LINGUIST List 7.1610

Wed Nov 13 1996

Sum: Replies to 'mood puzzle'

Editor for this issue: Ljuba Veselinova <>


  1. John Oaklands, replies to 'mood puzzle'

Message 1: replies to 'mood puzzle'

Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 11:11:51 CST
From: John Oaklands <>
Subject: replies to 'mood puzzle'

I want to thank those who sent replies to my question of which the
following is but a summary statement:

My original interest was in the influence which the mood in the main
clause of a French sentence might have over mood in the subordinate
clause. This was illustrated with three sentences in French (followed
by my own translation) taken from Brigitte Kampers-Manhe's
_L'opposition subjonctif/indicatif dans les relatives_(Amsterdam,

 1(a) *Elle epouse un garcon qui ait de la terre
 She is marrying (IND) a young man who has (SUBJ) land
 1(b) Epouse un garcon qui a/ait de la terre!
 Marry (IMP) a young man who has (IND/SUBJ) land!
 2(a) *Il trouverait un camarade qui lui soit devoue
 He would find (COND) a companion who is devoted (SUBJ) to him

I received replies from the following people with accompanying email

 George Tsoulas:
 Marc Picard:
 Pier Marco Bertinetto:
 Marc Fryd:
 David Gaatone: dgaatoneccsg,
 Marina Yaguello:
 Bert Peeters:

I also received some helpful and much appreciated material by
snail-mail from different ones. One was a review by Bert Peeters of
the KM volume from which my questions originated. He feels that she
is wrong in the main part of her thesis and shouldn't be taken as a
model for the use of the mood in the subordinate clause after a
main-clause indicative. However, my supervisor, Dr Alan Libert, has
also pointed out that possibly the problem with KM might not merely be
with the analysis but also with certain judgments which may be wrong.

The following summarises the replies:

No one had any difficulty with sentence 1(a). However, David did have
a problem with 1(b). He says that the "mood in [a/the?] restrictive
relative clause depends on antecedent referentiality." He also
suggests that the ambiguity of sentence 1(b) might be due to the
presence of the indefinite article in the main clause.

The special interest was in sentence 2(a). Most, especially native
speakers of French, thought that this sentence was grammatically
acceptable. George, one of those who snail-mailed me some additional
material, suggests that rather than the mood in the main clause, in
sentences such as these, "the presuppositional nature of the
antecendent plays a crucial role." He is not in favor of the
'irrealis' concept of the subjunctive.

Most of those who replied were in fact native speakers of French and
included meaningful additions to the original sentence, even adding
additional sentences along the same lines. These I found very
helpful. Marina, one of the native speakers of French, also pointed
me to additional literature on the issue (Borillo, Tamine, Soublin,
_Exercises de syntaxe transformationnelle du francais_, Paris: Armand
Colin, 1974, p 101 sq), which I have read and found helpful and for
that I'm grateful. It not only shows that my judgments were wrong but
also offers some interesting alternatives. On the other hand it was
interesting to note that even the judgments of native speakers
differed in a couple of instances with respect to the use of the moods
in main and subordinate clauses.

The clear message was, as David especially pointed out in his reply,
that there is no rule in French which states that a main-clause
indicative requires a subordinate clause subjunctive thus making an
indicative ungrammatical.

Marc Picard, as a native speaker of French, addressed the issue of the
conditional in 2(a) pointing out that the relative clause can also
have a subjunctive and in fact an indicative could be ungrammatical in
some circumstances. He gave ample illustration.

I must apologise that this response comes so far removed in time from
the original posting of the question (18 Sep 1996). One of the
reasons is that I was away for a few weeks and had no computer or
internet access. At the same time I'm most grateful to all who have
written in and have been so helpful. It has in fact served to open up
some new fields for research. Thank you.

Should anyone like more detailed information I would be happy to email
it to you.

John Oaklands
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue