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Subject: Alternative Verb Conjugations
Question: I am looking for examples of two alternative sets of verb conjugations for the same tense, aspect, or mood that co-exist in a language. As an example, modern Spanish has two distinct conjugations for the imperfect subjunctive. The older conjugation ends in -se and comes from Latin's pluperfect subjunctive. The newer conjugation ends in -ra and comes from Latin's pluperfect indicative. The -ra set is more popular in the spoken language but -se is still used in written Spanish, and I have occasionally heard it spoken. There are some minor differences in usage but when it comes to the primary functions of the imperfect subjunctive, -se and -ra are interchangeable. Do you know of other examples? Thanks, Judy Hochberg, Fordham University
Reply: Hi, Judy, Other respondents have given you further examples from verbs. This sort of behavior does not just happen in verbs, however. Nouns as well (and other inflected categories, depending on the language) also take part in such phenomena, especially from one dialect to another. One interesting example from Spanish is the diminutive in Latin America, especially: most nouns or adjectives take the suffix -it- before the gender suffix, as in buen-o buen- it-o or buen-a buen-it-a 'good' (respectively, masculine or femenine gender). However many stems, mostly for morphophonological reasons, place the suffix -ec- before the -it- (that's an [s], given its phonological position before [i]): pobre pobr-ec-it-a/o; recio/a reci-ec-it-o/a 'quick' (also with a morphophonological explanation: saurio/sauriecito 'lizard' vs. dinosaurio/dinosaurito 'dinosaur') and others. A few nouns, however, show variation: mamá 'mommy' has the diminutives mamita or mamacita. Interestingly, while the rarish word saurio sometimes is heard in the elicited diminutive as 'saurito' (for me, decidedly with questionable acceptability, but what do I know?), the diminutive of the common word pobre 'poor' is *never* *pobrito. I think the point is, as Dr. Pyatt mentioned, that such situations are often indicative of a process of ongoing change. You might want to compare as well the English situation with who/whom, where the 'objective case' whom has been ceding ground to the unmarked 'who' for well over 4 centuries now, so that many varieties of English only have 'whom/him/her' directly in object position (of a preposition or a verb) or when conjoined with another pronoun (him and me went to the store, but: he went to the store). Jim James L. Fidelholtz Graduate Program in Language Sciences Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades Benem'erita Universidad Aut'onoma de Puebla, M'EXICO
Reply From: James L Fidelholtz      click here to access email
Date: 10-Jun-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Alternative Verb Conjugations    Herbert Frederic Stahlke     (10-Jun-2013)
  2. Re: Alternative Verb Conjugations    Henrik Joergensen     (10-Jun-2013)
  3. Re: Alternative Verb Conjugations    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (10-Jun-2013)
  4. Re: Alternative Verb Conjugations    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (10-Jun-2013)

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