Mixed conditional

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bongbang
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Mixed conditional

Post by bongbang » Tue Jan 29, 2019 9:25 pm

The following sentence is from Seneca's Epistula Moralis no. 4.

"Mors ad te venit: timenda erat si tecum esse posset:"

It has been translated as follows.

"Death arrives; it would be a thing to dread, if it could remain with you."

In this apparent contrary-to-fact conditional, why not use the imperfect subjunctive for both the protasis and the apodosis (i.e. "esset" instead of "erat")? Thank you.

mwh
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Re: Mixed conditional

Post by mwh » Tue Jan 29, 2019 10:23 pm

It’s rhetorically stronger, that’s all. Death was to be feared, if it could keep you company. (The moral being death is not to be feared: when it comes it comes, then it’s all over. It doesn't hang around.)

It reminds me of Tacitus’ snappy verdict on the Emperor Galba: capax imperii, nisi imperasset. I always imagine an erat with capax, though in fact there isn’t.

Callisper
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Re: Mixed conditional

Post by Callisper » Tue Jan 29, 2019 11:13 pm

In Latin conditionals with subjunctive protasis and indicative apodosis are not all that uncommon, in particular for expressions of modality. You will often find such constructions with verbs like posse (Dido: "non potui abreptum divellere corpus et undis / spargere?"), velle, debere, oportere, and expressions like satis esse, melius esse, par esse, rectum/justum esse, and the like (and not infrequently with the protasis suppressed). It thus regularly expresses past unreal utility or necessity.

Here we have a case of necessity. (indicated of course by the gerundive)

I suggest you read Pinkster "Oxford Latin Syntax" (vol 1) section 7.157. (As a warning, Pinkster uses a swathe of examples from early comic poets.)

mwh
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Re: Mixed conditional

Post by mwh » Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:30 am

Callisper, certainly it can sometimes be useful to talk in terms of modality, but with respect I’m not at all sure of the relevance of adducing Dido’s "non potui abreptum divellere corpus et undis / spargere?”, where non potui does not mean “Would I not have been able” and there’s not even an implied condition (or “suppressed protasis”). There’s nothing “unreal” about it. It’s a splendidly rhetorical passage, nonetheless.

I’m happy to second the recommendation of Pinkster, which provides a long overdue linguistic updating of the old traditional grammars, even if it is dominated by Plautus (and none too easy to use). We don’t get many questions about Plautus on Textkit, and terminology here tends to be traditional; and few texkittens have access to Pinkster.

Hylander
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Re: Mixed conditional

Post by Hylander » Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:33 pm

A cite to a traditional grammar, Allen & Greenough 517c:
c. Verbs and other expressions denoting necessity, propriety, possibility, duty, when used in the apodosis of a condition contrary to fact, may be put in the Imperfect or Perfect Indicative.

Such are oportet , decet , dēbeō , possum , necesse est , opus est , and the Second Periphrastic Conjugation:—2

“nōn potuit fierī sapiēns, nisi nātus esset ” (Fin. 2.103) , he could not have become a sage, if he had not been born.
“sī prīvātus esset hōc tempore, tamen is erat dēligendus ” (Manil. 50) , if he were at this time a private citizen, yet he ought to be appointed.
“quod esse caput dēbēbat, sī probārī posset ” (Fin. 4.23) , what ought to be the main point, if it could be proved.
“sī ita putāsset, certē optābilius Milōnī fuit ” (Mil. 31) , if he had thought so, surely it would have been preferable for Milo.

[*] Note.--In Present conditions the Imperfect Subjunctive ( oportēret , possem , etc.) is the rule, the Indicative being rare; in Past conditions both the Subjunctive (usually Pluperfect) and the Indicative (usually Perfect) are common.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/tex ... 99.04.0001

It's not the most up-to-date treatment, of course, but its usefulness lies in its availability on-line, and it's not as inaccessible, to me at least, as Pinkster.

Here's a link to Woodcock, A New Latin Syntax (Cambridge MA 1958) at 156 (sec. 200), which is more recent than A&G:

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id= ... up;seq=184

mwh
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Re: Mixed conditional

Post by mwh » Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:39 pm

Yes Pinkster will be of limited use to most of us until it's available on line (but there is an extensive google preview). And yes much of it is old hat: Latin syntax remains what it always was, with or without "modality." The bare facts are in A&G, or most of them, and people who have never used anything else (and have never encountered Pinkster's 1990 Latin Syntax and Semantics) will have initial difficulty coming to terms with the Oxford volume, although everything is described and explained very clearly from the outset. But to have a linguistically respectable treatment of Latin syntax, comprehensive, intelligible and intelligent, and in English at that, is welcome beyond words. And it explains things.

A review here: http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2017/2017-12-43.html.

I've given up buying books, and syntax is not really my thing, but I mean to buy this just as soon as the paperback comes. And then there's vol.2 to look forward to.

It should revolutionize the teaching of Latin, but that won't happen overnight, if ever.

Hylander
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Re: Mixed conditional

Post by Hylander » Thu Jan 31, 2019 2:42 pm

Is Pinkster expected to come out in paperback anytime soon?

mwh
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Re: Mixed conditional

Post by mwh » Fri Feb 01, 2019 11:56 pm

I really don’t know. I was just assuming. But it’s a very long book, and I don’t know how robust a paperback would be.

I should probably tone down my enthusiasm. His treatment of the perfect indicative seeks to elide correspondence with the Greek aorist/perfect differentiation. And I doubt I have the patience to plow all the way through it (over 1400 pages on “the simple clause”). It’s very Dutch.

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