What is the historical origin of the French présent conditionnel?
Did it perhaps start out as a tense?
I am referring to a grammaticalization process by which, in this case, a grammatical marker takes on an additional grammatical function.
In English, for instance, -ed, a tense marker that turns indicative present to indicative past, does double duty to change, this time, not tense but mood, i.e. from indicative present to subjunctive present. For example:
- I assumed that. (Indicative past.)
- If you assumed it, you'd be wrong. (Subjunctive present.)
Now never mind whether the second case is actually called "subjunctive present." What matters is that it serves as a statement about the present, or timeless statement--but in a certain mood.
I don't know that -ed began its career as a tense marker and later took on a second job as mood marker; but if that were true, it'd make a nice story.
Should seems to have had such a role expansion. From the Wiktionery article on it:
- From Middle English
scholde, from Old English
sceolde, first and third person preterite form of
sculan(“owe", "be obliged”). Related to
Once a preterite, but now also a mood marker.
All this is only by way of illustrating the sort of question I am raising, and I am perfectly willing to be wrong about everything said above.
As for the French présent conditionnel, it looks rather like an "imperfect of future." Which makes me think there must be a very interesting story about how it came to be. Thanks.