Arvid wrote:Well, of course, I didn't mean that (exactly.) I suppose that sounded like one of the types of comments I most hate when I hear people make them: "Chinese has no grammar" for example. Of course what they mean is that Chinese has no morphology; syntax carries almost all of the grammatical load. English has almost no morphology, but its syntax is a precision instrument, particularly the auxiliary verbs.
What I really meant is that colloquial English at least has a way of evading any rules you can possibly write down. I came to this conclusion contemplating the "intensification infix" as in abso-f***ing-lutely!
Ah -- our view are pretty close then, although my emphasis would be on the fact that spoken language will always be more varied and less codified than any standardized written languages, and thus have more complicated rules than the somewhat simplified written language -- but speaking still seems like a rule-based activity. Even with your example, there must be some rule that says why you have to split the word at that point and can't at any other.
Perhaps by the stage of development of the Greek language represented in the New Testament, with so many non-Greeks learning the language and using it with structures from their own languages affecting their Greek usage, the distinction between finite and infinitive verbs had become hazy.
What do you have in mind with the distinction becoming hazy? Like Irene said, the infinitive eventually fell out of use but I can't think of something that would indicate the distinction becoming hazy.
Bert wrote:Actually "to leave" is the subject of your sentence (of the verb "would be".)It is not a verb, but a (verbal) noun.
I agree that "to leave" (or perhaps the entire "for him to leave") is the subject of "would be," but I would argue that "leave" here is still verb-like even if it is also noun-like -- for one thing it can be modified by an adverb ("for him to leave quickly would be a great loss") while a deverbal noun can't ("his departure quickly would be a great loss"). That's what makes an infinitive an infinitive for me in that it can be used in places where nouns can be used but still preserves many of the properties of a verb.
It is a general statement. If you want to limit this statement, you have to specify what the subject refers to.
That is done in the objective case. In Greek that is done in the accusative case. It is called the accusative of reference. To leave (with reference to him) would be a huge loss.
This is ultimately an issue of terminology and I'm just saying which terminology makes more sense to me. It does seem to me, however, that the nominative limits a finite verb in the same way that the accusative limits the infinitive and so I think it's reasonable to say that they both fill the same role in their respective clauses, namely the subject role. I don't see what's gained by saying that only finite verbs have subjects (and I presume direct objects, indirect objects, and the rest?) -- and then what's a finite verb -- some languages have verb forms that only agree with the subject in gender and number but I see no reason why we wouldn't say these still have a subject. [ETA: never mind about that last question -- I guess we could just say that a finite verb is a verb form that can form an independent sentence -- but then if all other verb forms are really nouns and adjectives, what would a non-finite verb form be?]