LINGUIST List 23.3959

Tue Sep 25 2012

Review: Morphology; Semantics; Typology: Rothstein & Thieroff (2010)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 25-Sep-2012
From: Anastasios Tsangalidis <>
Subject: Mood in the Languages of Europe
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EDITORS: Björn Rothstein and Rolf ThieroffTITLE: Mood in the Languages of EuropeSERIES TITLE: Studies in Language Companion Series 120PUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 2010

Anastasios Tsangalidis, Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics,School of English, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

SUMMARYThe volume begins with a very short Preface (signed by both editors) and anintroductory chapter (titled "Moods, moods, moods", contributed by the secondeditor) followed by 33 chapters on Mood in different languages. Most chaptersdiscuss a single language (though a small number refer to two closely relatedlanguages -- thus a total of 36 languages are described). The languages aregrouped and presented in eight parts, as Germanic, Romance, Celtic, Slavic,Baltic, Other Indo-European, Finno-Ugric and Other European languages. One mighthave expected an introductory (or concluding) section summarizing the featuresshared by languages in each group -- and this would also justify the groupings.As the volume stands, there are only some pertinent generalizations in theintroductory chapter, e.g. when the Germanic languages are identified as a"group of languages which are in the process of losing their Subjunctive" (p.6), or when it is noted that in "all Slavic languages plus Georgian ... thenon-indicative mood exists only in the past tense(s)" (p. 21).

Individual contributions are meant to respond to a similar set of questions andthis is often reflected in their structure: unsurprisingly, the questions posedare virtually identical; however, the ways they are addressed and the line ofargumentation in each case vary considerably. The questions include: the formand function of non-indicative moods, placing more emphasis on non-imperativemoods; their position in the verbal system and their relationships with othermembers of Tense-Aspect-Mood (TAM) systems, in synchronic and in diachronicterms (though the issues relating to diachrony are not always addressed in greatdetail; Hewitt on Breton is quite exceptional in this respect). The typicalstructure of most chapters involves a (usually) brief introductory sectionpresenting factual information about the language to be discussed, oftenrelating to its history, geographical distribution, estimated number ofspeakers, etc., and also a general typological characterization. This is oftenfollowed by a section on verbal morphology and the expression of TAM categories,focusing then on forms that can be described as moods -- usually starting withthe imperative and concluding with other non-indicative moods. The presentationof the moods most often (e.g. in most chapters on Romance and Slavic) startswith the morphological facts and is followed by a section on "meaning and use"-- but there are exceptions: formal and functional properties are presentedtogether in, e.g., Irish, Estonian, and most chapters on Germanic languages).Often this is followed by shorter sections on restrictions on the use ofparticular tense-mood combinations and even shorter sections on other means ofexpression of modal and related notions, such as the modal auxiliaries inEnglish and "modal operators" in Basque. The concluding sections in most casesare extremely useful in that they summarize the main points (which in some casestend to be blurred owing to the large number of detailed observations); however,some chapters have no concluding section at all.

In all cases, detailed examples illustrate the use of the various forms. Manycontributions are explicitly based on traditional descriptions and/or referencegrammars and many authors feel the need to mark any departures from traditionalmodels of description or established terminology. In keeping with thedescriptive purposes of the volume, there are no formalisms at all and very fewattempts to relate data to the typology (or any more general theory) of mood andmodality.

Thieroff's introduction aims to summarize the data discussed in the individualcontributions (and as such it could perhaps follow them in the form of aconcluding chapter -- in the manner of Hansen & de Haan's 2009 "Concludingchapter") and also to draw a number of significant generalizations, in athought-provoking (and at times provocative) manner. Some of thesegeneralizations will be referred to in the following section.

EVALUATIONThe volume is clearly a much needed addition to the growing literature on thetypology of TAM systems, especially since Mood has always received the leastattention. This is so not only because linguistics has centered around Englishfor many years (and, as Bergs & Heine put it (p. 115), "inflectional mood playsa comparatively minor role in the English language") but also because therelationship between (grammatical) Mood and the notional domain of Modality hasalways been problematic. Thieroff stresses his position in this respect: "Incontrast to Palmer who claims that modality is a grammatical category 'which issimilar to aspect, tense, number, gender, etc.' (Palmer 1986:1), it is moodwhich is the category similar to these categories whereas modality is a notionalcategory". Yet, Palmer does make a similar distinction and concludes that "Thedistinction between mood and modality is then similar to that between tense andtime, gender and sex" (1986: 21). In fact, it is by now quite standard to drawthe distinction along similar lines, e.g. in Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca's terms:"modality is the conceptual domain, and mood is its inflectional expression"(1994: 181).

However, this common assumption does not seem to lead to much agreement when itcomes to any more precise definitions of either mood and modality or any oftheir properties and subtypes. Thus, although the working definition of moodseems to involve morphologically realized distinctions only, many authors makereference to periphrastic formations as instances of mood, confirmingJespersen's (1924: 321) observation about the proliferation of 'notional moods'when morphology is not taken as an absolute criterion.

Overall, the difficulty of drawing any general conclusions about Mood is felt atvarious points, as it is not always clear how Thieroff's generalizations can besupported by the data presented in the contributions. For example, Squartini onItalian specifically argues that his analysis provides "support to thetraditional view that considers the Subjunctive and the Conditional as moodsopposed to the Indicative" (p. 242) but Thieroff counts Italian as a 'WesternConditional', which, as he argues extensively, is essentially not a validinstance of Mood but rather a Tense form; on this basis, Italian in theintroductory chapter is classified as having only one non-indicativenon-imperative mood, the Subjunctive (e.g. map 2, p. 10). In contrast, Haberlandon Greek mentions the possibility of treating the combination of the Futureparticle with a verb in the Past as a Conditional (and presents its use inconditional apodoses, in counterfactuals, habituals, inferential andfuture-in-the-past -- p. 482); while this approach would seem to fit perfectlywith Thieroff's view of the 'Western Conditional' as a member of the indicativetense paradigm (and indeed Haberland presents it as such, under "the indicativepattern"), these data are not taken into account and Greek is presented as alanguage lacking all types of conditional. At the same time, although there isno mention of a Conditional in Bergs & Heine's chapter on English, English ISincluded in the languages with a 'Western Conditional' and, moreover, the'would' facts are used to exemplify Thieroff's argument on the status of westernconditionals (p. 12).

The relationship between modality and evidentiality (also variously discussed inthe literature, e.g. Cornillie 2009; de Haan 2010) is another point on which itis not clear how the programmatic criteria would seem to work: evidentiality isexplicitly excluded from the mood domain, on the grounds that evidential markersseem to combine with subjunctive markers in at least South Slavic and Balticlanguages (e.g. Thieroff on pp. 2-3, Lindstedt on p. 419, Holvoet on pp. 426 and434-5). This combination is regarded as criterial against the recognition ofevidential moods, since their classification as moods would mean that a singleform is simultaneously marked for two different mood categories. This is clearlyreminiscent of arguments often raised (e.g. in Palmer's various works) againstthe recognition of Future as a tense in view of forms that would have to beconsidered 'doubly marked' (as Future + Present or Future + Past).

It is also hard to maintain both the generalization that "All 36 languagesinvestigated have an Imperative mood" (p. 27) and the strict definition of moodas "morphological mood in the narrow sense" (p. 1): clearly languages likeEnglish do not mark the Imperative morphologically (as Bergs & Heine note, theEnglish Imperative "does not show any inflection as such" and is "oftencharacterized by a special syntactic configuration", p. 111). In Breton, Hewittdoes recognize a distinct Imperative, though its formation involves "simply thestem for 2sg and the normal present endings for 1pl and 2pl" (p. 304). Moreover,Haase on Basque specifically argues against recognizing the 2pl forms of thepresent indicative when used in directives as a distinct imperative, since theirmorphology is identical to the indicative and it is only their sentence initialposition that marks the construction as a directive utterance (pp. 637-8).

The Imperative may be problematic for the approach adopted in the volume in viewof more general considerations. Even if one ignores the morphologicalcomplications mentioned above (cf. also Van Olmen 2012), the relationshipbetween 'imperative mood' and 'imperative sentence' as well as thenon-imperative uses of imperative forms (briefly mentioned in fn. 3, p. 6) wouldneed to be explored in greater detail before considering the matter closed.

The reader should also be cautious of the possible lack of generalizations. Forexample, there is no generalization about the non-imperative uses of imperativesin the introductory chapter. However, some common features can be discerned inindividual contributions: Thieroff on German mentions concessive and conditionaluses of the Imperative (p. 153); the conditional interpretation in coordinatedstructures is also mentioned in Quer's chapter on Catalan (p. 224); Hansen onRussian provides examples of 2sg imperative in conditional protases where "theimperative is synonymous to the conditional form" (p. 339); similar data (thoughrestricted to proverbial protases) are reported in Bosnian, Croatian and Serbianaccording to Szucsich (p. 406). Obviously the fact that this is not noted as anobserved pattern must not be taken as an indication that the construction ismissing from any other language. I know that similar occurrences are notuncommon in Greek and I think that Vanhove's Maltese example (10) glossed as'Find(IMP) a small donkey and your feet will touch the ground' (p. 579)exemplifies a comparable structure. Similarly, although such uses are notmentioned in the chapter on English, they are of course known to exist, as inwhat Declerck & Reed (2001: 403-405) call "Paratactic conditionals with a(pseudo-)imperative + and", exemplified by data like 'Do that and I'll punishyou!' and 'Help me carry these and I'll give you a fiver'.

The reader is often reminded that the main purpose of the book is purelydescriptive. There are, nevertheless, some discussions of the typology ofmodality and the relevant grammaticalization processes -- with reference toBybee, Perkins & Pagliuca 1994, and, less frequently, to works such as Palmer1986 and van der Auwera & Plungian 1998. There are not many references to theTAM systems of other languages (or to particular data as when comparing theDutch "so-called future" to Latin (p. 119), the reanalysis of COMP elements asIP features in Rumanian as in Modern Greek (p. 252), or the Modern Georgian"tense and mood series" to "old Greek and other old forms of Indo-European" --p. 604); areal typology is sometimes mentioned, for example in relation toBaltic languages and the Balkan Sprachbund.

The relationship between Mood and modality is known to be one of the hardestquestions in the TAM area; not only because of the usual lack of isomorphismbetween formal and functional features but also because of the inherentcomplexity of Mood: the identification of significant distinctions has alwaysbeen controversial, and this volume is not an exception in this respect; e.g.,the opposition between epistemic-deontic is mentioned on pp. 2-3 but is notdiscussed in any detail (though various individual uses are characterized assignaling one or the other); possibility, necessity and the types discussed invan der Auwera & Plungian 1998 are generally not related to the moods (thoughagain both concepts are occasionally referred to, most obviously in thedescription of Necessitative and Potential forms, as in what Menz describes as"the so-called necessitative" in Turkish (p. 590) and in Tommola's associationof the Potential in standard Finnish with epistemic possibility -- p. 522); themodality types (as agent-oriented, speaker-oriented, epistemic and subordinatingmodality) proposed by Bybee, Perkins & Pagliuca 1994 are also occasionallymentioned; finally, Realis-Irrealis is explicitly relevant to Thieroff's generalcharacterization of the one non-indicative mood he posits (conflating theWestern Subjunctive and the Eastern Conditional) and of course this could berelated to more recent developments in the typology of modality.

Readers with little or no experience in the realm of TAM should also be warnedagainst assuming that all other parts of the TAM area are well-defined anduncontroversial, and that it is only Mood that needs to be characterized inequally precise terms. Overall, there is an underlying assumption that presents,preterits, futures, perfects, imperfects and perfectives are neatly defined andcan therefore be taken for granted in setting up a similar list of Moodcategories. However, there are various well-known complications faced by anyapproach to Tense and to Aspect when it comes to setting absolute criteria thatcan satisfy both formal and functional considerations. Clearly, this is ageneral limitation, and it seems quite unavoidable for a volume of this scope.

The volume is meant to be a reference work offering "a broad empirical overviewof the mood systems in the languages of Europe (as noted in the Preface), ratherthan presenting a single characterization of Mood in general or in Europeanterms. In this sense it does provide the empirical data for any attempt togeneralize on mood and modality in Standard Average European (as, e.g., in vander Auwera 2011). Most of the points summarized by Thieroff at the end of theintroduction are extremely significant in this respect. Thieroff makes a numberof strong claims in that chapter -- amounting to the conclusion that "the vastmajority of the European languages not only have one non-indicative,non-imperative mood, but that this mood is one and the same in almost all theselanguages. … [T]his mood could well be termed 'Irrealis'" (p. 18). The validityof this (and any other) generalization can indeed be checked against the wealthof data presented (both very detailed and accurately glossed) in individualchapters.

More generally, it may appear that little has changed since Bybee, Perkins &Pagliuca (1994: 181) noted that "much less work has been done on the grammaticalexpression of modality than on the grammatical categories of tense and aspect."However, this volume, together with Hansen & de Haan 2009, can really be arguedto address precisely this need.

REFERENCESBybee, Joan, Revere Perkins & William Pagliuca. 1994. The Evolution of Grammar:Tense, Aspect and Modality in the Languages of the World. Chicago and London:The University of Chicago Press.

Cornillie, Bert. 2009. Evidentiality and epistemic modality: On the closerelationship between two different categories. Functions of Language 16.1: 44-62.

Declerck, Renaat & Susan Reed. 2001. Conditionals: A Comprehensive EmpiricalAnalysis. (Topics in English Linguistics 37). Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Hansen, Björn & Ferdinand De Haan (eds.). 2009. Modals in the Languages ofEurope: A Reference Work. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

De Haan, Ferdinand. 2010. Building a Semantic Map: Top-Down versus Bottom-UpApproaches. Linguistic Discovery 8.1:102-117.

Jespersen, Otto. 1924. The Philosophy of Grammar. London: George Allen and UnwinLtd.

Palmer, Frank R. 1986. Mood and Modality. (Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics).Cambridge University Press.

van der Auwera, Johan. 2011. Standard Average European. In Bernd Kortmann &Johan van der Auwera (eds.) The Languages and Linguistics of Europe: AComprehensive Guide. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter [The World ofLinguistics 1], 291-306.

van der Auwera, Johan and Vladimir A. Plungian. 1998. Modality's Semantic Map.Linguistic Typology 2: 79-124.

Van Olmen, Daniel. 2012. Review of Rothstein & Thieroff (eds.). 2010. Mood inthe Languages of Europe. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Studies inLanguage 36.1: 225-230.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERAnastasios Tsangalidis is currently Associate Professor of Syntax-Semanticsat Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His main research interestsinclude TAM categorization and typology and the description and comparisonof the relevant categories in English and Greek.

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