ναυμαχησείω - desiderative

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.

ναυμαχησείω - desiderative

Postby Scott Lawson » April 27th, 2012, 1:03 am

Carl!
I've learned a new word - desiderative. I was reading the opening lines of Χενοφωντος and came across ἐναυμαχησαν (wished to fight by sea.) Consulting my Middle Liddell I find that it is identified as a desiderative. Now, evidently desideratives in English can either be reportative or performative. Is this true of Greek? Is this a mood, because it looks like the same form/construction is both subjunctive and indicative. Is it a transitional form between the subjunctive and imperative?
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Re: ναυμαχησείω - desiderative

Postby cwconrad » April 27th, 2012, 5:40 am

Scott Lawson wrote:Carl!
I've learned a new word - desiderative. I was reading the opening lines of Χενοφωντος and came across ἐναυμαχησαν (wished to fight by sea.) Consulting my Middle Liddell I find that it is identified as a desiderative. Now, evidently desideratives in English can either be reportative or performative. Is this true of Greek? Is this a mood, because it looks like the same form/construction is both subjunctive and indicative. Is it a transitional form between the subjunctive and imperative?


I don't really know anything about English desideratives. Smyth has something on these -σείω forms at §868b. My vague recollection is that I've seen them primarily in historical narrative -- that may suit your encounter with ναυμαχεὶω in Xenophon. What I've wondered about and never quite figured out was how -- if at all -- they relate to the alternate aorist optative active endings of the 2nd and 3d sg. and 3d pl., -σειας, -σειε(ν), -σειαν (see Smyth §668D). Linguistic historians say that the -σ- marker of the Greek future tense was originally an IE desiderative marker and that it's not related to the -σ- of the First or Sigmatic Aorist. This belongs to the rather arcane and fascinating realm of Greek linguistic archaeology that opens up when you start to study Homeric poetry seriously.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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