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Re: Jovian's Verbs From Hell

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Friday, August 30, 2002, 6:38
En réponse à Christian Thalmann <cinga@...>:

> --- In conlang@y..., JS Bangs <jaspax@U...> wrote: > > > Latin is evil? > > I only had two years of Latin, at which level it was manageable, since > we hadn't looked at more than two or three verb tenses.
?!!! After my first year of Latin we had already seen all tenses, moods and voices of Latin verbs!!! They are not so difficult you know (actually they are extremely simple in my point of view)/ Recently, I
> looked at the conjugation tables at the following link, which > disclosed to me how truly evil the system was. So many tense/mood/ > voice combinations! And all so similar-sounding! =P >
Not really. English's tense/mood/aspect/voice combinations are also extremely numerous, and very much similar sounding in normal speech. The fact that they are mostly isolating forms doesn't change the fact that in normal speech they can get pretty easily mixed up (believe my experience of non-native speaker). Compared to that, the Latin forms are pretty recognizable, and easily analysed anyway (for regular verbs of course ;)) . And look a little closely at the Latin system: three tenses (past, present, future) mixed up with two aspects (imperfect and perfect - the usual terminology is unclear, but you can see very well the distribution by recognising that the present, "imperfect" and future forms are based on one root, the imperfect root, while the "perfect", "pluperfect" and future perfect are the same tenses but based on the perfect root -), three finite moods (indicative, subjunctive and imperative - and subjunctive and imperative don't even allow all tense/aspect combinations -) and two voices (active and passive). There's nothing evil in that. It's actually pretty straightforward.
> > > I realized most of those wouldn't survive the phonetic mangling of > Jovian. Initially, I had planned to keep the perfect tense rather > than the imperfect, but I realized the verb stems would become > unrecognizable and ambiguous in Jovian's restrictive phonology. >
Two concepts here: analogical levelling and replacement of forms. When for instance the future became indistinguishable from the present subjunctive in Vulgar Latin, a new construction using habere + infinitive became used for the future, and from it stem most future tenses in Romance languages (only Romanian IIRC has a different construction for the future). As for analogy, it's what makes the French conjugation of "aimer": to love look regular, while in Old French the stem had a vowel alternation am-/aim-. Thanks to those two processes, most Romance languages managed to keep the Latin system relatively intact (yes, it's true that French doesn't have real perfect forms anymore, but it's because the perfect forms it had - all the compound forms really - shifted meaning to become pure tenses -) and even complexify it, by for instance adding the conditional mood to the indicative/subjunctive/imperative triad, despite all the linguistic erosion that came from sound changes. Forms may change strongly. Structures, on the other hand, tend to stay as they are, while their representants are formally completely changed.
> > As I've said, it's less evil than certain other langs, and the main > evilness was the headaches it caused me until I had finally settled > on a system that was both fluid enough for Jovian and unambiguous > enough (I don't want many important words to become identically- > sounding monosyllables... I still have no idea how French or Irish > can deal with it!). >
What important words are indentical sounding monosyllables? My native language has nearly none of them. The only possibilities I can think of right now are |a|: has vs. |à|: to (one is a conjugated verb, the other one a preposition. Their use is so different that it's nearly impossible to confuse them) and |est|: is vs. |ait|: have (subjunctive present) (here again, found in places so different that no ambiguity can arise). Of course, you have the fact that in French verbs don't agree that much in person anymore (except for orthographical artefacts), but it's not any worse than English, and you seem to be able to deal with that easily ;)) .
> For example, many forms of the verb |ire| look and sound identical > to the 3rd person pronoun. I accepted the ambiguity on the grounds > that |ire| is always followed by an infinitive, but the 3rd person > pronoun mostly isn't. >
Then you know why the few ambiguous forms of French are left as they are: they never appear in the same environment and thus don't need to be distinguished. Christophe. Take your life as a movie: do not let anybody else play the leading role.


Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>