present subj. of 'to be' (was: Fiat Lux)
|From:||Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Sunday, June 24, 2001, 5:50|
At 6:31 pm -0400 22/6/01, Padraic Brown wrote:
>On Fri, 22 Jun 2001, Raymond Brown wrote:
>>>>A more literal translation would be "That there may be light!".
>>>That would be "Siat lux".
>>The present subjunctive of "esse" (to be) is: sim, si:s, sit etc
>Sorry, that should have been "siet". Or perhaps "fuat lux".
I guess before others get horribly confused (and, maybe, wonder if _fuat_
is a typo for or variant of _fiat_ - it ain't either), I'd better explain.
I assumed Padric's _siat_ was an error for the normal Classical _sit_,
where Padraic was adding the most comon present subjunctive, -at, used in
all regular conjugations, except the 1st, and most of the irregular verbs.
But I see that Padraic meant _siet_ which was one of early Classical
The vern "to be" is both irregular and suppletive as it is most (all?)
Indo-European languages. At an earlier date alternative forms existed side
by side, until the normalizing tendency of written Classical language
prescribed certain forms as "correct".
_siem_, sie:s_, _siet_, etc is frequent in the writings of Plautus (died
184 BCE) & Terence (died 159 BCE); it is also found in Lucretius (died 65
BCE). The Lucretian use, however, cannot be taken as evidence of its
continued use the spoken language, as poets are liable to use archaic forms
when it suits them.
_fuam_, _fua:s_, _fuat_, etc are also in Plautus and Terence; examples are
also found in Lucretius & Vergil, but as poets they may well have been
consciously using archaic forms.
By the time of the Empire, however, these forms had become obsolete; the
"Golden" Classical form was: _sim_, _si:s_, sit, etc. If Jerome had
decided to use the subjunctive "to be" in Genesis 1:13, he'd have certainly
written "sit lux". But, as we know, he followed the Septuagint version
and used the verb 'to become', 'to come into being': fiat lux.
But to return to *siat /sIat/ >> /seat/ - this, in fact, is clearly the
form which developed in Vulgar Latin, cf.:
SPANISH: sea, seas, sea, seamos, seáis, sean
FRENCH: sois, sois, soit, soyons, soyez, soient
ITALIAN: sía, sía, sía, siamo, siate, síano
A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
[J.G. Hamann 1760]