vitance,

The aorist signifies that it is in the past when it is in the indicative mood (with endings -σα -σας -σε -σαμεν -σατε -σαν, etc.). The aorist also signifies one time activity or a completed activity in other moods, like the imperative. If someone were to say "λυσον" at you, they are not commanding you to do something in the past, but rather telling you to destroy something once.

Hope that helps.

Best,
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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby daivid » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:04 am

Vitance wrote:Hey again guys. Can someone please briefly explain the aorist imperative to me? I mean, what use could a language possible have for a past-tense imperative? If there is a reasonable explanation, I'd love to hear it.

The aorist imperative has no augment which is a pretty good clue that it does not have a past meaning.
The distinction between the aorist imperative and the present imperative is one of aspect
not tense.

If someone tells you to plow and uses the present imperative then they expect you to go
and do some plowing but they aren't too bothered about how much you do.

If they say plow that field and use the aorist they are giving you a task that they
will expect to be completed.
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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby spiphany » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:32 am

Just to add a bit of background to the other answers -- it's important to distinguish between tense (eg past, present, future) and aspect (eg completed, repeated, one-time, ongoing). Classical Greek, like many languages, conflates these two verb characteristics sometimes.

Thus when it's conjugated the aorist indicates both tense (past) and aspect (simple). It is contrasted with the imperfect, which indicates past repeated or unfinished action. Note, however, that there are no present tense forms created with the aorist--unlike the imperfect, which is derived from the present tense stem.

The imperative (and to a lesser degree participles also) don't indicate tense, only aspect. This makes sense, as you noted in your question--they're not verb forms where the distinction past/present/future is really relevant.
IPHIGENIE: Kann uns zum Vaterland die Fremde werden?
ARKAS: Und dir ist fremd das Vaterland geworden.
IPHIGENIE: Das ist's, warum mein blutend Herz nicht heilt.
(Goethe, Iphigenie auf Tauris)
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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby Vitance » Sat Aug 18, 2012 4:45 pm

Your answers have been great guys. I don't want to get off topic, but any tips about the Aorist Optative?

It doesn't have an augment, so am I right to believe it, too, indicates a one-time present action?

I'm stuck on an exercise where I have to translate ἀληθεύσαιμι. Is it possible it means not, "I wanted (at that moment) to tell the truth", but instead, "I want to tell the truth (about one particular thing)"?

Forgive me, I am such a beginner, and everyone seems so fond of pretending there is no translation for the optative or subjunctive, such that my text book refuses to even give me options for possible meanings. (Literally, he just teaches the forms and says NOTHING except "the optative expresses desire".)

Any clues you can give me here?
This thing which they call love, O Cupid,
Unite or else dissolve entire:
Inspire both with equal passion,
Or else inspire neither.
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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Sat Aug 18, 2012 6:25 pm

Vitance wrote:Your answers have been great guys. I don't want to get off topic, but any tips about the Aorist Optative?

It doesn't have an augment, so am I right to believe it, too, indicates a one-time present action?

I'm stuck on an exercise where I have to translate ἀληθεύσαιμι. Is it possible it means not, "I wanted (at that moment) to tell the truth", but instead, "I want to tell the truth (about one particular thing)"?



The form ἀληθεύσαιμι doesn't show up in TLG-E so perhaps this is a textbook example but not an ancient text. To help with translation the context is necessary. Cannot translate an isolated form of a word which doesn't occur in the literature.

Is this the context?

Ταῦτα δ' ὅμως λέγων οὐκ ἔπειθε Ξέρξην, Διὸ ἐπιλέγει· «῏Ω βασιλεῦ, εἰ μὴ ἀληθεύσαιμι, θανάτῳ κολάσαις ἄν με ». 39. Λέων καὶ ἀλώπηξ. Λέων ἐπιτυχὼν

or this

θεῶν θελόντων ἄν δ᾿ ἀληθεύσαιμι ἐγώ


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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby NateD26 » Sat Aug 18, 2012 7:36 pm

Where is the first quote from, Stirling? Can't find it on my end.

This type of out-of-context, isolated translation is something I'm all too familiar with
from my first year in university, and not something that actually helped me internalize
the various meanings of the subjunctive and optative, although that's just my experience.

The optative by itself without the particle ἄν in non-subordinated clauses
expresses a future wish or desire -- ex. may she come here tomorrow -- and it may be preceded by
εἴθε/εἰ γάρ, the difference between the aor. and pres. opt. being that of aspect,
not tense, as explained by others above. (Smyth 1815)

To express an unattainable desire or wish, if it refers to the present -- ex. I wish she would (now)
be here
, with the implied opposite but she isn't -- the imperfect is used and here εἴθε/εἰ γάρ
must be written. If it refers to the past -- ex. I wish she would have been here (yesterday, the other
day, etc.)
with the implied opposite but she wasn't -- the aorist is used. (Smyth 1780)
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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Sat Aug 18, 2012 8:08 pm

Here is a Spanish translation sample:

Valor condicional:
θεῶν θελόντων ἄν δ ̓ ἀληθεύσαιμι ἐγώ

Si los dioses quisieran, diría la verdad.


You wrote:
It doesn't have an augment, so am I right to believe it, too, indicates a one-time present action?


There was a framework much discussed in the 90's which promoted the notion that the aorist was unmarked for aspect. In other words, when the author had no interest in drawing attention to aspect, the default was aorist. Some proponents of this framework also claimed that the aorist was not marked for past tense even in the indicative. Some senior linguists (not just old) took issue with the second point.

Anyway, if we accept the first point *aorist was unmarked for aspect* then all the "happened only once" notions popular in the text books fall away. I don't intend to defend this. Having sat in on the discussion for 10 years about decade ago, I am now more or less an aspect agnostic. Don't think it is nearly as important as all the dissertations on it would lead you to believe.


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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby Vitance » Sat Aug 18, 2012 8:38 pm

I quit.

I'm going back to Latin where everything makes sense. :roll:
This thing which they call love, O Cupid,
Unite or else dissolve entire:
Inspire both with equal passion,
Or else inspire neither.
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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Sat Aug 18, 2012 9:20 pm

Vitance wrote:I quit.

I'm going back to Latin where everything makes sense. :roll:


I am sure Latin is just as complex as Greek when you really get into it.

«῏Ω βασιλεῦ, εἰ μὴ ἀληθεύσαιμι, θανάτῳ κολάσαις ἄν με ».

O! King, if I am not truthful, punish me with death.

Someone else want to improve on this?
I sure it could be improved on.

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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Sat Aug 18, 2012 9:47 pm

NateD26 wrote:Where is the first quote from, Stirling? Can't find it on my end.


Nate,

It is from a Spanish handout on Greek participles. Don't know much Spanish but I looks like a standard sort of first year course handout.

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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby NateD26 » Sat Aug 18, 2012 9:59 pm

Vitance wrote:I quit.

I'm going back to Latin where everything makes sense. :roll:

I've been there. It can be difficult, but hang in there. It's lots of fun once you get the hang of it. :)

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:«῏Ω βασιλεῦ, εἰ μὴ ἀληθεύσαιμι, θανάτῳ κολάσαις ἄν με ».

O! King, if I am not truthful, punish me with death.

Someone else want to improve on this?
I sure it could be improved on.

CSB

See, this is the kind of condition where the protasis is considered
less likely to to be true and the apodosis even unlikelier, the "less vivid" condition.
Your translation would fit into the "more vivid" one, ἐὰν + subj. » fut. ind. The speaker
wants to avoid death and does not think he/she deserves it, and so he/she frames it on the
off-chance he/she wouldn't be able to avoid it.

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:
NateD26 wrote:Where is the first quote from, Stirling? Can't find it on my end.



Nate,

It is from a Spanish handout on Greek participles. Don't know much Spanish but I looks like a standard sort of first year course handout.

CSB

Thanks! I think I've found it via google to be from a 1954 Greek textbook,
Αναγνωστικόν της Αρχαίας Ελληνικής Γλώσσης.
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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby daivid » Mon Aug 20, 2012 4:14 pm

Vitance wrote:I quit.

I'm going back to Latin where everything makes sense. :roll:


If you are a beginner and are asking about both the aorist imperative and the Aorist Optative
then I am not surprised you find Greek complicated but the fault is not Greek
but the text books that you are using that have dropped you in the deep end.
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Re: Aorist Imperative

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:29 pm

Let me try to make it really simple... Imagine giving the order "Jump!" in English. In greek you can use either

1) The aorist imperative (most common). Then you mean that someone must jump once, like "Jump over the fence!", "Jump into that taxi!", etc.

2) The present imperative (less common). Depending on the situation, this could mean "Keep jumping!", "Start jumping!", etc. Some kind of repetitiveness or duration is implied.

So in the imperative, the aorist tense has nothing to do with tense, unlike in the indicative.

Basically, you'll mostly encounter aorist imperatives and present imperatives only rarely. And really, this is quite simple...

As for the optative and subjunctive, when to use which, etc... Those are quite a bit more complicated (at least for me). I think for many people (like for me) it's so complicated that the best approach is just to keep reading Greek until you get it instinctively. Every language language has this kind of illogical stuff you just have to get around somehow; when it's your native language, you just don't notice it.
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