Posted by Dennis » Add Comment »
Gonzalez Lodge, best known as the junior author of Gildersleeve’s grammar, asked and answered four questions in 1903 which may still be instructive for us (‘Why?’, The New York Latin Leaflet, 3.75, pp. 3-4).
Stripped from their various sections, here are the four questions:
- Why do a number of grammars give the feminine quae to the interrogative pronoun quis?
- Why do some grammars persist in giving the form for the infinitive passive [as] amatus esse instead of amatum esse?
- Why do our grammarians and teachers persist in giving the perfect participle instead of the supine as the fourth form in the principle parts?
- Why do many teachers and all our editions of Caesar lay so mucn stress on ability to turn direct into indirect discourse and the reverse?
The last question seems so quaint that I won’t discuss it, though the return of Caesar to the new AP exam may lead to an increase in concern over the command (or lack thereof) which students show of oratio obliqua. We may need to revisit the question down the line. For the rest I’ll give a bit of my take and a bit of Lodge’s.
The first of these questions often proves problematic for students because they confuse the relative and interrogative pronouns. Lodge’s remarks are essentially the same as the note I give to my own students, which is that quis truly is indefinite (meaning that the gender of the individual is unknown), and that quae may be used when the gender is known. In this case, it’s equivalent to quae femina or quae puella (vel sim.).
Nominative + Infinitive construction?
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this second question argued over before, and one of the ways that it’s justified is, I think, by appeal to passive verbs like videtur, but that’s atypical and misleading. Lodge refers to ‘certain verbs of saying’, and he must mean passive forms like dicitur and traditur, which are translated as impersonal verbs (i.e., ‘it is said that’). In the aforementioned grammar, Gildersleeve and Lodge discuss just this circumstance, and their examples are instructive:
The apparent use of the nominative with the infinitive, then, is limited to passive verbs of saying (etc.) in the present system (and to be clear, it’s not terribly common, early, or prosaic). What may otherwise be the subject of the infinitive is treated here as a predicate nominative (i.e., it’s construed grammatically with traditur rather than as the subject of fuisse). As Lodge notes in the article, the infinitive ‘extends the meaning of the verb.’
We should note, too, that amatum esse (perfect passive infinitive) is a verb form and caecus esse (or fuisse) is not. Students will never see a perfect passive infinitive with a nominative, so why would it ever seem pedagogically useful or be defended on dubious grounds?
This is a question that people are always raising with various degrees of consternation and appeals to their own teachers, etc., without a clear notion of the reasons behind one system or another. I myself have vacillated on the use of the supine in presenting principal parts in part because the sources available to students tend to vary. At times I’ve been swayed by the dubious notion that students should learn the perfect passive participle for verbs that have them, then the future active participle in its absence, then the supine in the absence of either.
I think that you should use the supine because it simplifies things and allows you to recognize all of the possible forms for a verb without being burdened by memorizing which verbs do or do not have this or that form. Whether a supine is attested or not, we can say what form it would have had, and the supine (though rare) allows us to recognize many other forms easily as well. You may wonder why we should use the supine if the perfect passive participle could likewise serve this purpose, and I think it’s precisely the novelty of the supine. Treating it as part of learning the principal parts keeps it from seeming like just another odd thing in a long list of odd things.
Much of what Lodge says here should be repeated.
The use of the supine as the fourth form of course always has been and is open to objection, but the use of the perfect participle is open to more. No fixed system can be employed, and, pedagogically, it is more difficult to learn in one case a form in um and in another a form in us, than it is always to learn a form in um. The matter of the difference between intransitive and transitive verbs, between impersonal and personal constructions, does not affect the supine.
What of the objection that the supine is rare and often unattested? Lodge similarly says that the form is regular and that the “fact that we have so few supines is no reason to assume that if we had wider literature we would not have more.”
One recent grammar goes so far as to star the supine forms in the paradigm on the ground that they are non-existent. I must confess that this seems to me to be carrying pedantry to an extreme. The same grammarian that stars laudatum in the supine might as well have starred at least a dozen other forms in the paradigms which are just as non-existent as the supine. Who will give us authority for a large number of our perfect forms in the indicative and subjunctive? Who will fill out our future forms for us with references to actual cases? Who will give chapter and verse for many of our imperatives ? And yet it is perfectly right to give them in the paradigm, just as it would be perfectly right, in case we were writing Latin, to use those forms in our composition. As I said before, to assume a regular form in the absence of testimony to the contrary is always admissible.
I would just add a final objection to the use of the perfect passive participle: when used, it is often said to be the neuter singular of the perfect passive participle, which just confuses students who expect that there must be a reason for so specific a form. The truth? That form was chosen as a convoluted substitute for the supine, which had been rejected as rare. Remove the confusion, teach the rare form, show the formal coincidence, and simplify matters for yourself and your students.