Speculation on the Origin of Present Subjunctive sia, dia, and stia in Standard Italian

RINI/TUTEN HISPANIC/ROMANCE LINGUISTICS

Mark J. Elson, University of Virginia

KFLC 2017

Speculation on the Origin of Present Subjunctive sia, dia, and stia in Standard Italian

 

            The expected present subjunctive forms of Italian essere ‘be’, dare ‘give’, and stare ‘be’ in Standard Italian are, respectively, 1s se, etc. < sim, etc.; 1s de, etc. < dem, etc.; and 1s ste, etc. < stem, etc. These forms are not attested. Instead, we find 1s sia, etc.; 1s dia, etc.; and 1s stia, etc. respectively (as well as earlier dee/stee and dea/stea for dare and stare). There have been various explanations for the new forms, each assuming that essere innovated first, and that dare and stare were remade on the new forms; thus:

1. Grandgent (1927) proposes early reformation of 1s sim, etc. (< esse), to siam, etc. by virtue of the connection he assumes of essere to the third conjugation, He assumes subsequent extension of ia to the subjunctive of dare and stare.

2. Maiden (1995:40, 139) proposes reformation of 1s sim, etc. (< esse), to *sjem, etc. with subsequent, and expected, phonetic change of stressed je to i preceding a vowel. He, like Maiden, assumes subsequent extension of ia to the subjunctive of dare and stare

3. Tekavčić (1972:460, 482), in effect, makes no proposal, merely asserting that 1s sim, etc. (< esse) “si continua regolarmente nel rispettivo congiuntivo italiano”. He, like the others, assumes subsequent extension of ia to the subjunctive of dare and stare.

None of these is convincing because none looks seriously at the system. Grandgent, for example, does not take into account that the expected reflex of short i (e.g., in 1s sim) is not i, but e. Maiden’s proposal of *sje- replacing si goes unexplained, as does the failure of resulting siam, etc. to yield sea, etc. Tekavčić appears to avoid the issue.       

            Although the systemic origin of the contemporary present subjunctive forms of the verbs in question must remain speculative, I will suggest that all three subjunctive paradigms are the result of a single innovation, i.e., the innovation did not begin with the present subjunctive of essere, but was a simultaneous response in the present subjunctive of each verb in question to a shared structural peculiarity of their present subjunctive paradigm. This peculiarity, I will claim, was shared with one other verb, which served as the model for the attested innovation. 

Track: 

  • Hispanic Linguistics