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Irrealis conditionals in GSF

From:Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Date:Friday, July 6, 2007, 12:21
I asked about this a while ago, and also asked some friends of mine
how irrealis conditionals are formed in other languages, for

I think I've decided how to express irrealis conditionals in GSF now;
in case you're interested, read on.

Recap: in Modern Greek, irrealis conditionals look like Αν κέρδιζα το
λαχείο, θα αγόραζα ένα καινούργιο αυτοκίνητο "If
I-won.IMPF the
lottery, FUT I-bought.IMPF a new car" = "If I won the lottery, I would
buy a new car" or like Αν είχα κερδίσει το λαχείο, θα
είχα αγοράσει
ένα καινούργιο αυτοκίνητο "If I-had.IMPF won the lottery, FUT
i-had.IMPF bought a new car" = "If I had won the lottery, I would have
bought a new car".

However, since GSF doesn't (yet?) have a distinction between
imperfective and aorist as Modern Greek does, but just has one past
form (formed with "ci" < έχει + base form, so it's similar
morphologically to the MG perfect), I couldn't easily use that
construction. Especially for the "second conditional" (If I won, I
would...), the protasis would be indistinguishable from realis
conditionals and the apodosis would look like a future perfect (which
is also formed with þa ci).

In the end, I decided to take a leaf out of Russian's book, which uses
past tense + "by" for both protasis and apodosis (and makes no
distinction between second and third conditional -- the two example
sentences I gave above would be expressed the same way, according to
my informant).

In the example sentences she gave me, the "by" was usually after the
"esli" in the protasis (if that word was used, rather than using
inversion), and close to the verb in the apodosis, so I went with
something like that.

I borrowed "by" wholesale, which became "bi", and decided to put it
after "an" (if) in the protasis and after þa (the future particle) in
the apodosis, so the construction would still sort of resemble Modern
Greek. (I'd also use past forms even for present or future meanings.)

Then I decided to do a bit of sound changing -- I decided that "an bi"
would contract to "ambi" with assimilation, and that "þa bi" would
contract to "þambi", with the epenthetic -m- by analogy. (That also
fits the phonotactics of GSF better, since medial [mb] is more common
than plain [b], and even initial [b] is sometimes prenasalised. Plus
it sounds more fun this way :D)

So the example sentences would become "Ambi mena ci ķerðisi to lacio,
mena þambi ci ağorasi ena ķenurĭo aftoķiņito" (if.IRR I PAST win the
lottery, I 'would' buy a new car) and "Ambi mena ice ķerðisi to lacio,
mena þambi ice ağorasi ena ķenurĭo aftoķiņito" (if.IRR I PLUPERF win
the lottery, I 'would' PLUPERF buy a new car), respectively. (Where
þambi is glossed as "would"; basically, a marker of an irrealis
apodosis, used with either "ci" (usually past) or "ice" (usually
pluperfect or future perfect).)

After I had already written that down ( , in case you're
interested), the thought occurred to me that perhaps I could have
borrowed from a Greek verb form, since Russian _by_ is apparently
related to _byt'_ "to be".

However, neither the subjunctive η nor the optative ειη seemed
particularly attractive (they would be pronounced _i_ and _ii_,
respectively, in MG/GSF), nor did the imperative εστω, which is still
in use in MG in constructions such as "even if ..." . So ambi/þambi it
looks as if it's going to be, for the foreseeable future.

Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>