Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Irrealis conditionals

From:Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Date:Saturday, June 30, 2007, 18:39
I'm unsure how to do irrealis conditionals in GSF.

The Wikipedia article
distinguishes between four kinds of conditional, of which the first
two (zero and first) are realis and the second two (second and third)

The realis conditionals are easy; I expect they'll be the same as in
English (and the way I think they work in Modern Greek) -- protasis is
in the past (with past meaning) or the present (with present, future,
or generic/universal meaning) and marked with "if" ("an" in GSF and
MG), and apodosis in past, present, or future, unmarked or optionally
marked with "then" ("tote" in GSF and MG).

The third conditional (contrary-to-fact past events) also looks
doable, at least for the protasis. In both MG and English, the
protasis is in the pluperfect; since GSF has a pluperfect, I could
just use that. en "If you had called me, ..." = el "An me eixes
kalesei, ..." = gsf "An sena ice kalesi mena, ...".

I'm less certain about the apodosis. For past meaning ("would have" in
English), I think MG uses future marker + imperfect of auxiliary verb
"have" + infinitive for this -- this could be analysed as "(future
marker + imperfect of auxiliary) + infinitive" (since future +
imperfect is used for apodoses in general) but perhaps also as "future
marker + (imperfect of auxiliary + infinitive)", and since "imperfect
of auxiliary + infinitive" is also how the pluperfect is formed, I
could use "future marker + pluperfect" as the apodosis form. For
example, en "If you had called me, I would have come" = el "An me
eixes kalesei, tha eixa erthei" = gsf "An sena ice kalesi mena, mena
tha ice erthi".

Where I'm still stuck at the moment is the second conditional (a
current state or event that is known to be false or improbable).
English uses the simple past (or the past subjunctive, which really
only differs in "were" vs. "was") for the protasis, and "would" (or
"could", "might", "should") for the apodosis; GSF uses "an" +
imperfect for the protasis and "tha" + imperfect for the apodosis.

However, I have no imperfect at the moment, so I can't go that easy
route. And if I use the plain past, it'll look like a realis

So far, the options seem to be:

1) invent a new modal, analogous to English "would" -- this way I can
keep "an" + past for the protasis (works well enough for English) and
use modal + verb in the apodosis. "If I won the lottery, I would buy a
car." would become something like "An mena ci kerdhisi to lacio, mena
<would> aghorasi ena aftokinito" - "if I PAST win the lottery, I COND
buy a car"

2) invent an imperfective particle and use MG grammar. Not sure what
form to give this particle, since I'm not sure whether there's
anything I could use as analogy and inspiration, but I'm not sure I
just want to pull something out of my sleeve. Representing whatever
I'd come up with with IMP, I'd have "An mena IMP kerdhisi to lacio,
mena tha IMP aghorasi ena aftokinito".

3) Just use the plain past I have now -- after all, there are a number
of MG verbs which have no separate perfective and imperfective stems,
e.g. ksero "to know", thelo "to want". This would give "An mena ci
kerdhisi to lacio, mena tha ci aghorasi ena aftokinito". A problem
with this is that "tha ci" (FUT PAST) is used for future perfect, and
I'm not sure whether this wouldn't introduce ambiguity with the first
conditional. For example, "An afto ci pari to treno, afto tha ci di
polis endhiaferondas polis apoye" (If she PAST take the train, she FUT
PAST see many.PL interesting.PL city.PL tonight) which could be either
"If she took the train, she will have seen many interesting cities
tonight" (first/realis conditional; MG "An pire [AORIST] to trena, tha
exei dei [FUTURE PERFECT] polles endiaferondes poleis apopse") or "If
she took the train, she would see many interesting cities tonight"
(second/irrealis conditional; MG "An epairne [IMPERFECT] to trena, tha
evlepe [FUTURE  + IMPERFECT = CONDITIONAL] polles endiaferondes poleis

4) invent a conditional particle -- perhaps "bi" based on Russian
"by", though I'm not sure how it is used in Russian. So perhaps "An
mena ci kerdhisi bi to lacio, mena tha ci aghorasi bi ena aftokinito"
or "An mena ci bi kerdhisi to lacio, mena tha ci bi aghorasi ena
aftokinito". (Not sure which is "better".)

The apodosis of third conditional sentences for present meaning is
also similar -- MG has "tha" + imperfect, e.g. "an eixes diavasei to
vivlio, tha ikseres ti simvainei" -- "if you-had read the book, FUT
you-knew what happen" = "if you had read the book, you would know what

Suggestions or comments on which of the four methods above sounds
promising, or something else to try out or consider?

How does your conlang handle irrealis conditionals?

Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>


Douglas Treadwell <epicureanideal@...>
David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>