Linguistics thread

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IpseDixit

Re: Linguistics thread

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-11-05, 18:23

dEhiN wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:(My understanding is that this is because subjunctive means something very different in the context of the Romance languages)

What does subjunctive mean specifically in the context of Romance languages that is different from Germanic languages (or even just English)? I'm starting to learn about when to use the French subjunctive, but my belief was you do it when you're unsure of something - kind of like a contrast to the indicative mood?


Yeah, the basic idea is that the subjunctive is the mood of uncertainty and doubt as opposed to the indicative that is the mood of certainty. Also, another important usage of the subjunctive is to express desire and will.

Well, of course this is just a very basic definition, in practice, it's way more complicated and the usage of the subjunctive varies a lot depending on the language and even within the same language (at least in Italian it does).

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-05, 18:30

IpseDixit wrote:Well, of course this is just a very basic definition, in practice, it's way more complicated and the usage of the subjunctive varies a lot depending on the language and even within the same language (at least in Italian it does).

I think that's broadly true of other languages as well. I've seen a fair bit of variation within the different languages I know.

It would be interesting to have a checklist of the chief functions which can be performed by the subjunctive (e.g. indirect speech, comparison, expressing wishes, counterfactuals) and notes on which languages use it for which functions and what kind of internal variation there might be (e.g. register, regional).

For instance, this explanation of the usage of the German subjunctive contains an interesting paragraph:
Important note for those of you who have learned Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, or Rumanian: In these languages, you will have learned about the Conditional and the Subjunctive moods. German Subjunctive II corresponds much more closely to the Conditional mood in these languages (used for saying what you would do or would have done) than to the Subjunctive mood, which is used in these languages primarily in conjunction with certain verbs expressing beliefs, desires and uncertainties (and corresponds to some extent to the Subjunctive I in German in this respect).
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-11-05, 19:02

linguoboy wrote:
IpseDixit wrote:Well, of course this is just a very basic definition, in practice, it's way more complicated and the usage of the subjunctive varies a lot depending on the language and even within the same language (at least in Italian it does).

I think that's broadly true of other languages as well. I've seen a fair bit of variation within the different languages I know.

It would be interesting to have a checklist of the chief functions which can be performed by the subjunctive (e.g. indirect speech, comparison, expressing wishes, counterfactuals) and notes on which languages use it for which functions and what kind of internal variation there might be (e.g. register, regional).


I think that would be quite an impressive feat considering how much it can vary. For example, IME, being a native Italian speaker hasn't helped me much learning when to use the subjunctive in Spanish, Portuguese or French. It's one of the few intances where I can't particularly trust my instinct.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-11-05, 19:20

dEhiN wrote:
vijayjohn wrote:(My understanding is that this is because subjunctive means something very different in the context of the Romance languages)

What does subjunctive mean specifically in the context of Romance languages that is different from Germanic languages (or even just English)? I'm starting to learn about when to use the French subjunctive, but my belief was you do it when you're unsure of something - kind of like a contrast to the indicative mood?

Whereas in German, it's almost entirely limited to if-then constructions. Especially in spoken German, you wouldn't use the subjunctive in (almost) any context where you'd use the subjunctive in a Romance language; instead, you'd use it only after 'if' and for the equivalent of 'would' + verb.

(It's slightly more complicated than this in reality since German has two subjunctives, but one of them is much more common than the other, especially in the spoken language).

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby dEhiN » 2018-11-05, 19:47

So, if one function of the subjunctive, at least in Romance languages, is to express desire, then would you not use it with the verb 'to want'? For example, in French, I always just use the indicative, although I just realized that's in sentences with subject + want (conjugated form) + 2nd verb (infinitive form). However, any conjugation tables/programs/sites I've seen always list the subjunctive forms for French verbs as following "que", which makes me think the subjunctive verb form is used in a subjunctive clause. Meaning, if I said something like subject + want (conjugated form) + that + 2nd clause, the verb in the 2nd clause would take the subjunctive?

What about questions? I remember Vijay made a post in the French Study Group thread where he asked a question, and my girlfriend saw it and remarked that she thought he should've used the subjunctive because a question denotes uncertainty. However, I have seen French questions use the indicative (and I myself have done so as well). Is there linguistically something different about questions that causes them to not fall under the context of "uncertainty", and thus, not require the subjunctive?
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-11-05, 19:54

Can you just post one or more sample sentences that you're not sure how to translate into French? (Any sentences as long as they exemplify what you're wondering about).

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-11-05, 19:57

Don't get too fixated on this one definition. It's a very general and absolutely not exhaustive one. As I've said, in practice, it's all way more complicated and it's absolutely not true that if something denotes uncertainty or desire, then it must necessarily be in the subjuctive mood with a 100% likelihood.

Grammar books usually make a good job of listing the specific instances where you should use this mood.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby dEhiN » 2018-11-05, 20:06

vijayjohn wrote:Can you just post one or more sample sentences that you're not sure how to translate into French? (Any sentences as long as they exemplify what you're wondering about).

Well, really I guess any sentence with "vouloir": je veux aller à Starbucks; tu veux que je vais à Starbucks? In both those sentences, I would not use the subjunctive. Like I already mentioned, in the first sentence you couldn't because the second verb has to be in the infinitive. But what about in the second sentence?

IpseDixit wrote:Don't get too fixated on this one definition. It's a very general and absolutely not exhaustive one. As I've said, in practice, it's all way more complicated and it's absolutely not true that if something denotes uncertainty or desire, then it must necessarily be in the subjuctive mood with a 100% likelihood.

Grammar books usually make a good job of listing the specific instances where you should use this mood.

Ok, thanks for the advice. I guess I'll need to either look up one of my French resources or find one online that explains about it. I've been avoiding learning both the forms and usage of the subjunctive so far in my French studies, but I think it's time I start learning to use it.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-11-05, 20:20

dEhiN wrote:But what about in the second sentence?

In the second sentence, you have to: tu veux que j'aille. You don't use the subjunctive in (the French equivalent of) the first sentence because the subject in both clauses is the same (I want to go to Starbucks = I want that I go/I want myself to go to Starbucks). But you have to when the subjects in each clause are different. I don't know of any Romance languages that behave differently in this regard.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-05, 20:21

IpseDixit wrote:Don't get too fixated on this one definition. It's a very general and absolutely not exhaustive one. As I've said, in practice, it's all way more complicated and it's absolutely not true that if something denotes uncertainty or desire, then it must necessarily be in the subjuctive mood with a 100% likelihood.

Yeah, I think it's important to keep in mind that subjunctive is a morphosyntactic category. That is, it designates a particular subset of verb forms used under particular conditions. So any attempt to match those conditions to more abstract semantic criteria is going to be problematic.

In French, for instance, I've found it's easier just to list out which verbs require it and which don't, in the same way that you break down verbs according to which prepositions before an infinitive. The choice is essentially arbitrary and depends on usage, even if there are certain observable patterns.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby dEhiN » 2018-11-05, 20:32

vijayjohn wrote:But you have to when the subjects in each clause are different. I don't know of any Romance languages that behave differently in this regard.

Ok, that makes sense. Thanks.


linguoboy wrote:In French, for instance, I've found it's easier just to list out which verbs require it and which don't, in the same way that you break down verbs according to which prepositions before an infinitive. The choice is essentially arbitrary and depends on usage, even if there are certain observable patterns.

Thanks, I like that idea! It'll definitely make things easier in learning when and when not to use it.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-11-05, 20:43

linguoboy wrote:
IpseDixit wrote:Don't get too fixated on this one definition. It's a very general and absolutely not exhaustive one. As I've said, in practice, it's all way more complicated and it's absolutely not true that if something denotes uncertainty or desire, then it must necessarily be in the subjuctive mood with a 100% likelihood.

Yeah, I think it's important to keep in mind that subjunctive is a morphosyntactic category. That is, it designates a particular subset of verb forms used under particular conditions. So any attempt to match those conditions to more abstract semantic criteria is going to be problematic.


Yep, I wasn't sure how to express that, but basically it's not just a matter of semantics, it also has to do with what kind of clause you're dealing with. An example from Italian:

Penso che lui sia una persona interessante = I think he's an interesting person (here you have to use the subjunctive because it's a relative clause)

Secondo me, lui è una persona interessante = IMO, he's an interesting person (here you have to use the indicative because it's an independent clause).

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-05, 20:51

IpseDixit wrote:Yep, I wasn't sure how to express that, but basically it's not just a matter of semantics, it also has to do with what kind of clause you're dealing with. An example from Italian:

Penso che lui sia una persona interessante = I think he's an interesting person (here you have to use the subjunctive because it's a relative clause)

Secondo me, lui è una persona interessante = IMO, he's an interesting person (here you have to use the indicative because it's an independent clause).

This is actually the source of the name: One of the meanings of subjunctivus in Latin is "grammatically subordinate" and I've heard some linguists argue on this basis that "subjunctive" should not be applied to verbal forms which can appear in independent clauses.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby IpseDixit » 2018-11-05, 20:54

linguoboy wrote:
IpseDixit wrote:Yep, I wasn't sure how to express that, but basically it's not just a matter of semantics, it also has to do with what kind of clause you're dealing with. An example from Italian:

Penso che lui sia una persona interessante = I think he's an interesting person (here you have to use the subjunctive because it's a relative clause)

Secondo me, lui è una persona interessante = IMO, he's an interesting person (here you have to use the indicative because it's an independent clause).

This is actually the source of the name: One of the meanings of subjunctivus in Latin is "grammatically subordinate" and I've heard some linguists argue on this basis that "subjunctive" should not be applied to verbal forms which can appear in independent clauses.


Funnily enough, in Italian it's called congiuntivo.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby vijayjohn » 2018-11-05, 20:57

IpseDixit wrote:
linguoboy wrote:
IpseDixit wrote:Yep, I wasn't sure how to express that, but basically it's not just a matter of semantics, it also has to do with what kind of clause you're dealing with. An example from Italian:

Penso che lui sia una persona interessante = I think he's an interesting person (here you have to use the subjunctive because it's a relative clause)

Secondo me, lui è una persona interessante = IMO, he's an interesting person (here you have to use the indicative because it's an independent clause).

This is actually the source of the name: One of the meanings of subjunctivus in Latin is "grammatically subordinate" and I've heard some linguists argue on this basis that "subjunctive" should not be applied to verbal forms which can appear in independent clauses.


Funnily enough, in Italian it's called congiuntivo.

The German subjunctive is also called Konjunktiv in German.

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Luís » 2018-11-06, 10:06

IpseDixit wrote:Penso che lui sia una persona interessante = I think he's an interesting person (here you have to use the subjunctive because it's a relative clause)


Interestingly enough, you could use both moods in Portuguese here :

Penso que é uma pessoa interessante = I think he's an interesting person (I'm pretty sure he's an interesting person)

Penso que seja uma pessoa interessante = I think he might be an interesting person (I think he's an interesting person, but I'm not really sure)
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby linguoboy » 2018-11-06, 16:33

In English, you can use the conditional to express conjecture:

I think he's an interesting person.
I (would) think he'd be an interesting person.

Until I typed this out, I didn't realise that "I would think he's an interesting person" is a possible sentence, albeit not one I would typically use. I'm trying to work out how the nuance differs from the second example above.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby dEhiN » 2018-11-06, 16:55

linguoboy wrote:In English, you can use the conditional to express conjecture:

I think he's an interesting person.
I (would) think he'd be an interesting person.

Until I typed this out, I didn't realise that "I would think he's an interesting person" is a possible sentence, albeit not one I would typically use. I'm trying to work out how the nuance differs from the second example above.

For me, the nuance is almost a temporal one. In your second example, the connotation for me is that the speaker probably hasn't yet met the person, and so there's a future quality to the sentence. With the sentence "I would think he's an interesting person", there's a present and/or past quality, as if the speaker has already met the person. That's not to say for me, the second example has to mean future or that the speaker hasn't met the person. It's just implied, and without knowing any more facts (i.e., if the speaker never told me whether they had met the person or not), I would take it as what I just explained.

Secondarily, there's also a register connotation, where your second example connotes a higher (i.e., more refined and educated) register.
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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Vlürch » 2018-11-06, 22:39

Does a list of verb conjugations exist? You know, like this list of noun cases, but for verbs. I've been trying with google, but for some reason can't find anything like that that isn't about specific languages or language families. I guess that could be because verbs have so many more possibilities than nouns, but that's pretty much why I'd want something like that to exist... for conlanging purposes, of course. :P

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Re: Linguistics thread

Postby Naava » 2018-11-06, 22:44

Do you mean something like this and this?


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