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Not clear about 'Scriptum est'

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Not clear about 'Scriptum est'

Postby pmda » Fri Dec 17, 2010 11:03 am

I understand how the perfect tense works in both its active and passive forms. However I'm a bit confused about something.

In Orberg's LLPSA Cap. XXII he has: Ianua villae e foribus constat. Sub foribus est limen, in quo SALVE scriptum est.

I know that 'scriptum est' means: '...is written'. BUT what is the grammar here? Why is it 'Scriptum' and not 'Scriptus'? Is it some kind of use of the Perfect Passive Participe and if so why when, though it may be passive it certainly isn't perfect tense? If I'm right then would a perfect version: 'it was written' be '...in quo SALVE scriptum fuit.' ????
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Re: Not clear about 'Scriptum est'

Postby brookter » Fri Dec 17, 2010 11:13 am

Please take this answer with large spoonfuls of salt, but I can think of two possibilities for the neuter:

a) it could be that the word 'verbum' is understood -- verbum SALVE scriptum est?

b) there is no noun, but a choice of gender still has to be made - and the neuter form is the default for such circumstances.

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David
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Re: Not clear about 'Scriptum est'

Postby pmda » Fri Dec 17, 2010 11:16 am

Thanks. But I'm still not clear as to what kind of word 'scriptum' is. Is it a perfect passive participle.... and if so what's it doing here? Why, for example, does he not have '....in quo SALVE scribitur'. ??

Further on he has: '..Catena qua canis vincitur ex ferro facta est'

Which, it seems to me, ought to mean 'The chain which restrains the dog was made of iron' (perfect tense)...but it doesn't. It seems to be present tense - from the context. So what's going on?
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Re: Not clear about 'Scriptum est'

Postby brookter » Fri Dec 17, 2010 11:45 am

[Same disclaimer as before...]

Yes, I think it's a Perfect Passive Participle, used with est as the perfect passive indicative, one way of translating which is '...has been...' - so 'has been written'. French does much the same, I think: '... dans laquelle est écrit SALVE.'

Also, apparently http://www.freewebs.com/gjcl/tutorial/participles.htm

o The perfect passive participle can be used to form an impersonal passive that removes all responsibility for the action. This is commonly used to describe the action of mobs, which have no distinguishable agent to be the subject of an active construction: Ventum est ad Forum turbae. The mob came to the Forum (It was come to the Forum by the mob).


which would seem to fit here (assuming the mob element isn't obligatory....

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David
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Re: Not clear about 'Scriptum est'

Postby pmda » Fri Dec 17, 2010 11:53 am

It's just that there's nothing in the chapter text that indicates it's in the perfect tense. The first sentence is 'Ianua villae e duabus constat. Sub foribus est limen' all present tense. Why go to perfect passive for the next sentence?
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Re: Not clear about 'Scriptum est'

Postby Craig_Thomas » Fri Dec 17, 2010 1:20 pm

The perfect tense is in a way not really a past tense. It tells you that an action is now completed. "Scriptum est" tells you that the act of writing is finished (which of course it must be before the writing can be read); the word "salve" is no longer being written. "Scribitur", on the other hand, would suggest that the word is still being written.

I'm quite likely to make a mistake with my English grammar here, but it seems to me that the Latin construction is in fact the same as the English one. We could translate the sentence as: Beneath the doors is the threshold, on which "Greetings!" is written". "Is written", like "scriptum est", consists of a present form of "to be" and the past participle of "to write".

It's the same story with "facta est". The chain "is made" from iron. No longer being made, but still here, in the present, having-been-made.

On the subject of why the passive is used in these instances, it is because the passive voice allows an author or speaker to conceal the agent of an action. This is useful for many reasons: journalists like to use the passive voice to hide the fact that they don't know who-the-devil did what; politicians to deflect their own responsibility; students to add a false air of objectivity. Here Oerberg writes in the passive voice because the critical facts are that the threshold bears the word "salve", and that an iron chain restrains the dog; whoever it was who happened to write the word or make the chain is irrelevant. The very strange alternative would be for Oerberg to have written something like "an engraver named Lucius carved the word "salve" into the threshold of the house" and "the local blacksmith forged a chain which now restrains the dog".
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Re: Not clear about 'Scriptum est'

Postby pmda » Fri Dec 17, 2010 1:28 pm

Craig

Thanks. This is the explanation I was seeking! Mind you all of the grammar information I've seen takes great pains to point out that Perfect is 'past completed' as in it's distinct from 'it was being written '...scribetur' and means 'it WAS written'....but what you say makes perfect sense.... It is written (in fact more literal and direct). Many thanks.
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Re: Not clear about 'Scriptum est'

Postby adrianus » Fri Dec 17, 2010 4:22 pm

De participiorum usu, Allen & Greenough, p.311, §§494, 495
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=AG+495&fromdoc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0001
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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