Date: Fri, 13 Oct 1995 16:08:50 CDT


Subject: Re: If I was

When I referred to "old grammar books" in my recent posting on the subjunctive,

I was maintaining a slight amount of apico-buccal contact, because lots

of recent books like those used in introductory linguistics classes tend

to dismiss the subjunctive as something that is almost dead anyway. But

we can see from ads-l postings that those reports are, as Twain said once

about some other reported demise, somewhat exaggerated.

For a recent book to look at, try the big Quirk et al., _A_Comprehensive_

Grammar_of_the_English_Language_ (Longman, 1985). This book has lots of

the terminology that Bill Smith was looking for in his posting -- terms like

mandative and optative. Quirk et al. describe both British and American

usage, including the "should + v" for American present subjunctive. Bill

wondered about calling both instances of 'would + v' subjunctive in

"If I would have x'd, you wouldn't have y'd." If you say that the first

'would' is subjunctive, you're mixing reference to meaning and reference to

the traditional name for the form of a verb. But since on occasion one finds

new grammar books dissing old ones, should fogies continue stickling over

mere terminology? An unstated part of my suggestion that one compare the

examples in Spanish and German review grammar books with their English

translations was that in making these comparsons one will find that what is

treated as "subjunctive" morphologically in each language will vary to a

surprising extent.

Another good source for terminology to use in discussing English subjunctive

constructions is Marianne Celce-Murcia & Diane Larsen-Freeman, _The_Grammar_

Book:_An_ESL/EFL_Teacher's_Course_ (Newbury House, now Heinle, 1983) --

Ch 25, "Conditional Sentences" pp. 340-359, and the section titled "Verbs, adje

ctives, and nouns taking subjunctive complements" on pp. 482-84.

If your university library does not have the Quirk book in its reference

section, you should make sure they get it. It'll be hard to get a

library to buy The Grammar Book as the reference work that it is, because

it has "Teacher's" in the title, but a grammarian looking for examples

and terminology will find it to be a valuable reference work. The Quirk book

has just under 2000 pages and costs somewhere around a hundred bucks. Well

worth it. DMLance