Omission of Jupiter?

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by Flaminius, Sep 14, 2013.

  1. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    A lot of grammars (or at least traditional ones) explain that impersonal verbs about weather (lucescit, pluit etc.) used to have deities for the subject.

    A phrase like this:
    si hominem fulminibus occisit ​
    is usually analyzed as having Jupiter, the subject noun, omitted.

    I am just wondering if a nominative noun was taken out for some reason or it was not there at all in the first place. Is the latter not a piece of evidence for, for example, a trace of ergative constructions in Indo-European?

    Omission of the deity subject seems to me as probable as the old myth of Proto-Indo-European having no complex sentences. I am not however getting polemical or anything because I don't have any solid argument for my impression. I am open to opinions and may change my attitude accordingly.
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2013
  2. dubitans Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria
    German - Austria
    Cf. pluit​, which is actually short for Iupiter pluit.
    If we still believed in him, we'd probably say "He's raining" instead of "It's raining".

    Might it be the other way round? Might our it (English), il (French), es (German) etc. (It's raining, snowing, etc.) be a trace of the ancient deity?
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
  3. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    I wonder if Romans use to implore Jupiter and other deities to please would they rain, snow, brighten. E.g., Pluas! Not much, I think. Neither can I imagine Jupiter replying to supplications, "If you serve me one more suovetaurilia, I shall rain (pluam)." Assuming deities being the missing subjects for these verbs does not explain why they are almost always used in the third person singular.

    A lot of impersonal verbs are about emotions and attitudes. In other words, they are experiences of which one is not at all the master. As one cannot argue or control one's shame (pudet me etc.), so there is no arguing with the weather. If the former class of the verbs can be explained away without invoking deities (Pigritia?), then so can the latter. N'est-ce pas?
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    It is debatable whether “pluit” really means “iupiter pluit”, or whether the Romans simply said “it is raining”, as one says in other languages. It could be that the traditional explanation merely indicates that the Roman grammarians were uncomfortable with verbs without an apparent subject. Latin does have its fair share of indubitably impersonal verbal expressions, e.g. “fas est”.
  5. dubitans Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria
    German - Austria

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