Expression of optative statements in Latin.

Michael Zwingli

Active Member

I have never had cause to consider it before, but I find myself supposing that the Latin subjunctive takes care of this, since optative statements are just as grounded in uncertainty as are subjunctive statements. Allow me to use an illustration in English. The statement "May I be punished as I disobey" is the optative equivalent of the subjunctive statement "I may be punished as I disobey". In English, the optative statement is distinguished from the subjunctive statement by the placement of may: in the optative statement before I as a modal auxiliary expressing a wish, and in the subjunctive statement after I as a modal auxiliary expressing a possibility. In Ancient Greek, the subjunctive and the optative were expressed as separate, distinct moods, but not in Latin. I believe (apart from being unsure whether ne should be used to conjoin the latter, subjunctive, statement) that both of these expressions would take the Latin form Puniar ut inoboedio. If that is true, then how can one know, when reading and upon encountering a sentence such as Puniar ut inoboedio, whether the writer was making a subjunctive of an optative statement? In writing these types of statements, how may one clarify when he intends to speak optatively, rather than subjunctively? Is context the only cue in Latin? Can one utilize a verb like sim in a "modal" manner to make the distinction clear, or is there some other way of so doing?
 
Last edited:

Pacifica

grammaticissima

  • Civis Illustris

  • Patrona

"I may be punished" wouldn't normally be expressed with the subjunctive alone, but rather with something like puniar licet (if you mean "it's permissible that I be punished") or puniri possum or fortasse puniar (future tense) (if you mean "it's possible that I'll be punished").

It's a pretty common mistake to think that a subjunctive verb can translate an independent "I may" statement like your one above. Actually, though, the subjunctive translates to "I may" and the like mostly in purpose clauses (like "in order that I may...").

Ne has no place here; nothing is being negated.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "as". If you mean "in the same way as", then ut is fine. But if you mean more like "since" (maybe more likely) then you need a cum or qui clause with the subjunctive, or a quoniam clause with the indicative.

Disoboedio is a much more usual verb for "disobey".
 

Michael Zwingli

Active Member

Thank you, @Pacifica. I was using as in the sense of "in as much/far as", "in the same way as", or "to the extent that", but kept the examples short for the sake of simplicity. I thought of ne because I did not know if "I may be punished..." might represent a verba timendi clause or not, though I didn't tend to think so. I am growing aware that use of the Latin subjunctive is quite nuanced, and not simply solved by tossing "may" into an English sentence.

If I understand you, we would have:
Fortasse puniar ut disoboedio..."Perhaps I will be punished in as far as I disobey";
Puniri possum ut disoboedio..."I may (possibly) be punished to the extent that I disobey";
Puniar ut disoboedio..."May I be punished to the extent that I disobey";
Puniar si disoboedio..."May I be punished if I disobey"; and finally the somewhat absurd
Disoboedio ut puniar..."I disobey so that I may be punished."

Would these examples be correct?
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima

  • Civis Illustris

  • Patrona

Yes.

For "to the extent that", it would be more common to add proinde in the first part, or to say prout instead of the simple ut. But I can't say that the simple ut alone is really wrong.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima

  • Civis Illustris

  • Patrona

BDSM.

Servus "Disoboedio," inquit, "Domina, ut puniar!"
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima

  • Civis Illustris

  • Patrona

Disoboedio is a much more usual verb for "disobey".
Actually, I'm not sure where I got that idea. Neither verb is in the classical dictionaries. :/ I was probably misled by English.

What would be really more common would be non oboedio, non pareo, or something like that.
 

Michael Zwingli

Active Member

What would be really more common would be non oboedio, non pareo, or something like that.
Lewis & Short has inoboedio, with a surprising alternate form inobaudio, for "disobey", but it seems to be purely Ecclesiastical, with a couple of references to the Vulgate, one to Augustine and one (I think) to Ambrose.
 

Pacifica

grammaticissima

  • Civis Illustris

  • Patrona

Top