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zompist bboard • View topic - Transatlantic differences in the subjunctive

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 12:55 pm 
Avisaru
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Here's something inspired by something I read in The Complete Plain Words of 1976.

Assuming you speak English, is it typically British or American English? (Or something else?) And do you interpret:

"It is important that we have a good supply of bombs"

as

1. "We do not have a good supply of bombs, and it is important that we acquire one"

or

2. "We have a good supply of bombs, and this is important"

?

My English is British English, but I have to reply "not sure".


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:03 pm 
Smeric
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I interpret it as neither of those, but rather not commenting on whether or not we currently have any bombs, and simply stating that it is important that the supply exists.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:09 pm 
Smeric
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I speak American English and automatically feel inclined to interpret it as 1.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:24 pm 
Smeric
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:32 pm 
Boardlord
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I agree with Kath— the sentence just says that a good supply is important, and doesn't say whether we have one or not.

American English, if you couldn't guess :)


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 1:43 pm 
Smeric
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I agree as well, but it's not my automatic interpretation.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 2:26 pm 
Avisaru
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 3:14 pm 
Sumerul
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I agree with Kath as well, and I am a speaker of North American English.

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Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 4:47 pm 
Smeric
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I agree with Kath. English is the second language I've learned, but it is the only one I'm fluent in. I live in America, but I've been heavily influenced by British authors. Combined with other influences, I kind of speak my own weird variety of English. I guess I lean American, even though I type British (that's only as mèþru; IRL I type American).

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:10 pm 
Sanno
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The subjunctive and indicative merge, and hence are ambiguous, in the plural.

Compare "it's important that he have a good supply" with "it's important that he has a good supply", where the ambiguity is much less (although the indicative form is sometimes used in place of the subjunctive anyway).

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:37 am 
Boardlord
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Let's see...

It's important that the country be safe.
It's important that the country have a good supply of bombs.
It's important that the grammar cover this construction.

The more I look at these, the weirder they look. I guess they're OK, but I would prefer to say "...for the country to be safe", etc. But there's no presupposition that the subclause is true or false.

A straight-out desire sounds better: "It's desirable that [etc.]."

With the indicative, they're all fully grammatical for me, but I still don't see a claim that subclause is true or not. I could definitely use them either way. But this is partly lexical: e.g. this sentence can only be used when the country is safe:

It's delightful that the country is safe.

Also worth noting: it may be that we're dealing with temporal rather than regional variation. The book in question was published in 1954, and the author was born in 1880. That's plenty of time for usage to change!


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:57 am 
Sumerul
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Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:40 pm 
Smeric
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It's essentially extinct outside of "to be", tmk, and even there it's moribund.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:47 pm 
Smeric
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I think the same is true for me, and I'm American.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:42 pm 
Sumerul
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Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:58 pm 
Sumerul
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For me, the present subjunctive is fully productive, and it sounds odd to me when it is not used when expected.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 4:23 pm 
Sumerul
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Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:07 pm 
Smeric
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 7:36 pm 
Sumerul
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I agree about have and has - for me they are pretty interchangeable here - but for most verbs this is not true.

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Dibotahamdn duthma jallni agaynni ra hgitn lakrhmi.
Amuhawr jalla vowa vta hlakrhi hdm duthmi xaja.
Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro. Irdro.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 11:10 pm 
Smeric
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 22, 2017 4:45 am 
Sanno
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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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