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Imperfect/pluperfect forms

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Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby John W. » Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:17 pm

I'd be grateful for a little help in this area.

At Thucydides 6.6.1 we have:

τοσαῦτα ἔθνη Ἑλλήνων καὶ βαρβάρων Σικελίαν ᾤκει,καὶ ἐπὶ τοσήνδε οὖσαν αὐτὴν οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι στρατεύειν ὥρμηντο, ...

'So numerous were the peoples of the Hellenes and of the barbarians who were living in Sicily, and so large was the island against which the Athenians were eager to undertake an expedition, ...'

Because of the context I take ὥρμηντο here as imperfect, though I believe the form could also be pluperfect. I sometimes struggle to distinguish the two in such circumstances owing to my imperfect (!) knowledge of the rules governing formation, and my relative unfamiliarity with the more detailed accidence material in Smyth. In this instance, for example, after the paradigms of contracted verbs, Smyth (section 386) mentions various others, including ὁρμάω; yet, on the basis of Smyth's paradigm, if ὥρμηντο is imperfect, why is the fourth letter η rather than ω?

Apologies for what may well be a very elementary query, but if anyone better versed in this area than I am can point me in the right direction in Smyth, I'd be most grateful.

Best wishes,

John
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby pster » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:23 pm

I don't think it can be imperfect. I don't think that would be Attic.

But I'm working on it. I misread something.
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby pster » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:34 pm

So I take it you do understand why if ὥρμηντο is pluperfect, why the fourth letter η rather than ω?

Because I am not even sure I understand that!
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby pster » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:42 pm

OK, I guess eta is correct for the pluperfect. So, I would say that the imperfect is probably not Attic. The Chicago Perseus puts the pluperfect at 99.47%!
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby John W. » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:36 pm

pster wrote:OK, I guess eta is correct for the pluperfect. So, I would say that the imperfect is probably not Attic. The Chicago Perseus puts the pluperfect at 99.47%!


pster - many thanks. There are a number of other examples in Thucydides (including 2.59.2, 3.92.4, 4.27.4, 4.29.2, 8.40.3 and 8.73.3), in all of which the sense seems to be 'was/were eager'. I think you're right about their being pluperfect, though; could the meaning be 'had become eager', equating to 'were eager'? Otherwise I don't know how to account for the pluperfects.

By the way, later on I'll put another query on the Thucydides thread, on which, if possible, I'd be most grateful for your advice as to what Hornblower says. Sorry to bother you.

Best wishes,

John
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby pster » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:03 pm

I'm probably the least qualified to talk about aspect.

But, the perfect would refer to, for example, my eagerness for Thucydides: pster EAGER-PERF to read Thucydides. I became eager in the past and remain eager.

The pluperfect would refer to my eagerness to buy my first car: pster EAGER-PLUPERF to buy a car. I became eager in the more distant past and remained eager for a period after that, ie until I bought the car.

So in your Thucydides passage, the eagerness came to an end at some point in the past before Thucydides put his account down. So the perfect wouldn't be correct.

What about the imperfect? Well, that's for incomplete, in progress, continuous, or repeated action in the past. Thucydides perhaps could have used it. But, knowing him and his acute sense historical ironics, he probably wants to emphasize the Athenian's eagerness having an endpoint. Hence the pluperfect.

I translate too much as I read, but I actually don't try to translate verb tenses because of the whole aspect business. It ends up requiring more thought about what the English means than the Greek.
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby John W. » Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:10 pm

pster wrote:The pluperfect would refer to my eagerness to buy my first car: pster EAGER-PLUPERF to buy a car. I became eager in the more distant past and remained eager for a period after that, ie until I bought the car.

So in your Thucydides passage, the eagerness came to an end at some point in the past before Thucydides put his account down. So the perfect wouldn't be correct.


But at the time to which he refers - i.e. the period leading up to the dispatch of the Sicilian expedition - the Athenians were still eager. I'm not sure that the pluperfect derives from the fact that the eagerness had ended before Thucydides wrote, since that is true of nearly all the events he describes, and the great majority aren't in the pluperfect.

I had in mind those verbs (see e.g. Smyth 1952 a; rather more detailed is Goodwin, Moods and Tenses, sect. 49) whose perfect is effectively a present, and whose pluperfect therefore equates to an imperfect. Unfortunately I can't see any suggestion that ὁρμάω falls into this category.

Best wishes,

John
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby NateD26 » Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:50 pm

Diogenes' morphological search in TLG database resulted in
ὥρμηντο: (plup ind mp 3rd pl (attic ionic)) (plup ind mp 3rd pl (ionic)) (imperf ind mp 3rd pl)

I'm not sure how accurate those results are. If this verb has a rare kappa-less form in the
perfect or one with an eta instead of the post-contraction omega in the imperfect, perhaps
there's a mention about this somewhere.
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby pster » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:16 pm

John W. wrote:
pster wrote:The pluperfect would refer to my eagerness to buy my first car: pster EAGER-PLUPERF to buy a car. I became eager in the more distant past and remained eager for a period after that, ie until I bought the car.

So in your Thucydides passage, the eagerness came to an end at some point in the past before Thucydides put his account down. So the perfect wouldn't be correct.


But at the time to which he refers - i.e. the period leading up to the dispatch of the Sicilian expedition - the Athenians were still eager.



First off, I repeat my caveat that I am not the best person for this job. You have me a bit confused myself. But let me try. The pluperfect is different from the perfect in that it refers to a state that has a beginning and an end. The perfect only refers to a state that has a beginning. And when we use the pluperfect, we are always referring to the time when the state obtains, so of course the Athenians were eager--that's what we're talking about! The substance is really the state coming into existence and existing. The ending is somewhat secondary. Except when it comes to distinguishing it from the perfect, when it is the main distinguishing feature.

John W. wrote:
I'm not sure that the pluperfect derives from the fact that the eagerness had ended before Thucydides wrote, since that is true of nearly all the events he describes, and the great majority aren't in the pluperfect.



Yes, but this isn't an event we are talking about. It is a state with a beginning and an end. Mental states, especially desires and intentions, are paradigmatic. It can be used for other things in the world that have a switched on/switched off aspect, but it doesn't fit those other things as well. Can you think of another thing that we think of as being in a state in ancient Greece? A frozen lake. Maybe unrest in a city.

John W. wrote:
I had in mind those verbs (see e.g. Smyth 1952 a; rather more detailed is Goodwin, Moods and Tenses, sect. 49) whose perfect is effectively a present, and whose pluperfect therefore equates to an imperfect. Unfortunately I can't see any suggestion that ὁρμάω falls into this category.



I am pretty sure it is not in that category. In those cases, you usually don't even have a present tense to talk about.

I may be wrong. I sometimes wonder why we don't see it more often. I'm on the other computer at the moment but if you go to the Belgian site and do a reverse word look up, you can search for pluperfect endings and see just how often he does use it.
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby NateD26 » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:05 am

I forgot that in middle-passive perfect & pluperfect tenses, there's no kappa.
It is only the marker of the active. Apologies.

If we look at the form itself, it is unequivocally pluperfect:
Initial omicron turns to omega, alpha of the verb stem turns to eta, and there's
no thematic vowel in the perfect & pluperfect of middle-pass endings, hence ὥρμηντο.
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Re: Imperfect/pluperfect forms

Postby John W. » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:12 pm

pster, Nate - many thanks for your comments.

In my reading I've just come across a use of the perfect in what effectively seems a present sense. It's in the first speech of Nicias to the Athenian assembly, in which he is trying to dissuade them from undertaking the planned expedition to Sicily (6.9.3):

καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς τρόπους τοὺς ὑμετέρους ἀσθενὴς ἄν μου ὁ λόγος εἴη, εἰ τά τε ὑπάρχοντα σῴζειν παραινοίην καὶ μὴ τοῖς ἑτοίμοις περὶ τῶν ἀφανῶν καὶ μελλόντων κινδυνεύειν: ὡς δὲ οὔτε ἐν καιρῷ σπεύδετε οὔτε ῥᾴδιά ἐστι κατασχεῖν ἐφ᾽ ἃ ὥρμησθε, ταῦτα διδάξω.

'And in the face of your entrenched attitudes my words would prove weak, if I should advise you to safeguard what you have and not to incur danger with your existing possessions for the sake of what is uncertain and lies in the future; but that you are not hastening on at a timely moment, and that those things for which you are eager are not easy to acquire, this I shall teach you.'

I can only assume that ὥρμησθε here means 'have become eager', in the sense of 'are [currently] eager'.

Best wishes,

John
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