Languages (like French)
|From:||DOUGLAS KOLLER <laokou@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, November 7, 2000, 2:07|
From: "Christophe Grandsire"
> In this case,
> adjectives would just be put in three groups: the adjectives which followthe
> dropping rule, the invariable adjectives, and the others (it's exactly howverbs
> are grouped in French: 1st group: verbs in -ER, 2nd group: verbs in -IRthat use
> the addition -ISS, 3rd group: all the other verbs).
This is really interesting if this is the way the French are taught to
understand their own language. When *we* were in school, we were taught four
groups: -ER verbs (verbes de la 1ère conjugaison), -IR verbs (verbes de la
2ème conjugaison)(like "finir"), -RE verbs (verbes de la 3ème
conjugaison)(like "vendre"), and everything else (deemed "irregular"). The
1st, 2nd, 3rd ranking was based on the sheer number of verbs in that
category (though it could probably be easily argued that "irregulars"
outstrip the third conjugation, but perhaps the powers that be wanted to
keep parity with the other Romance langs, and -RE verbs are at least
"regular"). Later, in university, there were hushed rumors about a "3rd1/2"
or "4th" conjugation (verbs in -OIR(E), I think)(I learned 'em as
irregulars). For my lower level students (say, grades 3-6), the texts we're
using take this traditional approach (sans 4th conjugation), with which, of
course, I am at home and comfortable, and they do tend to bunch "irregulars"
of a type together (a luxury *we*, if I remember correctly, didn't always
have). Upper level students (say, grades 6/7-8) use a collegiate text (not
of my choosing), which says that verbs like "dormir" and "sortir" are the
real "-IR" verbs and that verbs like "finir" and "blanchir" are a bizarre
subclass to be treated separately, setting up its own 31/2 groups. Oh, well.
> Of course, the third group
> of adjectives would need more careful explanation, but still there areonly a
> few really irregular adjectives, the other ones follow easily recognized
> patterns. Of course, this wouldn't be simpler than the usual way ofdescribing
> adjectives, but what I'm aiming to is an accurate description ofadjectives in
> spoken French, and the "add -e" rule has nothing to do with the spokenlanguage.
> The problem of the old-fashioned way is that it explains quite well how toform
> feminine adjectives from masculine adjectives in written form, but it hasno
> validity for the spoken language. And of course the rules I explained arequite
> as complex as the ones going with the "add -e" rule, but they were notmeant as
> pedagogical instruments, but simply as an accurate description of theadjective
> in _spoken_ French. And I think you'll agree that my rules are much more
> accurate to explain the phenomenon in spoken French than the "add -e" rulewhich
> only works when the written forms are at hand.
Fair enough. I am a pedagogue so I opt for pedagogical instruments, and
since France is not a preliterate society, I tend not to divorce the written
and spoken language in the way you are, understandably, doing here. Still,
if the feminine form is the font from which all things spring (i.e. that's
the form you do things to), why is the masculine form the citation form?
Surely, if I said, "Comment dit-on 'hot' en français?", I wouldn't get
"Chaude." as an answer, but "Chaud." To be sure, prescriptive grammar and
convention have some role in this, but it's hard to imagine a Frenchman who
had never set foot in school giving me "Chaude." as a response. If "chaude"
were _the_ form, I'd expect it to crop up more.
Kou (anticipating many emails with examples of languages where the citation
form is some reeeeeeally obscure form that no one uses)