Philologie im Netz (PhiN) “is a journal for linguistics, literary, and cultural studies. It publishes articles and reviews within an interdisciplinary framework.” The articles are in various languages, but they have abstracts in English; this one, for instance, is in Spanish but the abstract explains that it “examines the distinctive importance of the grammatical feature ‘colloquiality’ when comparing Spanish and German verbal tense.”
Via wood s lot, which linked to Paul A. Harris’s “Fictions of Globalization: Narrative in the Age of Electronic Media.”


  1. I find that article somewhat alarming as an example of a linguist at work. Taken as a whole and in detail, the approach seems bass-ackwards. Yet his claim is so dramatically uncontentious, to my way of thinking, that I wonder it should be a subject of scholarly debate: the claim that, as a linguist, you have to pay detailed attention to the way people actually speak. In the present case, “the colloquial implications of tense use should be considered alongside temporal, aspectual and other paremeters in Spanish-German verbal tense comparison”.
    The author naturally enough takes observed speech behavior in Spanish and German as that from which he obtains his generalized descriptions, and against which the descriptions must then be validated. But then he treats the (validated) descriptions as rules for producing speech, particularly in German. Somehow, the emphasis shifts from description to production by rules, and speaking comes to seem like applied chemistry. In other words, you realize that German is not one of his native languages (more about that below).
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the German sentences whose tenses he compares with those in aptly chosen Spanish “counterparts” nor, in principal, with his characterization of them in terms of colloquial, formal, “diastratic” and “diaphasic”. The German sentences are representative instances of actual speech. The Spanish ones I take on trust, if only because they fit in with my Spanish, which however is not even within hailing distance of perfection – I was pleased to learn something new about the use of morirse in the following:
    (5) He tenido una pleuresía y por poco me muero – He tenido una pleuresía y por poco me hubiera muerto.
    (6) Ich war an einer Rippenfellentzündung erkrankt und wäre beinahe gestorben.
    [“I had an attack of pleuritis and nearly died.” Distorting the English for grammatico-didactic purposes, you might say “… and might almost have died”. BUT THE GERMAN IN GERMAN IS NOT STIFF AND STRANGE, IT FEELS AND WORKS EXACTLY LIKE “nearly died”, and also MEANS “nearly died”.]
    What the author then says about the German (6) is convoluted and tautologous:

    Con esto se demuestra el carácter modal del presente del conato que se refleja en alemán, idioma en el cual es imposible referirse a enunciados pasados no realizados con el Präsens, pues para la irrealidad de efectuación de una acción en un punto temporal anterior al acto de habla en alemán se utiliza el Konjunktiv II. Nótese que en español el presente de conato conforma la variante informal del pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo, mientras que en alemán el Konjunktiv II no da pie a una neutralización temporal, por lo que es coloquialmente neutro.

    This shows us the modal character of the praesens de conatu in its German form, a language in which it is impossible to use the present tense to refer to past statements which did not become realities [the author must mean acciones pasadas no realizadas here, “(possible) actions in the past that did not become realities”], because in German the Konjunktiv II is used in a statement to indicate that an occurence prior to the statement, imagined as possibly happening, did not in fact become reality. …

    In other words, you can’t do it in German because it isn’t done in German. Well .. why would anyone want to consider whether something could be said in German in a way in which you don’t say that something in German? That’s what I meant by the imputation that German is not one of the author’s native languages. On the assumption that Spanish is one of the author’s native languages, I see him wondering whether he could get from Spanish to German by dicking around with German tenses as if they were Spanish ones.
    I didn’t try to translate the second sentence in the quote, because I wasn’t able to figure out what the author is trying to say with “neutralización temporal” and “coloquialmente neutro”. Btw, I found that praesens de conatu is one of those old-timey Latin grammar categories, like the supposed 15 different “types of ablative”. That is, it harks back to a time where semantics still groaned under the colonial oppression of “grammar”. [Boy, am I asking for it here!]
    praesens de conatu, “the present tense with a conative aspect. This means that someone is trying to do something but is not necessarily succeeding. Pestilentem domum vendo, ‘I am selling my unhealthy house’. (In context, domum vendo means [both in Latin and in English”] ‘I am trying to sell my house’ or ‘I am offering my house for sale’)”.
    In the present context, of course, it is “something which could happen but does not necessarily happen”, viz. dying.

  2. Good points, and I for one welcome your struggle against the hegemony of colonialist “grammar”!

  3. Alex Fung says

    The phin is a type of lute originating in Isan with a pear-shaped body played by mostly Ethnic Laotians in Thailand and Laos.frets on the neck over which two or three metal strings run, plucked by pick of the right hand while playing.

  4. Lars (the original one) says

    Mirabile dictu the link still works and there are new issues coming online! Nine years to catch up on, thanks to Random Link™. (Generally links in blog posts and comments this old are nostalgic reminders of the sort of things people used to build on the net, but rarely lead to the intended content. Tfw you land at the newest entry in a still existing blog and then see it’s from 2007. Or 23 February 2016, even).

    I looked at the first article in the first issue and learned something new: chronischer Bananenmangel hat den Untergang der DDR beschleunigt!

  5. Mirabile dictu the link still works and there are new issues coming online!

    Amazing; I’m glad you checked!

  6. David Marjanović says

    Nótese que en español el presente de conato conforma la variante informal del pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo, mientras que en alemán el Konjunktiv II no da pie a una neutralización temporal, por lo que es coloquialmente neutro.

    To put it in much simpler words, indicative : subjunctive is orthogonal to present : past in German. The mentioned Konjunktiv II has its own past (as quoted: wäre ich fast gestorben) and its own present (würde ich fast sterben, or very literarily stürbe ich fast) just like the indicative.

    (There’s no separate future, though; the present is used. This reminds me of the lack of a future subjunctive in Latin. There’s also no separate pluperfect, rather contrary to what the sentence before the one I’m quoting alleges.)

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