Pinkster, Harm (1942-) [1990], Latin Syntax and Semantics [info], xii, 320 p.: ill.; 24 cm. [word count] [Pinkster].
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7.5. Personal and impersonal constructions

While discussing embedded predications with constat and difficile est (p. 104 and p. 106, respectively), I referred to the personal constructions (10b) and (13e). crosssection 7.4.5. dealt with the NcI, which may be considered a personal counterpart of constructions such as dicitur + AcI. In this section I deal with the relation between personal and impersonal constructions. Besides the phenomena mentioned above, I also discuss the verbs debere and posse.

7.5.1 Constat

TLL s.v. consto 535.49 calls (10b) an example of an NcI:

(10b) quae si omnia e Ti. Coruncanii scientia … acta esse constarent

I reserve the term NcI for the passive counterparts of the AcI, as treated in crosssection 7.4.5. There is one other Classical instance, Cic. Clu. 104 (see also note 4). There are personal constructions of constare in the sense `to be established, well-known', e.g. (113) and (114):

(113) eorum … quae constant exempla ponemus (`We will give examples of those things that are established', Cic. Inv. 1.68)

(114) cum et factum constat et nomen (`When both the fact and its name are clear', Cic. Part. 42)

Example (10b) cannot very well be viewed in relation with these instances. Also, that which is established in (10b) is not omnia but the state of affairs omnia … acta esse. There is, therefore, as in the case of the NcI, a discrepancy

Figure 7.1

-- 136 --

between the semantic structure and the syntactic structure; this may be represented as in figure 7.1. The Subject of the embedded predication is, as it were, promoted to Subject of the main predicate. In transformational terms one might speak of `Subject-to-Subject raising'. [65]

7.5.2 Copula + adjective + supine

Above (p. 106) I have treated (13e) as an instance as an example of an embedded predication, together with the impersonal constructions.

(13e) difficile est hoc genus exornationis inventu

This is because here, too, difficilis is not predicated of the entity genus exornationis but of the state of affairs invenire genus exornationis. This may be represented as in figure 7.2.

Figure 7.2

This figure indicates that the Object constituent [66] of invenire is promoted to Subject of the main predicate. A parallel is the following instance, much discussed in transformational grammar:

(115a) John is easy to please

(115b) It is easy to please John

The construction of adjective and supine (in -u) [67] is found with the following classes of adjectives (see K.–St. I. 724):

(a) (i) physical characteristics, e.g. asper (`rough'), foedus (`ugly'), pulcher (`beautiful');

(ii) value judgments, e.g. crudelis (`cruel'), honestus (`honourable'), turpis (`shameful');

(b) adjectives meaning `difficult', `easy', `possible', e.g. difficilis (`difficult'), facilis (`easy'), incredibilis (`unbelievable'), mirabilis (`surprising').

-- 137 --

Among the instances mentioned in the literature there are relatively few cases in which the copula esse is present. Most of the instances occur on the noun phrase level. Especially in poetry the use of adjective + supine on the noun phrase level is productive (in particular with dictu). [68]

For a number of adjectives, especially those of class (a), the treatment given above for difficilis is not satisfactory. Thus, (116a) is not synonymous with (116b):

(116a) o rem … visu foedam (`A matter, terrible to see', Cic. Phil. 2.63) [69]

(116b) foedum est istam rem videre

What is terrible is not seeing the matter, but the matter itself. To my mind, of (117a–b) it is slightly less evident that the two expressions are not interchangeable:

(117a) omnia praeteribo quae mihi turpia dictu videbuntur (`I will leave aside all those things that seem to me shameful to say', Cic. Ver. 1.32)

(117b) turpe mihi videtur ista omnia dicere

The facts are shameful, but speaking about them need not necessarily be shameful. In view of the fact that it is difficult generally to apply the description given for difficilis one might consider not to treat the construction copula + adjective + supine in terms of embedded predications, but to regard adjective + supine as a complex unit. [70]

7.5.3 NcI

We have also encountered a discrepancy between syntactic and semantic structure in crosssection 7.4.5. Example (101) could be represented as in figure 7.3.

Figure 7.3

In transformational terms, this is an instance of `Subject-to-Subject raising'.

7.5.4 Debere and posse

At first sight, debere (`must, have to') [71] seems to have a structure similar to that of velle (`want'):

-- 138 --

(118) debeo ire (`I must go')

(119) volo ire (`I want to go')

In other words, a two-place predicate with a Subject and a Complement. From a semantic point of view, it is less attractive to assume a similar structure for (118) and (119). Velle involves a relation of will between someone who wants something (Subject) and something that is wanted (Complement), the element of will being located in the former. Consequently, the Subject constituent is subject to semantic restrictions (must be human). Debere, on the other hand, is more adequately described as containing a relation of obligation between Subject and Complement where the element of obligation is not located in the former. The obligation may be due to external persons or entities. Debeo ire may be described as `it is obligatory, necessary, that I go', comparable to oportet me ire (`I ought to go'). If we assume the same semantic structure for debere as for oportet, the Subject I, semantically an argument of the embedded predication, fulfils the syntactic function Subject with the main predicate (so: Subject-to-Subject raising). [72] This leads to the representation as in figure 7.4.

Figure 7.4

Also in the case of posse in the sense `be possible' [73] a `Raising' analysis might be attractive. An example is (120):

(120) cum haec scribebam V Kalend., Pompeius iam Brundisium venisse poterat (`While I am writing this (25 February), it is possible that P. has already arrived in B.', Cic. Att. 8.9A.2)

What is at stake here, is not so much Pompeius' capacities as the possibility that something has happened. 73a

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Pinkster, Harm (1942-) [1990], Latin Syntax and Semantics [info], xii, 320 p.: ill.; 24 cm. [word count] [Pinkster].
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