Re: (Augmented!) imperfects without past reference

From: Jonathan Robie (jwrobie@mindspring.com)
Date: Thu May 15 1997 - 19:56:45 EDT


Earlier, I wrote:

>Robertson calls this category the "potential imperfect" (Big Yellow Tome, p.
>885). I don't see how to construe these passages in a manner that lets the
>imperfect refer to the past. In these passages, the imperfect takes a
>meaning of potential desire - "I should like", "I could wish":
>
>Roma 9:3 (GNT) *HUCOMHN* GAR ANAQEMA EINAI AUTOS EGW APO TOU
>CRISTOU hUPER
>TWN ADELFWN MOU TWN SUGGENWN MOU KATA SARKA,
>Roma 9:3 (RSV) For *I could wish* that I myself were accursed and cut off
>from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race.

News flash: German can do the same thing with its simple past tense form - I
noticed this because my Zčrcher Bibel translates HUCOMHN in Romans 9:3 with
"wčnschte" (Denn ich wčnschte, als ein Verfluchter selber fern von Christus
zu sein zum Besten meiner Brčder...). This is normal German, using the
simple past tense - it is *not* the subjunctive, and it is not
past-referring. However, if I substitute "hoffte" for "wčnschte", it becomes
past-referring (Denn ich hoffte, als ein Verfluchter selber fern von
Christus zu sein zum Besten meiner Brčder...).

Now nobody would claim that the past tense in German is not past-referring,
but I don't really know how a Real Live Linguist would interpret this in
German. I wish I did, since I suspect that the Greek imperfect is probably
similar.

Jonathan

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