[lit-ideas] Re: Wittgenstein's "Queer" (Seltsam)

  • From: "Judith Evans" <judithevans1@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2007 20:14:43 +0100

>But even before that, a great loss in French was the Latin preterite

the 'past historic'.  Yes, it's a great loss.  

>It would be good to have a good example of oratio obliqua 

I'll try -- but don't hold your breath!

Judy Evans, Cardiff, UK

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx 
  To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx 
  Sent: Sunday, October 14, 2007 7:14 PM
  Subject: [lit-ideas] Wittgenstein's "Queer" (Seltsam)

  "Man müsse ihn zuerst denken, und dann bringt man die Wörter in jene seltsame 

  In Anscombe's translation:

  "One first has to think it, and then one arranges the words in that queer 

  Judy Evans gives us a delightful recollection of her getting 'trained' in 
(written) Language by 'painting by numbers', and adds:

  >It isn't only word order, it's oratio obliqua.
  >I did read that spoken Latin was different.

  Right. I not only read that, but _heard_ it. Jorge-Luis Borges used to say, 
when criticised as not being 'pro-American' enough. "Well, we are all Europeans 
in exile. After all, none of us speak in a Native American Language, and my own 
destiny is to write in that dialect derived from an august imperial language".

  So in general, the Romantics (or Romaniques, or "Romanesque" as I prefer, 
using the art-historical term) think their syntax is just the natural 
development -- as it is -- from Classical Latin. 

  A good point could be made that Classical Latin (as per Ovid, or Cicero) and 
"Vulgar" Latin (from which French and 'Anglo-Norman', as per "Honi soit qui mal 
y pense", for that matter) derive -- are _different_ languages. Rebecca Posner 
(a rather hateful scholar) claims that in her "Introduction to the Romance 
Languages", but I'm hardly convinced.

  There _are_ constructions in modern Romance that would possibly sound _queer_ 
to a Roman. Progressive tenses, for examples,

          "Elle est en train de faire l'excercise"

  -- "she is about to start thinking -- of doing the excercise" would not be 
used by the Romans (no '-ing' progressive forms).

  Present perfect was also somewhat late. "J'ai chante la chanson" -- would be 
a derivation from an hypothetical Latin, "I have the song sung" -- meaning, I 
possess the song, as sung -- which makes sense to me.

  Hypothetical and future endings were new too, 'cantabo' does not really give 

  As for oratio obliqua, yes, that would be a trick.

  But even before that, a great loss in French was the Latin preterite. 
Brigitte Bardot was still speaking of "Et Dieu creat la femme", but it has an 
archaic echo to it today. 

  Oratio obliqua was pretty strict in Latin, but the main idea of the 
subjunctive is pretty much retained in all Romance languages (note the 'fuisse' 
in French).

  Some constructions in oratio obliqua were pretty 'illogical' in the original 
Latin, too, as with 'verbs of fear'. "I fear it will not rain tomorrow" would 
strictly be, "I fear it _will_ rain tomorrow". But this was due to the fact 
that 'fear' already contains an element of negation about it. 

  One good change though was the dropping of nominal endings for things like 
"in domo", and cases like the ablative and the locative -- which were really 
redundant once we perceive the force of the preposition. 

  It would be good to have a good example of oratio obliqua and see why 
Wittgenstein thought it was 'queer' (seltsame)

  J. L. Speranza, Esq. 


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