Re: (Augmented!) imperfects without past reference

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed May 21 1997 - 11:15:45 EDT

At 07:38 AM 5/21/97 -0400, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>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"?

Ooops! I'm forgetting that for many German verbs, the subjunctive form is
the same as the simple past tense form. When I looked at that sentence, it
*looked* like a past tense and *felt* like a subjunctive, but this is the
only subjunctive form available for wčnschen.

>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"

But looking at the original examples I cited, how would I *know* that this
is a desiderative imperfect with AN omitted, as opposed to a simple
imperfect, especially since they can also be read sensibly with a normal
imperfect meaning?


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703

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