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The verb meminisse is irregular. It has only the active perfect system (memini, meministi, meminit…) and the imperatives memento and mementote. These imperatives are future imperatives by form, and I would like to know if they are future by meaning, too.

Regular verbs have present and future imperatives (eg. ama(te) and amato(te)) and there is a semantic difference between the two. The verb meminisse has only one type of imperative, which is of future form. Is memento(te) semantically present or future imperative? Or perhaps it is both or we cannot tell. I do not recall ever seeing a discussion about this.

The imperative memento came up in two questions recently: Negative Future Imperatives and Parallels for the infinitive in “memento mori”?.

  • Grammatically it is a future imperative. Semantically, the answer is in the question of Sapphira : latin.stackexchange.com/questions/2343/… >future imperatives are used when the command is given for some point in the future – Luc Jan 6 '17 at 10:47
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mementō is formed from the reduplicated perfect stem (IE *me-mn-), not from the present stem (IE *men-). Thus, morphologically it is a perfect imperative, not a future imperative; the latter is always formed from the present stem. The IE imperative ending *-tōd has various different usages in the daughter languages: Greek -τω forms the 3rd sing. present imperative, -σατω the 3rd sing. aorist imperative. memini is a perfect-present (perfect in form, but present in meaning), so there is no reason not to regard mementō as a perfect imperative in form, but present imperative in meaning.

  • This was enlightening. Thank you! I had considered -to to be a future imperative ending, not a general imperative ending. (This is a side effect of not having a wider IE background to Latin.) I asked a separate question about perfect imperatives because it made me curious. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jan 7 '17 at 20:00
  • To complicate matters, though, the PIE ending * -tōd does seem to have been specifically a future imperative -- at least, its reflexes in both Latin and Vedic function as such (though not in Greek, where the 3sg pres. meaning appears to be innovative). In which case mementō might be described as a future imperative built on the perfect stem (which in this verb has a quasi-present meaning). – TKR Jan 8 '17 at 3:01
  • @TKR. The Vedic "imperative II" in -tāt is not exclusively future in meaning according to current indological thinking. The score is thus 2 (Greek and Vedic) to 1 (Latin). There is of course something intrinsically futuristic about any imperative (you are ordering someone to do something that has not yet happened). – fdb Jan 8 '17 at 9:51
  • I don't know enough about Vedic usage to know how well the two languages compare, but the same could be said of Latin -- e.g. scito normally means "know (right now)", not "know (at some future time)". But as you say, it's difficult to draw clear boundaries given the nature of imperatives. – TKR Jan 8 '17 at 22:05

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