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151895Re: Irrealis mood and non-finite verbs

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  • Mark J. Reed
    Apr 1, 2008
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      On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 5:40 AM, R A Brown <ray@...> wrote:
      > Mark J. Reed wrote:
      > > My understanding is that the optative is restricted to non-factual
      > > conditions being wished for/desired/etc,
      > ...and then only when these refer to future time.

      Ah, yes. Saying "If only I had come home in time to save her!" would
      indeed be a desired non-factual condition, but not an optative
      candidate in Greek. I think it'd get the indicative instead of the
      subjunctive, actually, which feels weird to my Romance-based training.

      > But your statement needs another qualification: the compulsory use of
      > the optative is restricted to non-factual conditions and wishes for the
      > future.
      > The optative had other _optional_ uses.

      An optional optative. A literary alliterative distinction? :)

      > But if we assume that 'realis' and 'irrealis' are the ends, poles, or
      > whatever, of the modal continuum, then it is certainly true to say that
      > the optative tends more toward the irrealis end than the subjunctive.

      Which, clearly, tends more that way than the indicative, which can
      still be used for "irrealistic" cases...

      > Personally, while the realis ~ irrealis distinction may be useful in the
      > description of some languages, I do not think it is very helpful in
      > describing either Latin or Classical Greek where the use of the various
      > moods is very much grammaticalized.

      Agreed, but I don't personally regard realis/irrealis as a descriptive
      tool for grammar in the first place (although there may be languages
      whose standard description uses the terminology that way). To me,
      it's more of a theoretical basis for the way the grammar developed,
      and useful in much the same way as physics problems about ideal
      spheres moving with constant acceleration through frictionless media.
      As with any science, reality tends to be messier. :)

      Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>
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