Re: interesting english syntax
|From:||Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>|
|Date:||Monday, September 26, 2005, 16:03|
Elliott Lash wrote:
> In my American New York English, I can say the
> following types of things:
> 1) Were he here, he'd be helping us out.
> 2) Had I known how bad it was, I never would have
> seen it.
> 3) Come spring, the flowers will start to bloom.
> The first two have an inverted subject and verb in the
> first clause, where the verb is in a past or
> "subjunctive" form. It seems to mean the same as "if
> he were" and "if I had known".
Exactly. Very Germanic, but to my ear a little old-fashioned, or at least
literary :-)) In fact, from my readings in (mostly scholarly) German and
Dutch works, it seems to be the preferred way of expressing
if--then/contrary-to-fact statements (as opposed to using the actual word
for "if..."). Quite likely in Old English too, though I wouldn't know...
OTOH, the Romance langs. have nothing comparable; you must use "if" +
The last sentence is
> slightly different in meaning, with a "subjunctive"
> form of the verb. It means something like "when spring
Yes; it strikes me as idiomatic, "come + SEASON". We can't say, "Come
Henry, we'll start the meeting"... I don't recall if Germ./Du. have a
comparable construction, but would bet they do. Again, the Engl. present
subj. used to be used more widely, with if, unless, lest etc. This use with
"come" strikes me as similar to Spanish (general Romance?) cuando + subj. =
indefinite/uncertain versus cuando + indic. = certain
> ...and is it
> more common, used with more than those verbs?
The "were PRON PTC..." and "Had PRON PTC" -- yes; the "COME..." type (and
it's rare in any case, no?), I can't formulate any other comparable
**Turn the leaves, my street will be beautiful.
**Freeze the pond, the fish will die.
> Is there a name for these things.....,Is it
> appropriated for any conlangs?
>Common name?-- don't know. In conlangs?-- it would strike me as a Germanism.