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German subjunctive (was Re: Aorist across verb classes)

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  • gentlebeldin
    ... This is not entirely correct, sorry! 1. The subjunctive is not a tense, it has forms in all tenses. 2. There are two subjuntives in German. 3. Both have
    Message 1 of 7 , Jun 7, 2002
      --- In lambengolmor@y..., "G. Dyke" <gordon.dyke@b...> wrote:

      > This is an effect that also happens in some more "archaic" tenses like
      > the German subjunctive: which has forms only for the auxiliary and modal
      > verbs (and for some strange reason the verb "to know") all the other
      > verbs having this tense formed with the assistance of a the modal
      > "werden".

      This is not entirely correct, sorry!
      1. The subjunctive is not a tense, it has forms in all tenses.
      2. There are two subjuntives in German.
      3. Both have basic forms (without auxiliary verbs) for all verbs, but
      some of them may coincide with other verb forms.

      Let's concentrate on subjunctive 2 (expressing wishes, irreal

      Example: "singen" (sing). It's a strong verb, past tense "er sang"
      (3. sg.), past participle "gesungen" (that's called ablaut). The
      subjunctive (present tense) would be formed by umlaut mutation of the
      stem vowel in past tense: "er sänge".

      This rule was adopted for the less ancient weak verbs, forming past
      tense with suffix "-t(e)(n)", even for some without ablaut:
      brauchen -> er brauchte -> er bräuchte.

      However, there's a whole class of verbs where the forms coincide with
      past tense, because umlaut mutation is impossible (stem vowel "i/ie"
      or umlaut in past tense). In other cases, the umlaut mutated forms
      were abandoned for historical reasons ("wöllte"), or ancient strong
      forms were replaced by weak forms: "fragen" (ask) has past
      tense "fragte" instead of "frug" now, and the subjunctive 2 would
      be "früge", not "*frägte".

      In all those cases, the subjunctive coincides with forms of past
      tense, and where this could lead to ambiguity, the construction with
      an auxiliary verb ("fragen" -> "würde fragen") was introduced.
      This leads to the consequence that the original forms of the
      subjunctive are almost out of usage in vernacular now, replaced by
      the auxiliary construction even when it isn't necessary.

      They still exist in correct, literary German, however (listen to the
      news in tv :-): "Ich wünschte, Du kämest" (I wished you came).
      Since it is the continuation of an old, natural trend towards weak,
      analytical construction, the subjunctive will probably vanish in the
      standard language, too, whether one likes it or not (I don't :-).

      There's a question connected with ablaut in past tense related to
      nasal infixion: "gehen" (go) -> "er ging". The other direction would
      be "denken" (think) -> "er dachte", cf. "Gedanke" (thought).

      Since one would only expect another vowel here, this is an indication
      for ancient nasal vowel, changing into "in/en/an" later. Such nasal
      vowels remained in some other Indo-European languages (Polish), they
      aren't a mere hypothesis.

      Now nasal infixion plays an important role in Quenya. Is there any
      hint at the former existence of nasal vowels in primitive Elvish?
      (this was my first, never answered question in the Elfling list).


      [I'm allowing this post, because it is instructive to consider these
      mechanisms, but this is getting rather far afield, both from the original
      topic and from Eldarin. I'd also like to ask Hans to repose his final
      question in a separate post, with a new topic description. Carl]
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