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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?

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*

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).


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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