Verb: Category of Mood – Part 2

July 3rd, 20121:07 pm


Verb: Category of Mood – Part 2

Verb: Category of Mood

The first disputable issue arising from the category of mood is the ques­tion about the recognition of different kinds of moods and their number in Modern English. Foreign linguists interpreted the category of Mood in different ways. Early English language grammars in their treatment of the Subjunctive Mood copied literally principles and semantic interpretation of the Latin Subjunctive. Since Latin is drastically different from English, the two conclusions derived from the comparative procedure were quite contra­dictory: some scholars tried to thrust English Moodinto the Latin pattern, others denied any mood category in English as such. At the beginning of the 20th century, Mood was defined as a subjective category. Henry Sweet treated this category as grammatical expression of various relations between the subject and the predicate, which led him to distinguish two types of ut­terances – fact-mood and thought-mood. According to Sweet’s classifica­tion, thought is expressed by means of the Subjunctive forms – be, were and the Conditional Mood. Henry Sweet then proceeded with distinguishing the Permissive Mood expressed by the construction may+Infinitive and the Compulsive Mood (to be to + Infinitive). The grammarian referred the forms homonymous with the Simple Past to the Subjunctive Mood and called them the Tense Mood. However, drawbacks of this system are, firstly, vagueness of the last two Moods and, secondly, neglect of the forms homonymous with the Past Perfect tense.

The elaborate analysis of the category made by some grammarians was dictated largely by the historical and comparative considerations and often worked out along notional lines. However, if we begin to multiply the gram­matical category along notional lines, there is, as we have seen, no limit to the possibilities. For example, there have been suggestions to distinguish subjective modality in English and to further subdivide it into Indicative Mood, Emphatic Mood (intensified assertion), Imperative Mood, Precative Mood (expressing petitions), Compulsive Mood, Permissive Mood, Optative Mood (expressing something desired), Potential Mood (express­ing ability), etc. Clearly, the given scheme may also be liable to subdivision, giving rise to many “moods” that would make the study of the language system unnecessarily complicated.

Developing the theory of mood, put forward by Sweet, Jespersen defined mood as expression of the speaker’s attitude to the content of the sentence. However, the linguist emphasized the importance of formal criteria, i.e. the number of mood types should be proportionate to the number of verb forms expressing these moods. As a result, Jespersen distinguished the Indicative Mood, defined as permanently used unless there are some special factors, and the Subjunctive Mood as the one used under certain conditions. Ac­cording to Otto Jespersen, the Subjunctive is represented exclusively by the old, synthetic forms. In his opinion, the verbal forms expressing non-fact in such sentences as I wish I had money and I wish you had sent for me are just the Indicative in imaginative use and can be treated as the Present of Imagination and the Pluperfect of Imagination respectively. Jespersen did not distinguish any analytical forms of the Subjunctive. The Imperative Mood is not questioned by the linguist, since it is characterized by a specific syntactic use.

It is obvious that the Mood category in English is complicated and con­troversial, which results in many interpretations. Criteria of classifications may be either meaning or form. One of the peculiarities of English Mood lies in sophisticated correlation between formal and semantic features of verb forms. On the one hand, several verb forms may be parallel in their use while expressing one grammatical meaning (cf. It is important that he submit the papers It is important that he should submit the papers). On the other hand, one grammatical form may be used to convey different gram­matical meanings (cf. Would you like to join us for dinner? She said she would return on Monday. I wonder whether anybody would take your words seriously).

As a result, depending on a grammarian’s interpretation of these phe­nomena, the number of English moods may differ. If a classification is based on meaning, then the number of moods is bigger than in classifications grounded on formal features. Formal classifications treat as identical such semantically different cases as Be quiet! and It’s vital that he be at home, i.e. mixing up the Imperative Mood and synthetic forms of the Subjunctive Mood of the verb to be. To avoid mistakes and to work out an adequate system of English Mood, it is necessary to take into account both formal and semantic features. In such a system, the Imperative Mood and the Sub­junctive Mood are opposed to the Indicative Mood as one expressing real world actions, whereas the Imperative Mood is different from the Subjunc­tive Mood in that inducement to act is not similar to actions, not performed or impossible to be performed at all.

All in all, the three modal meanings that tend to be widely recognized in Grammar are those of reality, hypothesis and inducement. One of these meanings is necessarily present in any utterance and expressed by verb forms. Reality is expressed by the forms of the Indicative Mood, induce­ment is expressed by the Imperative Mood, and hypothesis – by the Sub­junctive Mood, though some grammarians, instead of the Subjunctive Mood, distinguish from two to five Oblique Indirect Moods.

The forms comprised in the Indicative Mood are used to present predi­cation as reality, as a fact in past, present or future, they are used to confirm or to negate the fact of a certain action. The predication need not necessarily be true but the speaker presents it as being so. For example, the speaker may pronounce some false statement or describe actions of non-existent people or some made-up events, as it happens in fiction. Tense-aspectual forms rep­resent the paradigm of the Indicative Mood. Besides, verbs in the Indicative Mood have the categories of person, number and voice.

Verb: Category of Mood – Part 3
Verb: Category of Mood – Part 4