LATIN SYNTAX  Some reflection



Some reflection:

- Artistotle considered that the statement or proposition was of primary importance in language. It communicated either what was true or false. He considered the speech of interrogative and imperative to be of secondary interest belonging to the arts of Rhetoric and Poetic.

But language was created by mankind not to discover truth but in order to get people to act. It is essentially pragmatic. So, the final objective of speech is not thought but action. Imperative speech, not indicative, is the primary and fundamental form of speech.
(Russell, W.A. The development of the art of language as exhibited in Latin and in English. p.17)

- The so-called grammatical rules are merely generalizations and systematizations of the practices of writers, and what seem to be exceptions are more often subtle attempts to make meaning clearer by deviating from normal usage.

- The three approaches to learn Latin are the systematic, the historical, and the oral or direct approach.

(Mason Hammond: Latin, a historical and linguistic handbook, Harvard University Press, 1976.)


MOOD - modus = measure, manner; character of the action expressed by a verb

* Indicative: to point out; simply states or denies a fact

* Subjunctive: sub-join, dependent on (conjunctive in Europe) Reference reading

* Subjunctive proper: combined in itself the connotations of will, of wish, of likelihood or expectation, and of contingency

- Rogat me quid sentiam - He asks  me what I feel;

  quid sentiam exponam - I will expound what I feel. (rogat - double accusative)

- Doleam necnon doleam nihil interest. - Whether or not I grieve does not matter.

- Hoc dubium est utrum eam an remaneam. - This is dubous whether I should go or remain.

- Licet tibi ut eas. - It is permitted to you that you may go.

- Mihi persuades ut eam. - You persuade me that I should go.

- Talis est qui nemini noceat. - He is such as would harm no one. (harm takes a dative)

- Ille simplex est qui nos nihil celet. - He is guileless who (or because he) conceals nothing from us.

* Imperative: command, injunction or command

* Infinitive: simply names the action indicated by the verb without restriction of qualification; indeclinable verbal nouns


TENSE - tempus = time

Latin verb shows WHEN the action occurs (present, past) and WHAT kind of action it is (incomplete, complete).


*** PRESENT TENSE in Latin denotes action contemporary with the speaker's utterance, whether the action is simple, continuing, or even prospective.

jacio :

- I throw. (simple present)

- I am throwing. (repetitive present)

- I am going to throw. (prospective)

- a general truth (facio sedem - I make chairs)

- historical (in vivid narrative, the present is used for the perfect)

- with phrases as JAM DIU or JAM DUDUM indicates an action begun in the past but continuing in the present

On the present stem, Latin formed two new tenses: Imperfect and Future

* Imperfect tense:

1) Simple imperfect: immediate past, a continuing, repeated or customary past action; stands in contrast to the perfect

2) Present imperfect: an incomplete action in present time, the action is going on now and is not completed, expressed a general truth

3) Past imperfect: regebat - he ruled in the past and this act of ruling is not regarded as completed

regebat :

 - he ruled

 - he used to rule

 - he was ruling

 - he started to rule

 - he tried to rule

 - he kept ruling

* Future tense: True futurity

*** PERFECT TENSES - simple action, usually past, and completed action were combined by Latin into perfect tense.

- the action is complete in present time

 vicit :

- meaning he has conquered ( and so is now victorious)

- meaning "he conquered" without any reference to whether he is now winner or loser


- meaning I gave

- meaning I have given


- vulgar Latin restored the distinction

  e.g. dixi = I said (simple past action);

  dictum habeo = I have said (completed past action)

Upon the perfect stem were created two new tenses in the indicative:


* Pluperfect tense:

or more than completed - a tense of action that had occurred previously to a past action

* Future perfect tense:

used for action occurring in past time but future in relation to another past action, whether or not the main action had been completed at the moment of speech


PERSON = persona, mask, character an individual assumes on a given occasion

(Notes taken from Mason Hammond: Latin, a historical and linguistic handbook, Harvard University Press, 1976.)