Re: (Augmented!) imperfects without past reference

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed May 21 1997 - 07:38:38 EDT

At 9:56 PM -0400 5/20/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
> [examples omitted since I'm not talking about them]
>So does the "desiderative imperfect" exist at all? If so, how can I
>distinguish it from a normal imperfect? It seems plausible that a
>desiderative imperfect *could* exist in a language, since German can use
>"wuenschte" in a similar way (Denn ich wčnschte, als ein Verfluchter selber
>fern von Christus zu sein zum Besten meiner Brčder...), but how good is the
>evidence for a desiderative imperfect in Greek?

But isn't that German "wuenschte/wčnschte" a subjunctive rather than an
indicative? i.e., isn't it "I would/might wish" rather than "I was wishing"?

The imperfect and the aorist were both used in classical Attic in a
desiderative sense to express unfulfillable wishes--but always with AN,
which is not used with these imperfects in the NT cited by Jonathan. Some
might call this potential, but I think it really is desiderative. Some
might also call it the result clause/apodosis in an elliptical
counterfactual construction with a suppressed protasis, which may be true
but would be hard to demonstrate convincingly. At any rate, I think these
imperfects are actually reflexes of the older imperect and aorist with AN
to express unfulfillable wishes:

        TAUTA AN EPRATTON "I would be performing these acts"
        TAUTA AN EPRAXA "I would have performed these acts"

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:16 EDT