Ransom Notes, III

Pastor Brent MacGuire writes in with two questions:  

  1. When the enclitic "-ne" is added to a word to make an interrogative, does the stressed syllable, per the law of the penult, get pushed back or does it remain as it did before?  "ah MAHT nay" or "AH maht nay"?  Same question for the enclitic "que."

If you try to check this on the internet, as I did (being away from my library), you will find a good deal of  false information.  In fact, the general rule is that when enclitic particles are added to a word, the word accent has to reflect the addition.  Thus, if the penult is short, the accent reverts to the antepenult, and if it is long, it receives the accent.  The exception is a word of three or more syllables with an accent on the antepenult, such as mísera.  In this case we add an accent to the penult and it becomes, míseráque.  There are complications when such a combination functions as a word, but let us leave those aside.

2) I purchased and thoroughly enjoyed listening to your audio lessons on Jenney/Scudder.  Your comments on the Livy readings were itself worth the time and price.  I remember you made a comment in one of the lessons to the effect that, even in English, the grammatical term "infinitive" isn't limited to constructions of the type "to + verb." Could you explain the grammatical concept again and give some examples in English in which an infinitive doesn't involve the word “to.”

The “to” which prefixes most English infinitives is something like the “zu” in German or the “a” in Italian, a means of attaching the infinitive, which is strictly a verb form, to the sentence construction.  This has become universal in English, perhaps because we no longer have a distinctive infinitive ending, unlike German infinitives ending in “-en” or Italian in “-re.”  I am sure there are linguists who would disagree with me, but this is my interpretation of sentences as “We watched him work.”  Other examples involve modal auxiliaries:  “He can run,” which is parallel to “he is able to run,” or “She might go.”  Other common constructions involve do and don’t (Why do you talk to yourself?”), had better, and verbs of perception.

To understand these constructions, it helps to know Latin or Greek or modern Romance and Germanic languates.

Several people have called or emailed me to ask what I think of the condemnation of Donald Trump by what is described as  National Review intellectuals.

I thought James Burnham, Richard Weaver, and, Erik von Kuhneldt-Leddihn were dead.

In several ways, the boys are right.   It they and their kind define American conservatism, then anyone with a drop of self-respect would repudiate the entire movement.  Besides, Trump may be a sociopath and crook—I do not say he is but he may well be—but he is not an ideologue, least of all an ideologue devoted to fleecing the faithful without ever producing—or attempting to produce—results.  Karl Marxist, late in life and contemplating the bizarre twists his movement had taken, declared that whatever he was, he was not a Marxist, and I venture to say that the founders and heroes of American conservatism—as limited as so many of them were in perspective—would say much the same thing about being a conservative today.

I have also received inquiries about some nice things Rush Limbaugh said about an article by Sam Francis, published in a magazine I used to edit.

It is nice to see that Rush, whose showmanship I have always enjoyed, has finally caught up with what Sam and I were saying 20 years ago.  Back when we were making this case, Rush was firmly on the side of Bill Bennet and the neocons, whom he boasted of having as friends.  Still, his partial conversion to sanity is a good thing, though it is much too late to do any good.  Sam is dead, as are most of our best colleagues, and I am out of the game.

Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina