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I was wondering if Gerundives, the verbal adjectives referred to as "passive future participles" by Latin grammarians, can appear as predicates of (true) Ablative Absolute (AA) constructions.

As is well-known, the predicates of AAs can be passive perfect participles (e.g., Cicerone occiso), present participles (e.g., Cicerone loquente), nouns (e.g., Cicerone consule), and adjectives (e.g., Cicerone vivo). Interestingly, active future participles are also found as predicates of AAs, as in the following example from Livy:

Carthaginienses, prima luce oppugnaturis hostibus castra, saxis undique congestis augent vallum. (Liv. 28, 15)

In contrast, Gerundives, which, as noted above, have sometimes been referred to as "passive future participles", seem to be prevented from appearing as predicates in (true) AAs. But perhaps such a prohibition is not well-grounded and examples similar to the following one are also found/possible. Are there examples of this use attested?

Carthaginienses, prima luce oppugnandis castris ab hostibus, saxis augent vallum.


NB 1: the absence of predicative Gerundives from (true) AAs can be inferred from statements like the following one by Vester (1990): "we may argue that the gerundive construction has a lower syntactic level, directly related to the nuclear predication, as opposed to the ablative absolute, which functions on sentence level" (Vester, E. (1990: 304). "Reflections on the gerund and gerundive"). Emphasis/bold mine: Mitomino.

NB 2: true AAs involve "functioning on sentence level". Accordingly, apparent AAs like Insectandis patribus tribunatum gessit (Livy 3, 65,4) 'He spent his tribunate in attacking the patricians' are not to be regarded as true AAs but rather as dominant participle-like constructions that involve lower syntactic embedding (e.g., in this case, Verbal Phrase (VP)-embedding rather than sentential one). As a result, the agent of insectari must be the same as that of the main verb. Importantly, such a restriction does not necessarily apply to "true" AAs. Accordingly, true AAs are those AAs that satisfy the following two conditions: (i) they function as adverbial subordinate clauses AND (ii) they do not involve any obligatory sharing of participants/arguments with the ones of the main clause. This said, it is worth pointing out that for other people only one condition (or even other conditions) must be satisfied.

NB 3: the present post is related to Joonas's insightful point on what a predicate of an AA can be: see his specific question on the (im)possibilitify of finding locative Prepositional Phrases (PPs) acting as predicates of AAs. As pointed out in my answer to his intriguing question, my intuition is that locative/PP phrases cannot be predicates in AAs either.

  • Gratified that yourself is not subscribing to the oft-spoke notion that the gerundive is a passive future participle. "Last Wednesday he said that it ought to be done, so they did it." = "dicit proximo die Mercurii faciendum esse, itaque id fecisse." All of this in the past. "Insectandis Patribus" = "with the Senators it-ought-to-have-been-pursued-with-hostile-intent"; so, the gerundive providing obligation within the framework of an AA. If a gerundive is not a (future) participle then it is disqualified from inclusion in an AA (grammatical rule)? How about "Patres insectati" using – tony Oct 30 '19 at 12:08
  • Continuing: the perfect participle passive? For an AA, the components must not be used to refer to any noun or pronoun grammatically connected to the verb in the main clause. Therefore, linking "the agent of insectari", with the agent of "gessit" violates the AA? Why did Livy use this? Perhaps he was experimenting with his language, causing a stir to see what would happen. – tony Oct 30 '19 at 12:16
  • @tony Thanks for your comments. There is debate in the literature on what a (true) AA is. For example, it is said that a typical trait of true AAs is that these can be claimed to function as true subordinate clauses that are directly adjoined to the main clause/sentence. So true AAs cannot be embedded at a lower syntactic level, e.g., true AA don't adjoin to the verbal phrase, as in Livy's example above nor to any other non-sentential constituent (like the alleged AA discussed in latin.stackexchange.com/questions/409/… ). – Mitomino Oct 30 '19 at 17:15
  • It is easy to understand how an AA could be a subordinate clause; but, these, latter, are usually associated with indirect speech--a problem? What exactly is meant by "Verbal Phrase-embedding rather than sentential one"? Something sentential is between two full-stops or equivalent pauses; between the AA and the end of the sentence? How does the student differentiate between a "dominant particle construction" and an AA? – tony Nov 1 '19 at 11:03
  • @tony As pointed out by Joonas, "it is a matter of taste how things are categorized, so one's AA is not always another's AA". In fact, (true) participial AAs have been defined as those dominant participle constructions that function as adverbial subordinate clauses that adjoin at a sentential level. In contrast, the "fake"/apparent AAs that are adjoined below the sentential level necessarily involve that the agent of the participle and the agent of the clause are the same. This is so because the agent of the main clause has scope over (i.e., is structurally higher than) the fake AA. – Mitomino Nov 1 '19 at 17:24

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