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  1. #51
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: subjunctive or not

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    It really did mean IF January comes!
    Lauralie2 and Raymott (in the other thread) both came up with another idea. Could you convince us that yours is right?
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 13-Dec-2010 at 10:27.

  2. #52
    lauralie2 is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: subjunctive or not

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    The problem is that the "come March" sentence doesn't have anything to do with hypothesising, which the use of "if" would imply. So my idea doesn't actually explain anything, unless we accept that people changed "when" to "if" at some point. (It doesn't seem completely impossible to me, but neither does it seem probable.)
    Oh, I wouldn't discount it as of yet.

    To me, your idea ('come March' < 'if March come') is fluid and the connection works without 'when' and, moreover, without having to explain 'if', as there is no reason to assume that the adverbial phrase 'come March' somehow incorporates the meaning expressed by 'if'. It doesn't; e.g., in 'come March the roads will open', the reality is that the roads may or may not open, but come hell or high water, March will arrive. There is no condition there, no 'if' meaning housed in 'come March'. That is, March will arrive whether the roads open or not.

    As I said earlier, I like your analysis.


    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Do you accept that "you" is the subject of this sentence then?
    That topic is worthy of its own thread.

  3. #53
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: subjunctive or not

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Lauralie2 and Raymott (in the other thread) both came up with another idea. Could you convince us that yours is right?
    With so archaic a construction, we are not likely to end up with any definitive proof either way. The only easily refutable notion here seems to me that 'come' can ever be seriously regarded as a preposition (a matter, I think, already sufficiently explored).

    As regards its precise sense in the expression in question (hypothetical vs. definite), again we are unlikely to find any conclusive evidence to support any of the various theories put forward. Common sense, however, would seem to indicate that, as a subjunctive, it would be reasonable and consistent with semantic norms to postulate that, in origin at least, it bore a somewhat less definite meaning than that which we tend naturally to ascribe to it in more modern contexts.

    EOC

  4. #54
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    Johnson_F is offline Member
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    Default Re: subjunctive or not

    I agree with most of what you write, philo. We are indeed unlikely to come up with definitive proof either way. Actually, 'definitive proof' is virtually impossible in language in any case. If we have access to a sufficiently large corpus, we can 'prove' that construction A is widely used (and is thereore 'acceptable'), and that construction B is never or very rarely used in conversation and never in formal writing and appears to be considered by many people as 'incorrect' (and is therefore 'unacceptable').

    However, when it comes to labelling of words and structures, we need to remember that we are dealing with - just labels. An extra-terrestrial linguist meeting speakers of English for the very first time might well come up with a totally different descriptive framework than we can imagine. Even with all the new ideas that have appeared in the last half century or so, we still suffer from hangovers of an approach to grammar that was first applied to different languages over two thousand years ago.

    You write, "The only easily refutable notion here seems to me that 'come' can ever be seriously regarded as a preposition ". It is not
    easily
    refutable, as some contributors to this thread have shown. I, for one, am uneasy about the view that the 'come' we are discussing might be justifiably classed as a preposition - it goes against everything I have thought on the subject during over fifty years of language study. However, it is an idea worth investigating in the English of 2010, especially as we have discovered that some dictionaries do class it as a preposition.

    If you wish to consider it "a matter [...] already sufficiently explored", that is your concern. I shall continue to explore the idea. I may finally reject it, but if I do so it will be after considering as much evidence as I can find.

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