Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 2 : 7 October 2002

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.




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Copyright © 2001
M. S. Thirumalai


Basanti Devi, Ph.D.

1. The Focus of This Paper

Formation of conditional clauses require a complex process. Though languages share some similarity in their formation, yet at times they are governed by language specific principles. This paper makes an attempt to discuss the different types of conditional clauses in Assamese, Bengali and Kannada and to focus their similarities and dissimilarities.

2. Conditional Clause

Syntactically a conditional clause is essentially an adverbial clause. Its semantic role is expression of hypothesis or conditions. They state the dependence of one circumstance on another.

  1. If it rains, farmers will be happy.
    Here, the clause farmers will be happy is dependent on the clause if it rains. A conditional clause can be negative too.
  2. If it does not rain, the match will be played.
    Here, the clause match will be played is dependent on the subordinate clause which denotes negation of a certain condition.

3. Other Conditionals

In addition to simple affirmative and negative conditionals a few more types may be formed viz. rejected condition, emphatic condition and imaginary or hypothetical condition.

A rejected condition is one, which might have been fulfilled, but is not. In English it is formed by using past subjunctive in the conditional clause if the verb is to be and the past indicative, if it is any other verb. The main clause has the future in the past.

         3. We could start dinner if only John were here.

         4. If I had time, I should visit the exhibition.

Sentence 3 implies that "John is not here" and 4 implies that "I have no time".

An emphatic conditional is formed when the speaker has some doubts about the proposition.

         5. We can go only if he comes.

The implication in sentence 5 is that "I doubt he will come".

An imaginary condition is one which could not be true, or which, even if not impossible, is not seriously contemplated, but is only advanced for the sake of argument. Here again, if the verb is to be past subjunctive is used. Otherwise past indicative form is used. Main clause, however, has the future in the past.

         6. If I were a millionaire I would give generously to good causes.

         7. If he had all the wealth in the world he would not be happy.

         8. I should not have tolerated his rudeness, if I had been you.

If the reference is to past time, were becomes had been and would have/should have as is seen in sentence 8.

4. Conditional System in Indian Languages and English

However, the conditional systems in Indian Languages differ greatly from English. Three languages are taken into consideration for discussion of the same. Kannada is a Dravidian language and the other two are Indo-Aryan languages. They were selected because it was felt that the contrast between the two genetically unrelated groups viz., Kannada on the one hand and Assamese and Bengali on the other hand, will help in highlighting the similarities that two sister languages share. It will also help in identifying the similarities as well as dissimilarities across the two groups.

5. Assamese and Bengali Affirmative Conditionals

There are two ways of forming a simple affirmative conditional sentence in Assamese and Bengali. It is formed by inserting the subordinator (subordinating conjunction) which is equivalent of if' 'in English. Normally in both languages it occurs between the subject and verb in the conditional clause.

9 xi Zodi ahe m∩y zam (∩ stands for Broken O)
he if come-pres-3p I-go-fut
'If he comes, I will go'

The corresponding sentence in Bengali will be

10 Üe jodi ase ami jab∩
he if come-pres-3p I-go-fut
'If he comes, I will go'

In Assamese, however, the following variation in the word order is widely acceptable.

11 xi ahe Zodi m∩y zam
he come-pres-3p if I-go-fut
'If he comes, I will go'

Thus, the verb in the conditional clause is in present tense and agrees with the subject in person. Alternately, it can also be formed by suffixing the conditional clitic - e to the past stem of the verb in the conditional clause.

12 xi ahile m∩y zam
he come-past-condl. I-go-fut
'If he comes, I will go'

13 is the corresponding sentence in Bengali.

13 Üe ele ami jab∩
he come-past-condl. I-go-fut
'If he comes, I will go'

Once this -e is suffixed to the pat stem no tense distinction is possible. The tense of the conditional verb is determined by the tense of the main verb in the 'then' clause. Moreover, this conditionally marked verb does not require any agreement with the subject noun. It is the same for all the persons.

6. Contrast with Kannada, a Dravidian Language

In Kannada, the conditional formation process is similar to the process mentioned above. The conditional clitic -are is suffixed to the past stem of the verb and the resultant form, as in the case of 12 and 13, is tenseless. Moreover, it too does not take any PNG marker.

14 avanu bandre na:nu ho:gtini
he come-past-condl. I go-non-past
'If he comes, I will go'

Kannada does not have the other possibility i.e. an equivalent of 9 or 10 is not possible. Formation of negative involves the same process as affirmative in both Assamese and Bengali and affixing of negative marker to the verb.

15 boroxun zodi nahe m∩y zam
rain if neg-come- pres 3p I-go-fut
If it does not rain, I will go
16 boroxun nahile m∩y zam
rain neg-come-past-condl. I go-fut I-go-fut
If it does not rain, I will go

The corresponding sentences in Bengali will be 17 and 16 respectively.

17 briSTi jodi naase ami jab∩
rain if neg-come-condl. I go-fut
If it does not rain, I will go
18 briSTi naasle ami jab∩
rain neg-come-condl. I go-fut
If it does not rain, I will go

An interesting feature of Bengali negative conditional is that negative marker is prefixed to the verb which is, otherwise, suffixed.

7. Negative Conditionals in Kannada - A More Complex Structure

In Kannada negative conditional is formed in a way which is markedly different from those of Assamese and Bengali. It is formed by taking the negative verbal participle. Negative verbal participle is marked by adding -ade to the verb stem. This form has the meaning of" not/without doing something." For example,when -ade is suffixed to the verb tinu which means to eat the form becomes tinde the equivalents of which will be nokhowakoi in Assamese and nakheye in Bengali . Negative participle is followed by idd (i.e. verb 'to be') in its conditional form. Thus, an equivalent of 'if it does not rain, I will go' will be as follows.

19 maLe barde iddre na:nu ho:gtini
rain come-neg. part be-pst-cond/ I go-non-past
'If rain does not come (if it does not rain), I will go.'

Sometimes instead of idd, the aspectual verb is used.

20 maLe barde ho:dre na:nu ho:gtini
rain come-neg. part be-pst-cond/ I go-non-past
'If rain does not come (if it does not rain), I will go.'

Thus Kannada negative conditional involves a much complex process.

8. Emphatic Conditionals

Emphatic conditionals are formed in Assamese and Bengali by suffixing the emphatic clitics -he and -I to the conditional forms respectively.

21 xi ahilehe m∩y zam
he came-past condl. emph. I go-fut
'I will go only if he comes.'

Alternately, it can be formed by suffixing the emphatic marker to the adverb tetia i.e. 'then' which occurs in the main clause. The subordinating conjunction occurs in the conditional clause.

22 xi zodi ahe tetiahe m∩y zam
he if come-pres-3p then-emph. I go-fut
'If he comes, then I will go.'

The corresponding sentences of 21 and 22 in Bengali are 23 and 24 respectively.

23 še elei ami jab∩
he come-pst-condl-emph. I go-fut
'If he came, then I will go.'
24 še zodi ase t∩bei ami jab∩
he if come then-emph. I go-fut
'If he comes, then I will go.'

Syntactically 23 corresponds to 21. But semantically there is no one-to-one correspondence between the two. In addition to the common meaning 23 also has the meaning 'as soon as he comes, I will go'.

In Kannada emphatic conditional is formed by inserting emphatic particle ta:ne after the cnoditional form of the verb. The verb in the main clause is the form of a gerund. Thus, the verb in the main clause cannot be marked for PNG.

25 avanu bandre ta:ne na:nu ho:godu
he come-pst-condl emph. I go-ger
'I can go only if he comes.'

The meaning of 25 is close to English 'I can go only if he comes'

9. Rejected and Hypothetical Conditionals

Unlike in English, syntactically there is no difference between rejected and hypothetical conditionals in all the three languages. Therefore, they are not treated separately.

In Assamese they are formed as follows:

  1. By using gerundial form of verb in subordinate clause. By inserting aspectual verb h∩ with conditional marker suffixed to it after the gerund.
  2. By suffixing past conditional form heten to the past stem of the verb in the main clause.
26 agraloi zoa hole tazmahal dekhilu heten
Agra-to go-ger asp.condl Taj Mahal see-pst-condl hypothetical condl. marker
'If I had gone to Agra, I would have seen Taj Mahal.'

Alternately, it can be formed by inserting subordinating conjunction zodi in which case conditional marker is suffixed to the past stem of the verb in both conditional and main clause. The aspectual verb is not required. And the adverb tenehole which is equivalent of English 'then' is also inserted.

27 m∩y zodi agraloi goluheten tenehole tazmahal dekhiluheten
I if Agra-to to-pst-condl. then Taj Mahal see-pst-condl.
'If I had gone to Agra, I would have seen Taj Mahal.'

The meaning of 26 and 27 is the same.

In Bengali hypothetical conditional formation is not possible without inserting the conjunction. Verbs in both the clauses are in habitual past tense form. The adverb tahole is inserted.

28 ami zodi agrai jetam tahole tazmahal dekhtam
I if Agra-to go-hab-pst then Taj Mahal see-hab-condl.
'If I had gone to Agra, I would have seen Taj Mahal.'

Sentences 27 and 28 require similar processes and the verbs agree with the subject noun whereas the verb in the conditional clause of 26 is tenseless and does not take any person marker.

In Kannada, on the other hand, it is formed in a different way. It uses perfective aspect with conditional marker in the conditional clause and past perfect progressive in the main clause.

29 na:nu agra ho:gidre tazmahal no:Dtidde
I Agra go-perfect condl. Taj Mahal see.pstperf-prog.
'If I had gone to Agra, I would have seen Taj Mahal.'

10. Concessive Clauses

Since there is a considerable overlap between two classes of adverbial clauses viz. Of condition and concession an attempt is made to discuss the concessive clauses too.

Concessive conjuncts signal the unexpected, surprising nature of what is being said before that.

30. It was a gruesome accident. Still, most of them survived

31. They want to help her. Only, (informal spoken English) she refuses to accept help.

Most of the concessive conjuncts can be paraphrased by a concessive subordinate clause introduced by though or although.

Whereas conditional clauses state dependence of one circumstance or a set of circumstances on another:

If it rains, the farmers will be happy.

Concessive clauses imply a contrast between two circumstances. In other words, in the light of the circumstance in the dependent clause the circumstance of the main clause is surprising.

32. Even if it rains, the farmers will not be happy.

The above sentence introduced by the subordinator even if illustrates the overlap between conditional and successive clauses. This expresses both the contingent dependence of one circumstance upon another and the surprising nature of this dependence.

11. Similarity between English, Assamese, Bengali, and Kannada

In English such concessive clauses generally precede the main clause. That is true of Kannada, Assamese and Bengali too. In all the three languages concessive clauses are formed by suffixing the inclusive clitic to the conditional form of the verb in one clause followed by the main clause.. In Kannada when the inclusive clitic -u is added to the conditional form the vowel -e of are is deleted.

33 maLe bandaru: na:nu ho:gtini
rain come-pst-condl I go-non-pst
Even if it rains, I will go.

The corresponding negative will be as follows:

34 maLe barade hodaru na:nu ho:gtini
rain come-pst-condl I go-non-pst
Even if it does not rain, I will go.

As in the case of other conditional clauses, concessive too can be formed either by adding conditional suffix or by inserting subordinator in both Assamese and Bengali. Concessive clitic is added to the conditinal form of the verb or to the present tense form of the verb if subordinator is used.

35 boroxun ahile˘, m∩y zam
rain come-pst-condl. I go-fut
36 briSTi asleo ami jab∩
rain come-pst-condl.-cc I go-fut
37 boroxun zodi ahe˘, m∩y zam
rain if come-cc I go-fut
38 briSTi zodi aseo, ami jab∩
rain if come-cc I go-fut

The corresponding negatives will be as follows:

39. boroxun nahile˘, m∩y zam
40. briSTi na asleo , ami jab∩
41. boroxun zodi nahe˘, m∩y zam
42. briSTi jodi nao ase, ami jab∩

An important point of difference is noticed in the sentences 41 and 42. In Assamese the concessive clitic is added to the negative form of the verb whereas in Bengali it is suffixed to the negative marker.

Both Assamese and Bengali exhibit yet another possibility.

43. boroXun (yet/still-cc) zodi ahe, t∩thapio m∩y zam

44.briSTi jodi ase. tobuo (yet/still-cc) ami jab∩

In this case concessive clitic is moved from the dependent clause to the main clause which is introduced by a conjunct. The clitic is suffixed to the conjunct.

The examples here, are illustrative and by no means exhaustive. Conditional formation of aspectual verbs and modal auxilaries need further research. However, based on this study, it can be concluded that there are more similarities than dissimilarities between Assamese and Bengali. On the other hand, Kannada, which is not related to these two languages, differ to a considerable extent.

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Basanti Devi, Ph.D.
All India Institute of Speech and Hearing
Mysore 570006, India