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The Tocharian subjunctive (2004-2010)

In this study, the formation of the Tocharian subjunctive is described, its use and meaning are analysed and its origins are investigated.

Michaël Peyrot
28 September 2010
Full Text (Pdf)

The two Tocharian languages A and B are known to us through Buddhist manuscripts from ca. 400-1200 CE that were found along the Northern Silk Road in Xīnjiāng, China. Tocharian A and B are closely related, and they belong to the Indo-European language family. 

It is argued that the Tocharian subjunctive is closest to the present as far as the endings are concerned, while the formation of its stem is rather parallel to the preterite. Thus, the subjunctive is essentially a kind of "second present" formed from the preterite stem. 

In main clauses, the basic meaning of the subjunctive is future: different kinds of modal readings are often possible, but they are the result of inference. In subclauses, a variety of uses is found, for instance conditionality, iterativity, uncertainty, finality and indefiniteness. 

The Tocharian subjunctive is derived from the Proto-Indo-European aorist stem, a perfective stem next to the imperfective present stem. The meaning of the subjunctive can be derived from that of a "perfective present", which it still is morphologically on the synchronic level. 

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