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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Modern Descendants of Latin            395
have appeared in what grammarians call the indicative mood Two other
moods, the subjunctive and the conditional^ require special treatment
The latter is still very alive, both in spoken and written French* Spanish^
or Italian. The former leads a precarious and uncertain existence in the
spoken, that is, the living language, yet is usually given so much space
in introductions to French (or German) that the beginner is scared out
of his wits A few facts may help him to regain his confidence The
first is that the subjunctive, except when it replaces the imperative as
it does in Spanish or Italian (p 399),, is practically devoid of semantic
significance., and for this reason alone no misunderstanding will anse
if the beginner should ignore its existence. French grammars, for
instance* are in the habit of telling us that the indicative states a fact
whereas the subjunctive expresses what is merely surmised., feared,
demanded, etc, and then illustrate this assertion by e g je doute qu'tl
vienne (indicative menf) = I doubt that he will come Now this is
palpable nonsense The doubt is not signalled by the subjunctive form
vienne It is expressed by je doute> and the subjunctive of the dependent
dause is as much a pleonasm as is the plural flexion of the verb in Us
se grattent (they are scratching themselves) There is another source of
comfort. Of the two subjunctives in French, the present and the past,
the latter has disappeared from the spoken language; the former sur-
vives, but is very restricted in its movements If you should say, for
instance, je ne crois pas qifil est malade for... smt malade^ as prescribed
by grammar you are merely following what is common usage You
should also not feel unduly intimidated when you wish to express your-
self in written French, because it is possible to travel a long distance
without calling in the subjunctive, provided you take the following
advice: Since the subjunctive is a characteristic of dependent or
subordinate clauses, say what you have to say in simple straightforward
statements, and use alternatives for expressions which are usually
followed by this troublesome mood. The Spanish subjunctive has a
wider range than the French one, in speech as well as in print, be-
sides there are four different forms for the two in French (a present,
two past, and a future subjunctive). The reader who wishes to acquaint
himself with all the ways, by-ways and blind alleys of this mood will
have to go outside The Loom for information. Here it must suffice to
say that in all Romance languages grammar prescribes the subjunctive
(a) after expressions denoting doubt, assumption, fear, order, desire,
e g French douter, cramdre, ordomer> d&sirery Spanish dudar^ temery
rnandar^ desear^ Italian duhtare, temere, mandare, desiderare^ (ft) after