Can you solve this Latin grammar puzzle?
September 29, 2011 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Calling all Metafilter Latinists! What's the deal with usually-active Latin verbs appearing as deponents in some cases?

Today I was reading the Wikipedia article on the phrase "Jesus wept," which is apparently rendered in the Vulgate as "Et lacrimatus est Iesus." I don't understand the grammar at work here: I expected the verb to be lacrimavit or even lacrimabat, but the passive perfect doesn't make sense to me.

A cursory Googling turned up this note, which explains only that lacrimare and a few other verbs are occasionally "found used as deponents."

So what's going on? Is lacrimare secretly a semi-deponent? Is this just a Late Latin thing? Am I missing something totally obvious that will make me feel embarrassed when the answers start rolling in?
posted by easy, lucky, free to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Apparently "lacrimatus est" in that context is what this author calls a hapax legomenon (I'm not sure that's the correct terminology, as the phrase does appear in other later Christian Latin writing, but her point that it's a weird word to use).

To answer your grammatical question, this guy talks about the increasing use of perfect passive participles as active pasts in Late Latin.
posted by oinopaponton at 3:08 PM on September 29, 2011

Best answer: Yeah, this is not so much a matter of (classical) Latin grammar as a step on the path to the Romance languages, in which the past is formed with exactly this sort of esse/habere + participle combination.
posted by languagehat at 4:16 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not sure languagehat has the whole story. lacrimo appears as a deponent in a number of tenses in late Latin, not just the perfect. For example, you'll find lacrimari in Hyginus and Tertullian (see the L&S citations for the exact locations). So there's definitely more going on than just the rise of the pple + auxiliary construction.

Why does lacrimo shift moods? I'm not sure, but Burton 2001: 181-2 suggests by analogy to other similar verbs of emotion (e.g. lamentor).
posted by dd42 at 9:51 PM on September 29, 2011

Best answer: Also note the existence of a deponent illacrimor in classical times - Hor. Sat. 2.5.103, possibly also Cic. de Nat. Deor. 3.82 (citations from Courtney 1996: 262, though he tries to emend them out of existence).
posted by dd42 at 10:06 PM on September 29, 2011

Best answer: I'm sure you're right—I've never had what you'd call a high degree of Latinity. I guess a verb that was getting deponentized (deposed?) was a good candidate for early adopter of the proto-Romance formation.
posted by languagehat at 12:22 PM on September 30, 2011

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