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The optative is an independent mode of the verb in some languages , in other languages ​​it coincides with the subjunctive , while many languages ​​do not have such a form at all. The optative is an unreal mode because it refers to events that the speaker wishes to happen but that do not necessarily actually occur.

Depending on the language, the optative is used for:

  • Wishes ( cupitive optative)
  • (weakened) commands ( prescriptive optative)
  • Possibilities ( potential optative)

The optative as an independent form occurs in Albanian , Faroese , Finnish , Turkish , Romanian and Latvian , among others . There is also the optative in ancient Greek , Sanskrit and Middle Egyptian .

In German , this mode is usually paraphrased using modal verbs , although an exact translation is rarely possible because the modal verbs are not to be equated with the optative. The use of the subjunctive I is generally possible (“Let there be light”), although not necessarily common. The different modes are sometimes marked with additional words or can be determined via the context , otherwise the translation depends on the subjective interpretation of the optative.

The optative in ancient Greek

Normally one uses in ancient Greek the optative with εἴθε ( eíthe ), a particle to be translated in approximation with “oh, if yes ” or “oh, that yes ”. This form of the optative relates to wishes, e.g. B. εἴθε βάλλοις ( eíthe bállois ): "Oh, if you throw it" or "I hope you throw it". Another usage form is the potentialis . It is formed in the main clause with optative and ἄν ( án ), another particle that can be roughly translated with “probably” or “maybe”, in the subordinate clause with εἰ ( ei ) “if” and optative, e.g. B. Χαίροιμι ἄν, εἰ πορεύοισθε ( Chaíroimi án, ei poreúoisthe ): "I am probably happy if you could travel" or "I should be happy if you could travel". In addition, the optative is used in ancient Greek in subordinate clauses of indirect speech ( optātīvus oblīquus ).

The optative in Germanic languages

The old Indo-European kupitive and potentiale optative became the subjunctive in all Germanic languages ​​(clearly visible in Gothic ), while the old, "real" Indo-European voluntative and prospective subjunctive as a mode of will and expectation in Germanic was lost or not built up and formed has been. Its function was predominantly taken over by the optative present tense, which in any case remained intact, which in Indo-European times initially only denoted the possible, the unreal and the generally desired. This development has a parallel in Latin, whose (new) subjunctive is based on Indo-European optative forms, while there v. a. in the consonant conjugation, many old subjunctive forms have become future tense forms. Correspondingly, the Prohibitive (negative desire and prohibition) was formed in ancient Germanic with the combination of * ne + verb form in the optative present tense.

A Germanic innovation in form and function was the optative of the past tense , which denoted the unrealis of past and present, as evidenced by matching documents in Gothic, Old High German , Old English and Old Norse . This use of the (new) optative past tense as unrealis apparently only occurred after the (primitive Germanic) past tense as a former perfect had displaced the Indo-European aorist .

Syntactically, an optative can be implemented in the Germanic languages ​​as a verb first sentence .

The optative in Latin

In Latin, the optative is differentiated according to both the time level and the satisfiability . In all persons, the present subjunctive expresses the presentable wish ( Bene adveniātis! "May you arrive safely!"), The perfect subjunctive the past ( Bene advēneritis! "Hopefully you arrived safely !"), The subjunctive Past tense the unfulfillable wish of the present ( Utinam bene advenīrētis! “If only you [only] arrived safely!”) And the subjunctive past perfect the unfulfillable wish of the past ( Utinam bene advēnissētis! “You would have arrived safely!”). The wish particle utinam can be with the fulfillable wish and must be with the unfulfillable wish. The utinam is always necessary for an unfulfillable wish.

The optative in Sumerian

For example, in Sumerian the optative of the first person is formed differently than that of the other people:

person designation Example (Sumerian) translation
1. Cohortative / hortative ga -na-b-dug I want to tell him / her
2nd / 3rd Precarious ḫe -mu-ù-zu you should know

For Sumerian it should be noted that the "normal" character of the first person in the cohortative (would be a suffix -en ) is usually left out, since the first person is already expressed by using the cohortative prefix . In the case of the precative , the use of personal characters is necessary in order to be able to distinguish between second and third person.

The optative in Swahili

In Swahili, the optative is a common verb form in everyday language. The numerous possible uses emerge from the following examples, the last of which contains the verb form, but which has no wish or purpose meaning. Note that the optative often makes conjunctions such as that or with it superfluous.

Example (Swahili) Translation word for word translation
do wimbo we ‑ like ‑ sing song let us sing a song!
mapenzi yako yatimizwe Will your he ‑ may ‑ be ‑ realized your will will happen
nilimwambia aje I ‑ told ‑ him ‑ may ‑ come I told him to come
usinisumbue you-may-not-bother-me leave me alone!
imempasa end it owes ‑ him ‑ may ‑ go he should go now
najifunza Kiswahili niweze kuzungumza na Watanzania I am learning Swahili I may be able to converse with Tanzanians I am learning Swahili so I can talk to Tanzanians
waacheni watoto wadogo waje kwangu, wala msiwazuie let ‑ them ‑ children ‑ little ‑ like ‑ like ‑ come to ‑ me and ‑ not ‑ ​​like ‑ like ‑ them ‑ not ‑ ​​hinder let the little children come to me and don't hinder them
alimtazama asimtambue he ‑ saw ‑ her ‑ by ‑ may ‑ not ‑ ​​recognize her he looked at her without recognizing her

As you can see, the verb forms contain a lot of information, namely in addition to the person of the subject also that of the object, the tense or the mode, a possible negative and in the second example a passive. This is done through the agglutination of affixes and is described in the Verb Morphology section of the article on Swahili . The Optative which one of the extension -e recognizes only consist of a subject prefix, the prefix Si negative, an optional object prefix and the verb stem, the ending if -a to -e is modified (verbs not -a remain unchanged) .

The optative in Turkish

In Turkish, the optative has many semantic nuances. For example, the Turkish word for " haben " (infinitive: gel mek ), which changes to gel eyim in the optative known there as Dilek-şart kipi and at the same time forms a one-word sentence, can be translated into German as follows , depending on the context :

  • "I can come (once)."
  • "I'll come (once)."
  • "I like to come (once)."
  • "I should come (once)."

Optative in constructed languages

JRR Tolkien gave his artificial language Sindarin an "imperative for all persons", which expresses an optative function in the third person. So tolo, mellon means “come, friend!”, Whereas tolo mellon is to be interpreted as “the friend come / may come”.


Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Euler 2009: 184.