Direct Object of the Complementary Verb

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blutoonwithcarrotandnail
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Direct Object of the Complementary Verb

Post by blutoonwithcarrotandnail » Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:37 pm

In the following sentence:

We ought to help unfortunate people

MISERIS AUXILIUM DARE DEBEMUS

How do you know that help and people are the object of DARE? How do you know that they are not the object of DEBEMUS? I keep hearing that you just have to feel it out. Is there any rule within linguistics which can prove which goes with what?

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Post by Ulpianus » Mon Apr 24, 2006 9:14 pm

Are you actually having trouble with this? In the sentence you give, I do not see how there could be any ambiguity. What sense could be made of the sentence you give other than the intended one?

Contrary to what is sometimes suggested, especially when you start out, Latin does not always disambiguate completely by inflection. After all, for many nouns, the nominative and accusative are even the same. Beyond the very simplest sentences, things like word order and context always play a part. In short, what you have read is true: given accusative/infinitive constructions ambiguity is possible in theory: rarely a problem in practice.

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Post by Deudeditus » Mon Apr 24, 2006 9:17 pm

literally miseris auxilium dare debemus means 'we should give help to unfortunate people'
debeo often takes an objective infinitive, which, in turn takes an object. the rule for this sentence is that it wouldn't make sense any other way.

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Post by blutoonwithcarrotandnail » Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:36 pm

Ulpianus

'We should give help to unfortunate people'

is the sentence. As far as i see this as a matter of science there is no reason why either of the following two sentences is more correct than the other:

1. give people help

2. should help people

In the book it says that 'people' is the object of 'give'

If both combinations are possible than there is no real reason why
'people' should go with one or the other. There is no word order rule either based upon which verb came first either. Give came second in english and took the object. In latin DARE came first among the verbs.

You can say any of the following:

1. give people
2. give help
3. should help
4. should people

Although you can say any of the following the fourth one is weak. The word 'give' has two strong connections. The word 'should' has only one strong connection. I do not think however that in the future this rule is going to work to find that this rules in favor of the word 'give' taking the object since it has more strong connotations.

i don't get it

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Post by edonnelly » Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:58 pm

blutoonwithcarrotandnail wrote: As far as i see this as a matter of science there is no reason why either of the following two sentences is more correct than the other:

1. give people help

2. should help people
I think the two translations you are considering here are:

1. We ought to give people help.
2. We should help people.

While both have the same meaning in English, only #1 is a literal translation of the Latin. #2 would require a verb in the place of "auxilium" (a noun).

Perhaps the confusion arises because in English "help" can be either a noun or a verb, but the Latin "auxilium" is not a verb.
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library

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Post by blutoonwithcarrotandnail » Tue Apr 25, 2006 12:47 am

edonnelly wrote:
I think the two translations you are considering here are:

1. We ought to give people help.
2. We should help people.

While both have the same meaning in English...

... but the Latin "auxilium" is not a verb.

I am misunderstood. The question is not one of translation meaning. I am trying to figure out why it goes with the complementary verb.

I could shorten it to:

1. Ought people
2. Give people

And then i could say that 'Ought' and 'Give' are both possible linguistically but that in general in language 'giving people something' makes more sense than 'ought people something'.

Unfortunately in this case 'Ought' is the main verb and not 'Give.'

Could the whole thing be counterintuitive?

That is why you need the words 'Help' which you began interpreting as a noun/verb confusion between languages.

i do not get it.

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Post by nostos » Tue Apr 25, 2006 1:25 am

blutoonwithcarrotandnail wrote:And then i could say that 'Ought' and 'Give' are both possible linguistically but that in general in language 'giving people something' makes more sense than 'ought people something'.
How can you ought people anything?

For instance, *I ought people cars. It makes no sense linguistically. If you're thinking of 'Ought people not help me?', it's possible but it still requires a verb (to help). Otherwise, you'll get: *ought people me? which makes no sense. Hence, you're always going to need an infinitive verb to go with 'debeo' if you want it to make sense.

Thus, 'debemus' requires a verb in the infinitive to be at all linguistically intelligible. It cannot take a noun or an adjective and still make sense to the average person. The only infinitive in this sentence is 'dare'. Everything else is either a noun or an adjective, and not a verb. The verb 'debemus', requiring another verb in the infinitive, takes 'dare': debemus ('we ought') dare ('to give') auxilium (the noun 'help') miseris ('to the unfortunate').

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Post by blutoonwithcarrotandnail » Tue Apr 25, 2006 1:49 am

nostos wrote:
... which makes no sense. Hence, you're always going to need an infinitive verb to go with 'debeo' if you want it to make sense.

Thus, 'debemus' requires a verb in the infinitive...
What your saying may be some kind of rule when you say the main verb only makes sense if it has an infinitive. DEBEMUS will only make sense if you use DARE. Is this some rule in itself? If you get rid of DEBEMUS and just keep DARE then you would have a seperate sentence with DARE conjugated. Does this lead to some kind of linguistic rule? Can you elaborate?

Question: I am trying to think of another example of this sentence in english but i find that all i can get is 'Would' 'Could' 'Should'. Are these the only three examples?

1. We should run to the wall
2. We could run to the wall
3. We would run to the chair

You can't say: We see fall to the floor

Or would 'We see the man fall to the floor' be an example of this?

Are would, could, should the only possibilities here or are there others.

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Post by nostos » Tue Apr 25, 2006 2:49 am

blutoonwithcarrotandnail wrote:What your saying may be some kind of rule when you say the main verb only makes sense if it has an infinitive. DEBEMUS will only make sense if you use DARE. Is this some rule in itself?
yes, this is a grammatical rule, technically called the 'complementary infinitive' because the infinitive ('dare') complements (or makes complete) the main verb 'debemus'.
If you get rid of DEBEMUS and just keep DARE then you would have a seperate sentence with DARE conjugated.
Exactly. This is right on. If you get rid of 'debemus', you have a separate sentence and now you must conjugate 'dare', like 'miseris auxilium do': 'I give help to the unfortunate'
Does this lead to some kind of linguistic rule? Can you elaborate?
These are some verbs besides 'debeo' that take complementary infinitives:

cupio: to want

miseris auxilium dare cupimus: we want to give help to the unfortunate.

possum: to be able

miseris auxilium dare possumus: we are able to give help to the unfortunate.

There are several others. It's important that you learn the concept behind the complementary infinitive, because after you do, all the verbs that take complementary infinitives (possum/debeo/cupio/etc.) will make sense.
Question: I am trying to think of another example of this sentence in english but i find that all i can get is 'Would' 'Could' 'Should'. Are these the only three examples?
1. We should run to the wall: ad murum currere debemus. 'should' and 'ought' are, for all practical purposes, synonyms.
2. We can run to the wall: ad murum currere possumus

You can't say: We see fall to the floor
exactly. You can't.
Or would 'We see the man fall to the floor' be an example of this?
You can say this, but it's different from '*We see fall to the floor'. Don't worry about this sort of expression until you've mastered the complementary infinitive.

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Post by bellum paxque » Tue Apr 25, 2006 4:20 am

I hope this doesn't throw off the discussion, but it should be noted that the root meaning of debeo is "to owe," as is the case with the French derivation, devoir. Thus, debeo could take a noun. miseris auxilium debeo, I believe, is "I owe the miserable help." But when there is an infinitive matched with it, of course the secondary meaning (namely, moral obligation or duty) takes precedence.

As for the larger point: the majority of Latin sentences contain many points that require inference - points where multiple constructions are possible. But in the context of the larger sentence, this ambiguity nearly always vanishes.

The same is the case in English. E.g., "I can bark." Now, if a dog is speaking, "can" is the modal auxiliary meaning "am able to" and "bark" is a verb referring to a canine sound. However, if a maker of cans is speaking, "can" is the verb meaning "to put into a can" and "bark" is the rind of a tree.

How about John 17:20: non pro his autem rogo tantum, sed et pro eis...
How can we know what the meaning of tantum is--it's an incredibly versatile word? Because we have a point of contrast, it probably means "only," not "so much." Also there is the analogy with non tantum...sed etiam.

Best,

David

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Post by blutoonwithcarrotandnail » Tue Apr 25, 2006 4:38 am

If there is a list of under 10 words which are complementary infinitives i figure i could just memorize them and shortcut understanding the whole thing. Are there less than like 10 major words which are complementary infinitives? You say that:

cupio/debeo/possum

are in the list. I don't suppose anybody could tell me what the other big ones are and i could just forget the whole issue exists for 5 years.

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Post by nostos » Tue Apr 25, 2006 5:03 am

As bellum paxque pointed out, I was hasty and wrong in saying 'always look for a complementary infinitive with debeo' because (and he could have made snide remarks, but bpq is instead, as always, a gentleman) the root meaning is 'to owe'. In fact Spanish does this too: te debo dinero, I owe you money. And I remember it several times in Latin with this meaning. Anyway cupio doesn't take complementary infinitives as often, and neither do most of the other verbs which can take them.

I could probably come up with 20 if I tried, but your response, blutoon, is very disheartening :(

Anyway I'm very tired and going to bed after a long day of studying things completely unrelated to Latin or linguistics or anything else that I'm truly interested in. These boards are my escape.

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Post by blutoonwithcarrotandnail » Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:54 am

somebody bail me out of this one. are there only a few words in latin that take a complementary infinitive or do most of them have the possibility? can anybody bail me out and give me a list of like the 10 most common ones?

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Post by Democritus » Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:43 am

bellum paxque wrote:I hope this doesn't throw off the discussion, but it should be noted that the root meaning of debeo is "to owe," as is the case with the French derivation, devoir. Thus, debeo could take a noun. miseris auxilium debeo, I believe, is "I owe the miserable help."
To answer your more general question, blutoon, the kind of information that b.p. mentions above can be found in a good dictionary. Sometimes you can use your intuition to guess how a verb works, but sometimes the usage won't match one's intuition, so it makes sense to look it up. :)

I don't know but I think this is the part you are having trouble with. Latin just doesn't work the way English does, so your intuitions are failing you. In some cases it's hard to sense why exactly a verb takes an infinitive. But you don't really need to know why -- these things don't always have good explanations. It's just the way the language works. You just have to learn what each verb can do.

Just as a good dictionary tells you the meaning of a verb and the conjugation, etc., it will also indicate what sorts of objects and complements it takes, and what these mean. So, you can look up debeo in the dictionary to see if it can take an object, or an infinitive, and what it means when it does. The dictionary may deliver this information in the form of examples.

A few other verbs for your list:

volo, velle
licet
oportet

There are a lot of situations where Latin uses an infinitive but the equivalent English verb does not. Check your textbook for examples of "indirect statement."

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Post by bellum paxque » Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:52 am

Well, I'll see what the big tome* I've been browsing through lately has to say about complementary infinitives...

Intro 34. "Some Latin verbs have as their object the infinitive of another verb."

-possum i.e. possum id facere - I can do it
-nequeo i.e. nequeo id facere - I can't do it
-desino i.e. desino id facere - I cease to do it/stop doing it
-volo i.e. volo id facere - I want to do it

A list from the same source. Categories:

a) Possibility - possum (can), nequeo (can't)
b) duty, habit - debeo (ought to); soleo, assuesco, consuevi (am accustomed to)
c) wish, purpose, daring, endeavor - volo (wish to), nolo (don't wish to), malo (prefer to), cupio (desire to), opto (choose/wish to); statuo, constituo (resolve/decide to); audeo (dare to); conor (try to) [also, tempto]
d) beginning, ceasing, continuing - coepi, incipio (begin); desino, desisto (stop/cease); pergo, persevero (keep/continue)
e) hastening, hesitating - festino , propero, maturo (hurry); dubito (hesitate)
f) learning, knowing how - disco (learn), doceo [can doceo mean to learn?]; scio (know how)

But I don't suggest you try to memorize the list. If you just learn the meaning, most of the time you'll be able to guess that they can take an infinitive, just as nearly all of them do in English. Some of them will rarely be seen without an infinitive - like possum for instance. Others can be used in multiple ways - debeo, as discussed already; dubito, which can mean "to hesitate" with an infinitive but also to doubt (whether)

-David

*"Bradley's Arnold": Latin Prose Composition, revised by Sir James Mountford, published by Bristol Classical Press

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Post by bellum paxque » Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:57 am

Reading Democritus' reply, I realize I should add the necessity of consulting a decent dictionary with some frequency. Pocket dictionaries probably will not tell you much about the usage of the word. Invest at least in Cassell's Latin-English dictionary (the hardback, not the pocket variety). It's not too expensive, and it provides lots of useful examples.

Intuition is useful to some extent, but Democritus is right: Latin works much differently from English. It's hard to get the hang of it until you read a lot.

Also, please note that the list I gave you did not include impersonal verbs (oportet, taedet, paenitet, pudet, piget, etc) which often "take" infinitives. That's another type of construction altogether. And yes, indirect statements will also yield infinitives a-plenty. But with the verbs in my list, you can usually assume you have some sort of complementary infinitive (sometimes called a prolative infinitive, according to the book I quoted from).

-David

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