The present infinitive is sometimes used as a predicate in a past tense sentence. The use context is similar to praesens historicum. My grammar gives two examples:
- Nihil Galli respondere, sed in eadem tristitia permanere. (The Gauls did not respond but remained as unhappy as before.)
- Verres hominem in carcerem conici iubet. Ille clamare se nihil fecisse. (Verres ordered the man to be thrown in jail. He cried that he hadn't done anything.)
On the other hand, some perfect stem forms of the first conjugation can be contracted: amavisti > amasti, amaverim > amarim, amavisset > amasset, amaverunt > amarunt. Such contraction is not possible for all verbs, but at least all regular first conjugation verbs are included.
On the third hand, the third person plural has an alternative ending in perfect active indicative: amaverunt is the same as amavere. This alternative ending can be used with any verb.
Now, if I use the alternative ending and contract, I get amare (contracted from amavere, means the same as amaverunt). This looks exactly like the active present infinitive, including all vowel lengths! The same happens with any regular first conjugation verb. So, if I write Galli aliquid clamare (the Gauls yelled something), the word clamare could be interpreted as a historical infinitive or a contracted form of the active perfect indicative. The two interpretations lead to the same meaning.
Is this similarity coincidental, or is there a connection between contracted perfect and historical infinitive? It would be a somewhat unlikely coincidence since both form and meaning coincide for the two constructions — in some contexts at least. Have ancient or modern writers studied or even commented on the matter?
It seems possible to me that the historical infinitive was born this way. People would have used the contracted version with the shorter ending, and it would be then identified with the infinitive because it looks the same. Then the practice would have been extended by analogy to other verbs and persons. First conjugation verbs in third person plural are common, so it does not sound completely unreasonable that all would have started there. Has this theory been studied? If it has been refuted or accepted, why so?