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Курсовик The area of the finite verb including particular questions tense, aspect and modal auxiliary usage. The categories of verb morphology: time, possibility, hypothesis, desirability, verb agreement. American sign language and the category of voice.


Тип работы: Курсовик. Предмет: Ин. языки. Добавлен: 21.07.2009. Сдан: 2009. Уникальность по antiplagiat.ru: --.

Описание (план):

The ministry of Higher and Secondary Special Education of the republic of Uzbekistan
Gulistan State University

«The System of English Verbs»

Gulistan 2008
1. Theoretical background

In contemporary semantics a broad distinction is drawn between denotation (referential) approach and language-intrinsic (or language-immanent) approach. This distinction follows from the opposition of two aspects of meaning: denotation and sense. As a rule the analysis of denotation results in the description of specific properties of extralinguistic objects denoted by a word (e.g. B. Pottier's analysis of the field siege (chaise, fauteuil, tabouret, canape, pouf - chair, armchair, stool, sofa, pouf) is known to result in the distinction of such concrete and unique denotational components as S1 - with back, S2 - with legs, S3 - for a single person, S4 - for sitting, S5 - with arms, S6 - made from hard material).
The procedure proposed in the study is based on the principles of language-immanent approach in semantics (cf. E.N. Bendix, E. Coseriu, H. Geckeler, J. Lyons, J. Apresjan, A. Ufimtseva). It is assumed that it is definition of sense in terms of a limited number of semes that can provide the description of the semantic system of language.
Sense (being opposed to denotation) is considered as linguistic (language-immanent) meaning expressing the most essential features of an object denoted by a word.
Sense components, or SEMES (semantic markers in Katzian semantics; classemes in B. Pottier's and A. Greimas's approach) - such as abstract - concrete, definite - indefinite, etc. - reveal structural relations within semantic system. They are few in number and recur throughout the entire vocabulary. Semes are represented as binary / tertiary oppositions. For example, the seme definite - indefinite has binary structure: definite is the positive value (variant) of the seme; indefinite is the negative value (variant).
At present there is no elaborate integral method of the analysis of sense structure of lexemes, and traditionally semantic analysis is carried out only on the paradigmatic level of the lexicon. In this study an attempt was made to propose the technique of the analysis of sense structure which involves the description of both syntagmatic relations (in particular, interrelations of semes and semantic concord of lexemes in the text) and paradigmatic relations in the lexicon (the structure of semantic fields).
Though the technique proposed in this study cannot claim to provide an integrated description of the semantic structure of natural language, it proved to be effective in the analysis of the semantic fields of different language systems. The results of the research can be relevant to structural semantics (description of semantic relations, elaboration of formal representations (frames, thesauri)), they may be applied in lexicography, computational linguistics and language teaching.
The problem of the theme is that the system of the English verb is rightly considered to be the most complex grammatical structure of the language. The most troublesome problems are, indeed, concentrated in the area of the finite verb, and include, in particular, questions tense, aspect and modal auxiliary usage. This seems to be an aim of our work which has always gained the greatest interest in language learning. We can say with little fear of exaggeration that learning a language is to a very large degree learning how to operate the verbal forms of that language.
In Modern English, as well as in many other languages, verbal forms imply not only subtle shades of time distinction but serve for other purposes, too; they are also often marked for person and number, for mood, voice and aspect.
The general categorial meaning of the verb is process presented dynamically, i.e. developing in time. This general processual meaning is embedded in the semantics of all the verbs, including those that denote states, forms of existence, types of attitude, evaluations, etc., rather than actions. Edgar's room led out of the wall without a door. She had herself a liking for richness and excess. It was all over the morning papers. That's what I'm afraid of. I do love you, really I do. And this holds true not only about the finite verb, but also about the non-finite verb. The processual semantic character of the verbal lexeme even in the non-finite form is proved by the fact that in all its forms it is modified by the adverb and, with the transitive verb, it takes a direct object. Mr. Brown received the visitor instantly, which was unusual. - Mr. Brown's receiving the visitor instantly was unusual. - It was unusual for Mr. Brown to receive the visitor instantly. But: An instant reception of the visitor was unusual for Mr. Brown Language Log: How to defend yourself from bad advice about writing The American Heritage Book of English Usage, ch. 1, sect. 24 "double passive." Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
The processual categorial meaning of the notional verb determines its characteristic combination with a noun expressing both the doer of the action (its subject) and, in cases of the objective verb, the recipient of the action (its object); it also determines its combination with an adverb as the modifier of the action.
From the point of view of their outward structure, verbs are characterised by specific forms of word-building, as well as by the formal features expressing the corresponding grammatical categories.
The verb stems may be simple, sound-replacive, stress-replacive, expanded, composite, and phrasal.
The original simple verb stems are not numerous, such verbs as go, take, read, etc. But conversion (zero-suffixation) as means of derivation, especially conversion of the «noun - verb» type, greatly enlarges the simple stem set of verbs, since it is one of the most productive ways of forming verb lexemes in modern English, a cloud - to cloud, a house - to house; a man - to man; a park - to park, etc.

2. The main part

2.1 Categories of verb morphology

What properties of the events described in the following sentences do the morphemes in bold tell us about?

Jimmy will graduate in June.

Jimmy would graduate if he studied.

Jimmy is sleeping.

In the last section we saw how grammatical morphology can specify one or another abstract category for the things that nouns refer to. In this section, we'll look at how grammatical morphology can do the same for verbs, focusing on one particular kind of verb morphology, morphemes that indicate general properties of the participants in the event or state that the verb designates.

Just as things divide naturally into a small number of categories on the basis of dimensions such as number, countability, and shape, events and states also divide naturally into a small number of categories on the basis of several basic dimensions.

2.1.1 Time

The Grammies realized early on that when an event occurred or a state was true often mattered. An utterance like Clark eat berries wasn't much use if the hearer didn't know whether Clark had already eaten the berries, was eating them at that moment, or was going to eat them at some later time. The Grammies developed two kinds of expressions to help them talk about the time of an event or state, absolute and relative expressions. This is a distinction we've seen before, in the context of adjective meaning.

Absolute time expressions label specific points in time, such as January 20, 1203, or points within a repeating unit of time, such as 3:00 pm (which labels a time within the day) and Tuesday (which labels a day within the week). The second type of expression may be used for repeating events or states (I get up at 7:00) or for a single event or state, in which case the Hearer has to be able to figure out which unit of time the Speaker has in mind. That is, I got up at 7:00 is only meaningful if we know which day the Speaker is talking about.

Expressions like yesterday and ago express times relative to the utterance time.

Relative time expressions label points in time relative some other reference point. The most obvious reference point is the utterance time, which is one of the roles in the utterance context and is directly accessible to the Hearer. Thus referring to time in this way is an example of a deictic use of language. For an event or state that is going on at the time of speaking, we have a word like now. For a past or future event or state, we can mention the length of time that has elapsed or will elapse between the time it occurred or will occur and the utterance time (an hour ago, in an hour), or we can simply say that it happened before the utterance time or will happen after the utterance time (already, in the future). There are other possible reference points for relative time reference. We can say things like before that time and after the wedding.

Just as number ended up grammatical in languages such as English, we might expect reference to the time of events and states to end up grammatical too. In fact, many, if not most, modern languages have a system for this, called tense, built into their grammar. For example, we distinguish Clark fell asleep, Clark is falling asleep, and Clark is going to fall asleep. Tense morphology divides events and states into the general grammatical categories past, present, and future; or a smaller set such as past and non-past; or a larger set, depending on the language.

As with other grammatical morphology, tense marking is normally obligatory in languages that have it, even when it is redundant. Both of the following English sentences have the past morpheme, even though that morpheme is redundant in the second example because the phrase last night makes it clear that the event happened before the utterance time.

I slept ten hours.

I slept ten hours last night.

Duration, repetition, completion

Events may be viewed «from inside», as they are going on, or «from outside», before they begin or after they finish.

There are other ways of looking at the temporal properties of an event or state than when it occurred or was true. It could be viewed as ongoing or completed, for example. Consider the difference between these two English sentences.

Clark was falling asleep.

Clark had fallen asleep.

Both have an unspecified time in the past as a point of reference. In sentence 3 the event is seen as ongoing at that time, and in sentence 4 the event is seen as completed at that time.

The Speaker may also point out the repeated nature of an event or state. Consider the difference between these English sentences.

Clark runs in the marathon.

Clark is running in the marathon.

For both of these sentences, the point of reference is the utterance time ('now'). In sentence 5, the running is viewed as repeated around this reference time; in sentence 6 it is ongoing at the reference time.

The grammatical representation of duration, completion, and repetition of events and states is known as aspect. As with other grammatical morphology, aspect morphology is often obligatory. In English, for example, speakers have to commit themselves to the choice between ongoing, repeated, or completed for an event with present reference time. That is, it is impossible in English to talk about Clark running the marathon, as in sentences 5 and 6, without making such a commitment.

2.1.2 Possibility, hypothesis, desirability

Another set of properties that distinguishes some events and states from others is related to their truth: whether they are true or likely to be true, whether we are treating them as true just for the sake of argument, whether we would like them to be true. The grammatical represention of meanings like these is called modality. Here are two English examples where the verb morphology reflects these dimensions.

If Jimmy spoke Spanish, he'd have a better chance with Lupe.

Perry suggested that Clark spend less time on computer games.

In sentence 7, the Speaker knows that Jimmy doesn't speak Spanish; if he did or there were at least a possibility that he does, the verb would be speaks rather than spoke. And in the same sentence, would ('d) indicates the conditional nature of the state of «having a better chance»; it would be true if Jimmy spoke Spanish, but he doesn't, so it isn't. In sentence 8, spend is used rather than spends, indicating the tenative nature of the «spending less time»; this is only a suggestion, not yet reality. Language Log: How to defend yourself from bad advice about writing The American Heritage Book of English Usage, ch. 1, sect. 24 "double passive." Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Accessed 13 November 2006

2.1.3 Participants

Events and states are defined in part by their participants. The choice of a particular verb commits the Speaker not only to a category of state or event but to a set of semantic roles. But these semantic roles may often be filled by a variety of things. We can group events and states into a small set of abstract categories on the basis of some general properties of these participants. The next subsection focuses on verb morphology with this function.

2.1.4 Verb agreement

What makes the following sentences ungrammatical? What kind of rule can you specify for the verb morpheme - s?

Clark always arrive late.

Clark's colleagues likes him a lot.

In many languages verbs take inflectional morphemes that convey some information about one or more participants in the event or state that the sentence is about. One way to think about this is in terms of the agreement between the verb and those participants on a small number of abstract properties. On the one extreme are languages like Mandarin Chinese and Japanese, which have no morphology of this type (though sometimes the choice of a verb in Japanese is governed by some properties of the participants). In what follows, I'll briefly discuss verb agreement in four languages that have some form of it. Notice that since agreement morphology conveys abstract properties of participants, that is, things, this topic overlaps with the topic of the last section.

English is a language with limited verb agreement morphology, the vestiges of what was a full-blown agreement system in Old English. Consider these sentences.

Clark plays golf.

Lois and Clark play tennis.

I play croquet.

Clark played 18 holes yesterday.

Clark likes team sports.

In English - s is plural when it appears on nouns but singular when it appears on verbs.

Notice that the form of the verb play differs in sentence 9 and 10. In sentence 9 the subject of the sentence, Clark, is 3rd person (that is, including neither the Speaker nor the Hearer) and singular, and the verb takes the suffix - s to indicate this. When the same verb is used with a subject that has any other combination of person and number, as in sentences 10 and 11, the verb takes no suffix. Notice also that an agreement suffix is only added to verbs in the simple present tense, that is, the tense category used in sentences 9, 10, and 11. Sentence 12 is in the simple past tense, and no distinction is made on the basis of person and number. Finally, notice that it is the participant in the syntactic role of subject, rather than any particular semantic role, that the verb agrees with. So in sentence 13, the verb again takes the - s even though the subject in this case refers to an experience rather than an agent, as in sentence 9. Bybee, Joan L., Revere Perkins, and William Pagliuca (1994) The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. University of Chicago Press

With the verb be, there are three forms rather than two in the simple present, and rather than suffixes, completely unrelated forms are used: am (1st person singular), is (3rd person singular), and are (other person-number combinations). The verb be also has two forms in the simple past tense, was and were.

Thus English subject-verb agreement is limited both in terms of the number of different forms and the situations in which it must apply. However, it behaves just like the other examples of grammatical morphology we've been considering. It is often redundant, but it is obligatory even when it is. So in standard English dialects, at least, it is ungrammatical to say Clark like Lois, even though the missing - s would convey no new information.

So does the - s in play in sentences 9 and 13 mean anything? Yes, it means that the subject of that verb is 3rd person singular. In addition, because this suffix only occurs on verbs in the simple present tense, it also marks that tense category. Under most circumstances, this information would be obvious from the subject itself and from the context. But if the Hearer missed the subject for some reason, that - s could help sort things out. Also there are gray areas where Speakers may choose to use a verb in the 3rd person singular with a plural subject. Compare these two sentences.

A hundred students are in this course.

A hundred students is more than this room can hold.

In sentence 15, the subject is viewed as an individual quantity rather than a collection of individual things, so the verb is singular.

2.2 American Sign Language

The grammars of sign languages may be just as complex as those of spoken languages.

Finally let's consider agreement morphology on verbs in a sign language. We have already seen one example of this in the discussion of mutation morphology. ASL has a category of verbs that sign linguists call «directional verbs». These are verbs designating transfer events, or information transfer events, or other events viewed as having a direction. These verbs have a basic handshake and a position on the body, but their direction has to agree with the source and the goal (often the recipient) of the event. The agreement is with what corresponds to person in ASL, the position in signing space of the participants. 1st and 2nd person have the position of the signer and the sign interpreter, and other participants are «placed» in signing space by the signer as they come up.

For example, to produce the sign for 'give' in ASL when the source/agent is neither the signer nor the sign interpreter and the recipient is the signer, the signer uses the basic handshake for 'give', moving one hand from the position of the giver in signing space to the signer's own chest. The direction would be the opposite if the roles were reversed.

Another form of agreement in ASL makes use of classifiers. Classifiers in ASL take the form of particular handshakes that represent general properties of things. For example, an index finger pointing upward represents a standing person, a cupped hand represents a container, and the extended thumb and first two finger represents a vehicle One use of classifiers is as morphemes agreeing with the subjects of verbs designating move events and be at states. In this case the agreement is the opposite of what happens with verbs of giving and telling. It is the handshake that represents the agreement morpheme and the movement of the hand(s) that represents the content of the verb. For example, to sign a sentence meaning 'the car is here', the signer would make the sign for 'car', then with the 'vehicle' classifier handshake sign 'be here', that is, move the hand downward in front of the body.

How is verb agreement in ASL like the verb agreement in the spoken languages we have considered? At least in many cases agreement in ASL is obligatory, as it is in spoken languages. It may also be redundant, as in the 'vehicle' example.

Agreement in ASL, in fact morphology in sign languages generally, is strikingly different from spoken language morphology in one way. It is invariably iconic; all of these examples we have seen «make sense». With respect to form alone, sign language grammatical morphology differs in another way from most spoken language grammatical morphology in that it occurs simultaneously with the root morpheme. Of course this derives from the potential in sign languages to maintain a particular handshake while a movement is executed.

One point of this section has been to show how much languages can vary in terms of what information gets represented on their verbs. It is on verbs that we see how different languages can get. Within our set of languages, we have seen a range of possibilities, but we still are not close to the extreme of some American Indian and Eskimo languages, like Inuktitut, where verbs frequently include more than ten morphemes. However, those words usually include morphemes that go beyond the functions we've discussed in this chapter. Such languages excel at creating new words from a small number of roots and extensive productive morphology. How this sort of process works is the topic of the next chapter.

2.3 The category of voice

In English as in many other languages, the passive voice is the form of a transitive verb whose grammatical subject serves as the patient, receiving the action of the verb. The passive voice is typically contrasted with the active voice, which is the form of a transitive verb whose subject serves as the agent, performing the action of the verb. The subject of a verb in the passive voice corresponds to the object of the same verb in the active voice. English's passive voice is periphrastic; that is, it does not have a one-word form. Rather, it is formed using a form of the auxiliary verb be together with a verb's past participle.

Canonical passives

Passive constructions have a range of meanings and uses. The canonical use to map a clause with a direct object to a corresponding clause where the direct object has become the subject. For example:

John threw the ball. Bybee, Joan L., Revere Perkins, and William Pagliuca (1994) The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. University of Chicago Press

Here, threw is a transitive verb with John as its subject and the ball as its direct object. If we recast the verb in the passive voice (was thrown), then the ball becomes the subject (it is promoted to the subject position) and John disappears:

The ball was thrown.

The original subject can typically be re-inserted using the preposition by:

The ball was thrown by John.

Promotion of other objects

One non-canonical use of English's passive is to promote an object other than a direct object. It is usually possible in English to promote indirect objects as well. For example:

John gave Mary a book. > Mary was given a book.

In the active form, gave is the verb; John is its subject, Mary its indirect object, and a book its direct object; in the passive form, the indirect object has been promoted and the direct object has been left in place. (In this respect, English resembles dechticaetiative languages.)

It is also possible, in some cases, to promote the object of a preposition:

They talked about the problem. > The problem was talked about.

In the passive form here, the preposition is «stranded»; that is, it is not followed by an object. (See Preposition stranding.) Indeed, in some sense it doesn't have an object, since «the problem» is actually the subject of the sentence.

Promotion of content clauses

It is possible to promote a content clause that serves as a direct object. In this case, however, it typically does not change its position in the sentence, and an expletive it takes the normal subject position:

They say that he left. > It is said that he left.

Stative passives

The passives described so far have all been eventive (or dynamic) passives. There exist also stative (or static, or resultative) passives; rather than describing an action, they describe the result of an action. English does not usually distinguish between the two. For example:

The door was locked.

This sentence has two meanings, roughly the following:

[Someone] locked the door.

The door was in the locked state. (Presumably, someone had locked it.)

The former meaning represents the canonical, eventive passive; the latter, the stative passive. (The terms eventive and stative/resultative refer to the tendencies of these forms to describe events and resultant states, respectively. The terms can be misleading, however, as the canonical passive of a stative verb is not a stative passive, even though it describes a state.)

Some verbs do not form stative passives. In some cases, this is because distinct adjectives exist for this purpose, such as with the verb open:

The door was opened. > [Someone] opened the door.

The door was open. > The door was in the open state.

Adjectival passives

Adjectival passives are not true passives; they occur when a participial adjective (an adjective derived from a participle) is used predicatively For example:

She was relieved to find her car undamaged. Bybee, Joan L., Revere Perkins, and William Pagliuca (1994) The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. University of Chicago Press

Here, relieved is an ordinary adjective, though it derives from the past participle of relieve In some cases, the line between an adjectival passive and a stative passive may be unclear.

Passives without active counterparts

In a few cases, passive constructions retain all the sense of the passive voice, but do not have immediate active counterparts. For example:

He was rumored to be a war veteran. < *[Someone] rumored him to be a war veteran.

(The asterisk here denotes an ungrammatical construction.) Similarly:

It was rumored that he was a war veteran. < *[Someone] rumored that he was a war veteran.

In both of these examples, the active counterpart was once possible, but has fallen out of use.

Double passives

It is possible for a verb in the passive voice - especially an object-raising verb - to take an infinitive complement that is also in the passive voice:

The project is expected to be completed in the next year.

Commonly, either or both verbs may be moved into the active voice:

[Someone] expects the project to be completed in the next year.

[Someone] is expected to complete the project in the next year.

[Someone] expects [someone] to complete the project in the next year.

In some cases, a similar construction may occur with a verb that is not object-raising in the active voice:

The project will be attempted to be completed in the next year. < *[Someone] will attempt the project to be completed in the next year. < [Someone] will attempt to complete the project in the next year.

(The question mark here denotes a questionably-grammatical construction.) In this example, the object of the infinitive has been promoted to the subject of the main verb, and both the infinitive and the main verb have been moved to the passive voice. The American Heritage Book of English Usage declares this unacceptable but it is nonetheless attested in a variety of contexts

Other passive constructions

Past participle alone

A past participle alone usually carries passive force; the form of be can therefore be omitted in certain circumstances, such as newspaper headlines and reduced relative clauses:

Couple found slain; Murder-suicide suspected.

The problem, unless dealt with, will only get worse.

A person struck by lightning has a high chance of survival.

With get as the auxiliary

While the ordinary passive construction uses the auxiliary be, the same effect can sometimes be achieved using get in its place: Jamie got hit with the ball.

This use of get is fairly restricted. First of all, it is fairly colloquial; be is used in news reports, formal writing, and so on. Second of all, it typically only forms eventive passives of eventive verbs. Third of all, it is most often (but not necessarily) used with semantically negative verbs; for example, the phrase get shot is much more common than the phrase get praised.

Ergative verbs

An ergative verb is a verb that may be either transitive or intransitive, and whose subject when it is intransitive plays the same semantic role as its direct object when it is transitive. For example, fly is an ergative verb, such that the following sentences are roughly synonymous:

The airplane flew.

The airplane was flown.

[Someone] flew the airplane.

One major difference is that the intransitive construction does not permit an agent to be mentioned, and indeed can imply that no agent is present, that the subject is performing the action on itself. For this reason, the intransitive construction of an ergative verb is often said to be in a middle voice, between active and passive, or in a mediopassive voice, between active and passive but closer to passive.

Reflexive verbs

A reflexive verb is a transitive verb one of whose objects is a reflexive pronoun (myself, yourself, etc.) referring back to its subject. In some languages, reflexive verbs are a special class of verbs with special semantics and syntax, but in English, they typically represent ordinary uses of transitive verbs. For example, with the verb see:

He sees her as a writer.

She sees herself as a writer.

Nonetheless, sometimes English reflexive verbs have a passive sense, expressing an agentless action. Consider the verb solve, as in the following sentences:

He solved the problem.

The problem solved itself.

One could not say that the problem truly solved anything; rather, what is meant is that the problem was solved without anyone solving it.

Gerunds and nominalization

Gerunds and nominalized verbs (nouns derived from verbs and referring to the actions or states expressed by them), unlike finite verbs, do not require explicit subjects. This allows an object to be expressed while omitting a subject. For example:

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Generating electricity typically requires a magnet and a solenoid.

Usage and style

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Many English educators and usage guides, such as The Elements of Style, discourage the use or overuse of the passive voice, seeing it as unnecessarily verbose (when the agent is included in a by phrase), or as obscure and vague (when it is not). This perception is exacerbated by the occasional intentional use of the passive voice to avoid assigning blame, such as by replacing «I made mistakes» with «Mistakes were made.»

Nonetheless, the passive voice is frequently used for a number of other reasons:

Certain verbs frequently appear in the passive - for example, be born, be smitten, and be had are all more common in certain senses than their active counterparts - though in many cases these might be better analyzed as adjectival passives (see above) than as true passives.

The passive voice serves to emphasize the patient; if the agent is comparatively unimportant to the point, or if the agent is obvious from context, then the passive voice might serve a rhetorical purpose.

Since in English, the subject nearly always comes before the object in a sentence, using the passive voice (i.e., promoting the patient from object to subject) moves the patient earlier in the sentence. If the patient has been mentioned in a previous sentence, this can serve as a marker of the connection between the two sentences.

Scientific writing has traditionally used the passive voice rather than mentioning a researcher in every sentence; this may be changing, however.

In journalistic writing and law, two areas where it can be essential to state only established facts, use of the passive voice allows uncertain agents to be omitted; again, however, use of the active voice is on the rise, with other mechanisms being used to avoid insupportable claims.

2.4 The category of mood

In linguistics, many grammars have the concept of grammatical mood (or mode), which describes the relationship of a verb with reality and intent. Many languages express distinctions of mood through morphology, by changing (inflecting) the form of the verb.

Because modern English does not have all of the moods described below, and has a very simplified system of verb inflection as well, it is not straightforward to explain the moods in English. (The English moods are indicative, subjunctive, and imperative). Note, too, that the exact sense of each mood differs from language to language.

Grammatical mood per se is not the same thing as grammatical tense or grammatical aspect, although these concepts are conflated to some degree in many languages, including English and most other modern Indo-European languages, insofar as the same word patterns are used to express more than one of these concepts at the same time.

Currently identified moods include conditional, imperative, indicative, injunctive, negative, optative, potential, subjunctive, and more. Infinitive is a category apart from all these finite forms, and so are gerunds and participles. Some Uralic Samoyedic languages have over ten moods; Nenets has as many as sixteen. The original Indo-European inventory of moods was indicative, subjunctive, optative, and imperative. Not every Indo-European language has each of these moods, but the most conservative ones such as Avestan, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit have them all.

It should be noted that not all of the moods listed below are clearly conceptually distinct. Individual terminology varies from language to language, and the coverage of (e.g.) the «conditional» mood in one language may largely overlap with that of the «hypothetical» or «potential» mood in another. Even when two different moods exist in the same language, their respective usages may blur, or may be defined by syntactic rather than semantic criteria. For example, the subjunctive and optative moods in Ancient Greek alternate syntactically in many subordinate clauses, depending on the tense of the main verb. The usage of the indicative, subjunctive and jussive moods in Classical Arabic is almost completely controlled by syntactic context; the only possible alternation in the same context is between indicative and jussive following the negative particle lв.



Realis moods are a category of grammatical moods which indicate that something is actually the case, or actually not the case. The most common realis mood is the indicative mood or the declarative mood.


The declarative mood indicates that the statement is true, without any qualifications being made. It is in many languages equivalent to the indicative mood, although sometimes distinctions between them are drawn. It is closely related with the inferential mood (see below).


The generic mood is used to make generalizations about a particular class of things, e.g. in «Rabbits are fast», one is speaking about rabbits in general, rather than about particular fast rabbits. English has no means of morphologically distinguishing generic mood from indicative mood, however the distinction can easily be understood in context by surrounding words. Compare, for example: rabbits are fast, versus, the rabbits are fast. Use of the definite article the implies specific, particular rabbits, whereas omitting it implies the generic mood simply by default. Guillaume, Gustave (1929) Temps et verbe. Paris: Champion

Ancient Greek had a species of generic mood, the so-called gnomic utterance, marked by the aorist indicative (normally reserved for statements about the past). It was used especially to express philosophical truths about the world.

Indicative (evidential)

The indicative mood is used for factual statements and positive beliefs. All intentions that a particular language does not categorize as another mood are classified as indicative. In English, questions are considered indicative. It is the most commonly used mood and is found in all languages. Example: «Paul is reading a book» or «John reads books».


The negative mood expresses a negated action. In many languages, this is not a distinct mood; negation is expressed by adding a particle:

Before the verb phrase, as in Spanish No esta en casa;

Or after it, as in archaic and dialectal English Thou remembrest not or Dutch Ik zie hem niet, or in modern English, I think not;

Or both, as in French Je ne sais pas or Afrikaans Hy kan nie Afrikaans praat nie.

Standard English usually adds the auxiliary verb do, and then adds not after it: «I did not go there». In these instances, «do» is known as a dummy auxiliary, because of its zero semantic content.

In Indo-European languages, it is not customary to speak of a negative mood, since in these languages negation is originally a grammatical particle that can be applied to a verb in any of these moods. Nevertheless, in some, like Welsh, verbs have special inflections to be used in negative clauses.

In other language families, the negative may count as a separate mood. An example is Japanese, which conjugates verbs in the negative after adding the suffix - nai (indicating negation), e.g. tabeta («ate») and tabenakatta («did not eat»).

It could be argued that Modern English has joined the ranks of these languages, since negation in the indicative mood requires the use of an auxiliary verb and a distinct syntax in most cases. Contrast, for instance, «He sings» > «He doesn't sing» (where the auxiliary to do has to be supplied, inflected to does, and the clitic form of not suffixed to derive the negative from «He sings») with Il chante > Il ne chante pas; French adds the (discontinuous) negative particle ne… pas, without changing the form of the verb.


Irrealis moods are the set of grammatical moods that indicate that a certain situation or action is not known to have happened as the speaker is talking.


The cohortative mood (alternatively, hortatory) is used to express plea, insistence, imploring, self-encouragement, wish, desire, intent, command, purpose or consequence. It does not exist in English, but phrases such as «let us» are often used to denote it. In Latin, it is interchangeable with the jussive.


The conditional mood is used to speak of an event whose realization is dependent on a certain condition, particularly, but not exclusively, in conditional sentences. In Modern English, it is a periphrastic construction, with the form would + infinitive, e.g. I would buy. In other languages, such as Spanish or French, verbs have a specific conditional inflection. Thus, the conditional version of «John eats if he is hungry» is:

John would eat if he were hungry, in English;

Jean mangerait s'il avait faim, in French;

Juan comeria si tuviera hambre, in Spanish.

In the Romance languages, the conditional form is used primarily in the apodosis (main clause) of conditional clauses, and also in a few set phrases where it expresses courtesy or doubt. The main verb in the protasis (dependent clause) is either in the subjunctive or in the indicative mood.

This is not a universal trait; in Finnish, for example, the conditional mood is used both in the apodosis and the protasis. An example is the sentence «I would buy a house if I earned a lot of money», where in Finnish both clauses have the conditional marker - isi- : Ostaisin talon, jos ansaitsisin paljon rahaa.

In English, too, the would + infinitive construct can be employed in main clauses, with a subjunctive sense: «If you would only tell me what's troubling you, I might be able to help».


The imperative mood expresses direct commands, requests, and prohibitions. In many circumstances, using the imperative mood may sound blunt or even rude, so it is often used with care. Example: «Paul, do your homework now». An imperative is used to tell someone to do something without argument.

Many languages, including English, use the bare verb stem to form the imperative. Other languages, such as Seri, however, use special imperative forms.

In English, second-person is implied by the imperative except when first-person plural is specified, as in «Let's go» («Let us go»).


The interrogative mood is used for asking questions. Most languages do not have a special mood for asking questions, but Welsh and Nenets do.


The jussive mood is similar to the cohortative mood, in that it expresses plea, insistence, imploring, self-encouragement, wish, desire, intent, command, purpose or consequence. In some languages, the two are distinguished in that cohortative occurs in the first person and the jussive in the second or third.

Sometimes this is called a «desiderative mood», since it indicates desires. Occasionally distinctions are made betwe и т.д.................

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