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The Third-Person Imperative

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The Third-Person Imperative

Postby Montmorency » Sat Mar 09, 2013 1:15 am

Caveat: I have academic training neither in linguistics nor in classical languages. I just learned a bit of Attic Greek for myself at some point.

Now, I heard from a linguist recently that there can not be a third-person imperative in Greek or any other language because imperatives are always and necessarily directed towards a second-person.

Her two contentions: 1. There is a hidden second-person in the so-called "third-person" clauses.

2. If not the above, then the clauses in question must be of some other type and not the imperative.

An auxiliary point is her rejection of textbook passages and essays I provided describing the meaning and function of the 3-p imperative as a "prescriptivist" characterization and not necessarily reflective of the actual spoken language.

It sounds like she may have a point. Any counter-arguments?
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Re: The Third-Person Imperative

Postby Montmorency » Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:01 pm

While this was waiting for approval, I came to wonder: doesn't English have some third-person imperatival capacity?

I speak not of "Let X Y", because that's easily dismissed as "(You) let X Y".

No, what I refer to is, what do you call them, quantifiers?

Declarative/Indicative:

"None of you does this"
"Some one of you does this"
"Every/each one of you does this"


Note the "does" - the subjects are clearly third-person. This happens even though the lines are modified with "of you", clearly showing that "of you" is not the same as "you".

Not so with these, also in the declarative/Indicative:

"None of you do this" (This must be a special case as "none" contains both/either "not one" and "not any")
"Some of you do this"
"All of you do this"


So, with the first block of lines, the subjects are clearly third-person, even though modified by "of you", right?!

Here's what all those lines would look like in the imperative:

"None of you do this" 2P/3P
"Some one of you do this" 3P
"Some of you do this" 2P
"Every one of you do this" 3P
"All of you do this" 2P



Isn't that right?


I think the "one" in those (though "each", I think, would get a "does" as well...) makes it third-person, which must surely persist into the imperative, right?


Furthermore, there's that Shakespearean line from Henry V:
Then every soldier kill his prisoners
. This is given in the context of the King ordering the execution of the French POWs. Note, "kill", not "kills", and "his", not "your". Gotta be an archaic/now-extinct form of the third-person imperative in English, right? And can't this line just be reformulated in the terms I've provided above, namely as "Every one (i.e. soldier) do this (i.e. kill his prisoners)"?


Am I on to something, or what?
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Re: The Third-Person Imperative

Postby Montmorency » Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:41 pm

By the way, is this the correct way to translate (exetw as third-person imperative) "Then every soldier kill his prisoners" into Greek:

Pas dh stratiwths tous h(e)autou desmwtas apekteinatw

??
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Re: The Third-Person Imperative

Postby Markos » Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:43 pm

Now, I heard from a linguist recently that there can not be a third-person imperative in Greek or any other language because imperatives are always and necessarily directed towards a second-person.


χαῖρε, φίλε! εὖ ἦλθες πρὸς τούτον τὸν τόπον.

Who would the second person be in this?

Genesis 1:3: καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Θεὸς γενηθήτω φῶς. καὶ ἐγένετο φῶς.
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Re: The Third-Person Imperative

Postby Montmorency » Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:59 pm

The showdown comes tomorrow, but I'd anticipate her response to that as something along the lines of

2. If not the above, then the clauses in question must be of some other type and not the imperative.


so perhaps, 'It must not be imperative but some other jussive'. The problem with this, I imagine, is that it forces that these formerly-known-as 3-p IMP forms be attributed to the optative or subjunctive as alternate forms used suspiciously always in a jussive context, or even to create an entirely new mood just for them.

We've really ought to get this as fine as possible, for my sake as much as the Argument's, as she's got two Masters degrees in Linguistics under her belt and I'm essentially a nobody!
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Re: The Third-Person Imperative

Postby Markos » Mon Mar 11, 2013 4:17 pm

'It must not be imperative but some other jussive'.


I've got no real problem calling the 3p imperative "jussive" or something else but I don't see any reason to do so. Linguists tend to introduce a contant ever-expanding flood of new jargon when the old grammatical terms work just fine to learn the language.
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Re: The Third-Person Imperative

Postby Montmorency » Wed Mar 13, 2013 5:56 am

Well, that didn't go well for me - as I'd feared...

The consensus was that (depending on the formulation), the existence of "third-person imperatives": any evidence I put forth was based on intuition, and therefore unscientific, and meanwhile she had no scientific evidence to the contrary; the whole thing is a potential "research topic"

Here are some of the other points I can still articulate by now, some of them related to my auxiliary assertions of third-person imperatives existing in the English language:

*For now, the "third-person imperative" in Greek or any other language should be considered as a jussive sort of mood apart from the 'real' imperative; terminological differences are perfectly fine and even to be expected, but it's not linguistically correct to call this Greek form an "imperative" (at least until such time as research can...)

*Since linguists can't settle on the conclusion that "languages are just different", they must make principles and parameters to account for cross-linguistic variation; by asserting that the 3p imperative in Greek and the imperative (2p) in English are of the same kind, I must create a viable parameter to account for the apparent variation, especially if I'm to violate the (proposed?) principle of imperatives being only 2nd-person in subject

*Any lines I can come up with that have "God" as a subject should be treated as special cases

*The lines I used to demonstrate a third-person imperative in English were mostly using quantifiers, which are "weird"; when modified by of you, their subjects remain grammatically 3rd-person, but semantically should change to 2nd-person; since no one yet can say how that can be (i.e. how to reconcile the two items), no one can really say what these lines mean

*In lines like "Those kids of yours keep out of my garden, or I'll set the dogs on them", how can I be sure that "those kids" is the subject of the sentence? the concept of "subject" is very nebulous and as of yet poorly understood; what makes something a subject? I must create a theoretical argument for a definition of "subject" that is scientific and convincing while applicable to the sentences I use for example

*One proof that imperatives must be 2nd-person in subject is that when an imperative clause contains a reflexive pronoun (which unlike 'subject' is a matter of fixed & accepted definition), it's always second-person, and reflexive pronouns must always be paired "in their local domain" with an analogous subject; and even if I were to somehow start a trend where "The man kill himself" (as a command) were to become widespread and so fully grammatical, I would still need to devise a parameter to explain it


Many other points were put across, demolished, and replaced in the course of this long discussion; I suppose the above are both the most important and the firmest in my memory. Of course, there's always the chance of mis-recall or incomplete (for the purpose of reconstructing her positions) recall or mis-interpretation, but I probably grilled her too thoroughly for those to be concerns.

Well, perhaps it's a shame that I couldn't come up with anything on the spot to spin a convincing case on her terms. The greater shame, though, is surely that she is already married. :shock: :oops:
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