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“sic” a subjunctive? 
Posted: 12 October 2018 03:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I’m curious, are you also referring to the subjunctive mood in general, because it seems, that through common usage the non-subjunctive forms of verbs are gradually replacing the subjunctive forms.

The English subjunctive is definitely on the way out, but it’s going slowly. We can start to see it disappear in Old English one thousand years ago, and it’s been declining ever since. But it’s still around and still productive.

Therefore, why the discontinuation of one form for another? I understand it’s how language evolves, but personally I like the subjective mood-- perhaps it’s the aesthetic tone, which I prefer--regardless I hate to see it go.

Who knows? Why something happens is often obscure in linguistics. As for preferring it, so do I. I use it too (but probably not all the time; like everyone else I probably fail to use about as often as I do.

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Posted: 12 October 2018 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Surely it’s the same use of the subjunctive that one finds in the phrase ‘heaven preserve us from X’ where X can be anything you like

Theoretically, sure, but in fact very few current speakers of English use the phrase ‘heaven preserve us from X’ or anything like it, whereas pretty much everyone is familiar with and occasionally uses (if only to quote the song) “God save the king/queen.” That’s why it’s a formula and can’t be used to exemplify anything about modern English grammar.

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Posted: 12 October 2018 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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"God save the king"--I have always taken this as being a jussive subjunctive, which functions like an imperative, but in the third person.  And for the value of “always” being since I knew enough Latin to know that there was such a thing as the jussive subjunctive.  We also see the jussive subjunctive in the liturgy, in its older forms, e.g. the benediction.  Of course none of this is contrary to Dave’s point about set phrases, but I think most people understand the meaning, even if they don’t know the obsolete grammar.

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Posted: 12 October 2018 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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OP Tipping - 09 October 2018 10:45 PM

Ultimately, it comes down to references. Every single piece of information on Wikipedia should have a relevant reference from a respected source: it is ultimately a cite battle, not an assertion battle. It can be done. .

This works better in theory than in practice, at least for some subjects.  My area of expertise is early baseball.  There is a widespread myth that Alexander Cartwright invented, or at least codified, the game in 1845 (or sometimes 1842).  Furthermore, this is widely believed to be the sophisticate’s version of baseball history.  The naive version assigns credit to Abner Doubleday.  The Cartwright crowd looks with pitying condescension on people who believe the Doubleday story. 

Why people believe the Cartwright version is an interesting topic. I published an article on it some years ago in Baseball Research Journal.  The details mostly don’t matter here, but no one (including himself) thought that Cartwright did this until about sixty years later (by which time he was safely dead).  I have observed a process that happens to people when they get involved with the SABR 19th century baseball community.  They usually were baseball fans with a historical bent all along, and so had previously internalized the Cartwright story.  As they start learning more, they go through an intermediate stage of recognizing that his contributions have been exaggerated, to finally coming to the realization that the story is complete bollocks. 

The next thing to realize is that the historiography of baseball is a complete mess.  Again, the reasons for this are interesting but not really important here.  Interestingly, the absolute worst baseball history books are written by academics.  There are innumerable bad books by amateurs, but they generally lack the breadth of vision to really stink up the joint.  (In fairness, there are a handful of excellent books by academics, too.) The most breathtakingly awful book of baseball history also happens to be a biography of Cartwright written about ten years ago.  It is by a humanities professor at an excellent liberal arts college, and published by Columbia University Press.  I could go on at great length about the various ways it is awful, some of which a competent editor would have spotted even without any specialized knowledge.  But that is beside the point here.

My point is that this is not a fight that can be won via a citations battle.  It would be trivially easy for someone to come up with any number of citations from seemingly reputable sources.  The number of citations I could come up with in response would be paltry.  Worse, some (though not all) would have my name on the author line.  My understanding of the “no original research” rule is that this makes me peculiarly ineligible to discuss the matter.

This isn’t a fight I see winning.  It also isn’t a fight I see as a good use of my time and energy.  I would rather spend my time in research and writing up my research and discussing it with people who are interested in the topic and in discussing it without petty squabbling.  I am not interesting in a Wikipedia Battle Royale, much less in devoting the rest of my life to defending a Wikipedia article from people who know perfectly well that this factoid they heard somewhere is true, and have a mission to miscorrect Wikipedia to reflect this. 

As a side note, the baseball history articles in Wikipedia generally are a mess.  There was a drive some years ago in SABR to improve them.  This drive seems to have petered out.  I suspect that people reached the same conclusions as I did.

I take it from your comment that you are a Wikipedian.  If you want to take this one as a project, I would be happy to feed you information.  But I will be in the cheering section:  not in the scrum.  Feel free to email me if you are interested.  Mine is a yahoo account, with rrhersh.

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Posted: 16 October 2018 01:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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languagehat - 12 October 2018 05:02 AM

Surely it’s the same use of the subjunctive that one finds in the phrase ‘heaven preserve us from X’ where X can be anything you like

Theoretically, sure, but in fact very few current speakers of English use the phrase ‘heaven preserve us from X’ or anything like it, whereas pretty much everyone is familiar with and occasionally uses (if only to quote the song) “God save the king/queen.” That’s why it’s a formula and can’t be used to exemplify anything about modern English grammar.

In these dodgy political times I use the expression “God help us” quite often. I don’t see it as a formula. The agent does have to be pretty omnipotent though or related to Him/Her/Them.

The basic meaning is “may ‘God/Heaven/etc + verb + object”, parts can be replaced as suits the situation.

Slightly unrelated to all that, my bugbear with the subjunctive is its name and function. From Latin ‘under’ plus ‘join’ it obviously points at some linking function which is hidden to me, even in Romance languages where it is used much more than in English (in Dutch it is dying slightly slower than in English but not much).

Can anyone enlighten me on the origin and meaning of the actual word itself?

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Posted: 16 October 2018 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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The word subjunctive comes from the Latin verb subiungere, meaning to join, attach, subdue, bring under control. It comes to English via French, and in that language the sense of to add at the end/after was also attached. I believe the name comes from the fact that in Latin a subjunctive clause is often introduced by and is subordinate to a preposition or relative pronoun (e.g., ut, ne, cum, quid, etc.). The subjunctive clause is therefore subordinate to that word. And in English, subjunctive clauses are almost always translated by making the clause subordinate to may, should, would, etc. (Although I don’t think English grammar had anything to do with the naming, which is based on how the mood works in Latin.)

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Posted: 16 October 2018 05:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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In German the subjunctive is der Konjunktiv, which looks like it should equate to English conjunctive, but that means something different ("being or functioning like a conjunction").

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Posted: 17 October 2018 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Dave Wilton - 16 October 2018 05:04 AM

The word subjunctive comes from the Latin verb subiungere, meaning to join, attach, subdue, bring under control. It comes to English via French, and in that language the sense of to add at the end/after was also attached. I believe the name comes from the fact that in Latin a subjunctive clause is often introduced by and is subordinate to a preposition or relative pronoun (e.g., ut, ne, cum, quid, etc.). The subjunctive clause is therefore subordinate to that word. And in English, subjunctive clauses are almost always translated by making the clause subordinate to may, should, would, etc. (Although I don’t think English grammar had anything to do with the naming, which is based on how the mood works in Latin.)

Thanks Dave, throws a bit more light on the matter.

Also perhaps interesting to note that French has nearly lost the past version of the tense, substituting the more familiar present conjunctive form. Which itself is threatened but still active. English similarly conflates may/might or at least it did when I still lived in Scotland a few years back… is that still so?

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Posted: 18 October 2018 04:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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BlackGrey - 16 October 2018 01:55 AM

languagehat - 12 October 2018 05:02 AM
Surely it’s the same use of the subjunctive that one finds in the phrase ‘heaven preserve us from X’ where X can be anything you like

Theoretically, sure, but in fact very few current speakers of English use the phrase ‘heaven preserve us from X’ or anything like it, whereas pretty much everyone is familiar with and occasionally uses (if only to quote the song) “God save the king/queen.” That’s why it’s a formula and can’t be used to exemplify anything about modern English grammar.

In these dodgy political times I use the expression “God help us” quite often. I don’t see it as a formula. The agent does have to be pretty omnipotent though or related to Him/Her/Them.

The basic meaning is “may ‘God/Heaven/etc + verb + object”, parts can be replaced as suits the situation.

Okay, so what is the correct grammatical analysis of “May subject verb object”? What’s the mood there?

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Posted: 18 October 2018 04:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Okay, so what is the correct grammatical analysis of “May subject verb object”? What’s the mood there?

Technically, it’s not subjunctive, which would require an inflection of the primary verb. It’s a use of modal auxiliary + infinitive to express uncertainty. This is one of the ways that English has become a more analytic language, losing its inflections. Strictly speaking, it’s indicative/subjective mood.

But the may + infinitive construction serves the same function as the subjective indicative in more fully synthetic languages, like Latin. So many mistake it for a real subjunctive.

The construction heaven preserve us (no auxiliary, lack of inflection when one would expect one in the indicative), on the other hand, is either subjunctive or imperative. The two are indistinguishable in form.

[ Edited: 19 October 2018 09:26 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 18 October 2018 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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That’s quibbling, surely. You could argue, to be difficult, that nobody can distinguish between ‘heaven preserve us’ and ‘heaven, preserve us’, but in practice, as I’ve said, nobody uses the comma here, and nobody addresses heaven directly to request anything else.

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Posted: 18 October 2018 02:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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kurwamac - 18 October 2018 01:04 PM

That’s quibbling, surely. You could argue, to be difficult, that nobody can distinguish between ‘heaven preserve us’ and ‘heaven, preserve us’, but in practice, as I’ve said, nobody uses the comma here, and nobody addresses heaven directly to request anything else.

Maybe “God, Damn it.”

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Posted: 18 October 2018 06:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Dave Wilton - 18 October 2018 04:54 AM

Okay, so what is the correct grammatical analysis of “May subject verb object”? What’s the mood there?

Technically, it’s not subjunctive, which would require an inflection of the primary verb. It’s a use of modal auxiliary + infinitive to express uncertainty. This is one of the ways that English has become a more analytic language, losing its inflections. Strictly speaking, it’s indicative/subjective mood.

But the may + infinitive construction serves the same function as the subjective in more fully synthetic languages, like Latin. So many mistake it for a real subjunctive.

The construction heaven preserve us (no auxiliary, lack of inflection when one would expect one in the indicative), on the other hand, is either subjunctive or imperative. The two are indistinguishable in form.

Did you mean to use “subjunctive” in the bolded items above?

I like this

Formulaic subjunctive
The formulaic subjunctive is used in idiomatic expressions to convey the meaning of let or may. It uses the base form of the verb.

Be that as it may…
Heaven forbid!
God bless you.

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Posted: 19 October 2018 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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No, I meant subjective. That’s another name for the indicative.

[ Edited: 19 October 2018 09:23 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 19 October 2018 05:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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It is?  I was a linguistics grad student for too many years, and I never encountered it.  Is it a recent thing?

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