Aorist /pres inf not in oration obliqua

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Constantinus Philo
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Aorist /pres inf not in oration obliqua

Post by Constantinus Philo » Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:17 pm

As far as I understand Smyth there is often no appreciable difference between the two see Smyth 1865 and consider the following Xen A 3, 2, 5:Αρχαίος όν ημείς ηθελομεν βασιλέα καθισταναι / καταστησαι. Am I right?
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mwh
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Re: Aorist /pres inf not in oration obliqua

Post by mwh » Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:04 pm

No. It’s a matter of aspect (Germ. Aspekt). Smyth 1865 describes it in terms of “continuance” (pres.) vs. “simple occurrence” (aor.). Or it can be thought of in terms of process (pres.) vs. event (aor.). Aspect is not a term Smyth has much use for, but more modern works do, and it’s a very important linguistic concept.
Once you begin to really read Greek instead of plucking random bits and pieces out of your sources your understanding will be greatly enhanced by paying attention to the aspectual distinction between pres. and aor. infinitive. In your Xenophon passage, the present infin. shows that the erstwhile prospect of Ariaeus’ installation as king was envisioned as something more than a simple action, perhaps more like something they were willing to “set about” doing.
The pres./aor. distinction can be subtle. It’s not always strong but it’s always significant. So you should always be sure to register it in your reading.

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Re: Aorist /pres inf not in oration obliqua

Post by jeidsath » Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:16 pm

For those who might be interested, here is the discussion in the new Cambridge Grammar.

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Constantinus Philo
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Re: Aorist /pres inf not in oration obliqua

Post by Constantinus Philo » Wed Apr 03, 2019 6:28 pm

Thanks
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Re: Aorist /pres inf not in oration obliqua

Post by Hylander » Thu Apr 04, 2019 2:12 am

As the text Jeidsath photocopied suggests, the distinction between the present and aorist infinitives in Greek is a distinction of "aspect" similar to the distinction between the imperfective and perfective infinitives in Russian (although of course the usages in the two languages won't overlap precisely). You should find this familiar.

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Re: Aorist /pres inf not in oration obliqua

Post by mwh » Thu Apr 04, 2019 6:51 pm

The pres./aor. aspectual distinction, which I tried to explain in terms of “process” vs. “event” in response to the OP’s difficulty, doesn’t only apply in the infinitive, but much more broadly, across all moods.

Xenophon says “We were willing to make him king,” using the present infinitive καθισταναι rather than the aorist. “We were willing to set about making him king” might be overtranslating it a bit, but it captures how the use of the present differs from the aorist.
If he’d had “us” saying “Let’s make him king” (subjunctive), that too could be present subjunctive rather than aorist. Again the difference is an aspectual one.
Similarly in the optative (e.g. “If only we could make him king” or “If it was up to us we’d make him king”)—present or aorist according to aspect.

Present infinitives and subjunctives and optatives are properly speaking imperfective rather than present (and aorists may be classed as perfective). And in the indicative, where alone the imperfect tense is distinct from the present tense (both tenses are imperfective), we can see more clearly what aspect means, for the aspectual distinction between “present” and aorist infins. etc. corresponds to the distinction between imperfect and aorist indicative—it's the same aspectual distinction, but English-speakers find it easier to comprehend in the indicative than in the other moods..

—I don’t think I’ve expressed this very clearly, but I don’t have time to continue or go back and tidy it up.

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