Counterfactual conditionals in Mongolian
2 April 2017
The Counterfactual Conditional, often called a type 3 conditional in English, involves a hypothetical situation in the past. The English type 3 conditional is defined this way at Education First:
- The type 3 conditional refers to an impossible condition in the past and its probable result in the past. These sentences are truly hypothetical and unreal, because it is now too late for the condition or its result to exist. There is always some implication of regret with type 3 conditional sentences. The reality is the opposite of, or contrary to, what the sentence expresses. In type 3 conditional sentences, the time is the past and the situation is hypothetical.
If I had worked harder I would have passed the exam. (But I didn't work hard, and I didn't pass the exam.)
Here we look at the Counterfactual Conditional in Mongolian. For practical purposes I take an English-centric approach, but it should be kept in mind that an analysis purely in terms of Mongolian grammar won't necessarily square up with English.
Underlining in the Mongolian examples does not always follow that of the original authors.
1. Mongolian Language for Intermediate Students
2. A Contrastive Grammar of Mongolian and English
3. Mongolian Grammar
1. Bayarmaa Khalzaa (Mongolian Language for Intermediate Students) 2011
Bayarmaa does not treat this type of conditional in its own chapter. Instead she introduces it in exercises at two separate chapters. Regrettably the English translations on which the exercises are based are flawed, detracting from their usefulness. Here I have corrected or clarified the English.
(a. Positive and negative versions)
- -сан бол ............ -х байсан
(English) 'If (pronoun) had (past participle), would have (past participle)'
-аагүй бол ............ -хгүй (байх) байсан
(English) 'If (pronoun) had not (past participle), would not have (past participle)'
Two examples are given for students to follow. Presentation has been simplified and an English translation added.
(b. Version using -чих-)
- -х байсан
-чихсан байх байсан
Two examples are given that fit the counterfactual conditional category. They have been simplified and the English translation modified.
Note that in the second sentence the unreal condition really only applies to the starting of the meeting ('the meeting would have started already'). The failure of the meeting to finish by five is a prediction.
- Bolormaa sets up an easy framework for producing these sentences, that is:
For positives, in conditional clause use -сан бол, in main clause use -х байсан or -чихсан байсан.
For negatives, in conditional clause use -аагүй бол, in main clause use -хгүй (байх) байсан.
- The exercises and explanations are confusing. The English sentences for translation into Mongolian are ungrammatical and/or unclear, and the exercises are confusing because different types of conditional are included.
2. Dagdangiin Batchuluun A Contrastive Grammar of Mongolian and English 2013
Batchuluun deals with counterfactual conditionals under 'Subjunctive Mood', and at 'Complex Sentence - Condition'. The section on subjunctive mood covers a range of forms and structures. Examples fitting 'counterfactual conditionals' are split between modals in the main clause and 'events contrary to fact' in the conditional clause.
Counterfactual conditional examples are found under two constructions.
* Modal constructions with -х юмсан, -хсан, -х байсансан, -х байсан:
* Constructions with -сан (-сэн, -сон, -сөн), бол, -х юм бол, -вал (-вол, -вэл, -вөл) to describe events contrary to fact:
Should be болох байсан.
Complex Sentence - Condition
One counterfactual conditional is found at the section on Condition.
The English is incorrect and should read either 'It wouldn't have happened if he wasn't so drunk' or 'It wouldn't happen if he didn't get so drunk'.
- Batchuluun's examples include verb forms like байсансан and байхсан, which are missing from Bayarmaa.
- Explanations are fuzzy and distorted by the symmetry demanded by contrastive studies.
3. Kullmann and Tserenpil (Mongolian Grammar) 2005
Kullmann and Tserenpil treat counterfactual conditionals at three different places:
1. Subjunctive forms of the auxiliary verb бай-. The range of usage is broader than counterfactual conditionals.
2. The Modal Particle "сан": Uses include positive, yearning, or sympathetic memories, and subjunctives (strong imaginary desire).
3. The Modal Conditional Particle "бол": This particle expresses a condition, but, like English 'if', is not confined to counterfactual conditionals.
When using the subjunctive mood, the speaker or writer indicates that the things he says are not real actions that have happened or will happen, but thoughts, desires or wishes. Thus, the subjunctive is a mood of imagination. [...] Here we only give a few examples to show how the auxiliary verb "-бай" is used.
The particle "сан" in parentheses (derived from the defective auxiliary verb "асан") intensifies the imaginary meaning. It can be used in the first or the second part of the sentence. In colloquial language it can be used in both parts.
The following examples relate to the counterfactual conditional. These examples contain two forms: байсан and байлаа.
Modal Particle "сан"
This particle derived from the defective auxiliary verb "а-" --> "асан" and is, as such, no true particle. It usually follows after verbs with an a Noun Determining Suffix (NDS⇪) and has the following functions:
1) Positive, yearning, sympathetic memories [...]
2) Subjunctive: Strong imaginary desire
- A) follows a verb with the future NDS -х [...] The expression "юмсан" is very similar and it can be assumed that "юм" dropped. [...]
B) In complex sentences of the past, this particle can be added to the main clause or to the subordinate clause. In colloquial language it's often done in both clauses.
The relevant function is B) above. Example sentences include three alternatives for the above sentence on buying a car, demonstrating the possibility of placing "сан" in the first part of the sentence, the second part of the sentence, or both:
Modal Conditional Particle "бол"
This particle expresses a condition and is very similar to the Subordinating Verb Determining Suffix "-вал" (sVDS⇪). In case, the sVDS can't be used, "бол" is used instead (Note⇪). [...] It also appears in subjunctive sentences.
"Subjunctive sentences" correspond to what we are calling the counterfactual conditional. Note that both examples of subjunctive sentences use the form байжээ:
- The grammar is similar to Bayarmaa, except that:
a) For a negative in the main clause, -ээгүй байх байсан is used for the verb гэрлэх ('to marry').
b) When using -чих- in the main clause, -чихаад байх бай- is used as an alternative to -чихсан байх бай-.
c) Байжээ and байлаа are used as alternatives to байсан in the main clause.
d) Like Batchuluun, Kullmann and Tserenpil use forms with "сан", but not all examples overlap.
4. Chingeltei (蒙古语语法) 1991
Chingeltei's grammar is oriented towards Chinese, a language that is often held to make no formal distinction in reality conditions for conditionals. In his very short section on conditionals using ᠊ᠪᠠᠯ or ᠪᠣᠯ, there are no examples of counterfactual conditionals.
Chingeltei also deals with counterfactual conditionals at a long section on abbreviated forms of auxiliary verbs (助动词的简略形式), which primarily deals with forms related to ᠊ᠰᠠᠨ.
在有些地区语言里，在有些作者的作品中，可以看到《᠊ᠰᠠᠨ san, ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ jumsan, ᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ sanǰay, ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ yumsanǰai》等形式。这几个形式从来源说是从ᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ aɣsan, ᠶᠤᠮ ᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ jum aɣsan, ᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ ᠠᠵᠠᠢ aɣsan aǰai, ᠶᠤᠮ ᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ ᠠᠵᠠᠢ yum aɣsan aǰai 演变而来的。 但是在现代蒙语里ᠠᠭᠰᠠᠨ 这个助动词已经基本不用，代替它的是ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ baiɣsan，因此，从现在的情况看，᠊ᠰᠠᠨ᠂ ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ᠂ ᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ᠂ ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ 在一定意义上也可以看作是ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ 的一种简略形式。
Abbreviated auxiliary verbs.
In the language of certain areas and the works of certain authors, forms like -сан, юмсан, санжээ, and юмсанжээ can be found. In terms of their origin, these forms derive from асан, юм асан, асан ажээ, and юм асан ажээ. But in modern Mongolian, the auxiliary verb асан has essentially fallen out of use and been replaced by байсан. Therefore, from the point of view of the current situation, -сан, юмсан, санжээ, and юмсанжээ can in a certain sense be regarded as abbreviated forms of байсан.
1）简略形式᠊ᠰᠠᠨ 的用法。᠊ᠰᠠᠨ 的作用类似于ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ，因而在行动词后边，在静词后边，本来可以用ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ 的地方常常遇到简略形式ᠰᠠᠨ。我们从一些作品中看看它的使用情况。
1) Use of the abbreviated form -сан.
The function of -сан is analagous to that of байсан. Thus, where байсан could be used after verbal nouns and stative words [nouns], the abbreviated form -сан is often found. We will look at the usage situation from a few literary works:
(Chingeltei gives a number of examples of this form, but the only one that is remotely similar to a counterfactual conditional is the following:)
(If we had camels here, we could lend/have lent you one.)
从上例看，有的用在 ᠊ᠭᠰᠠᠨ (᠊ᠭ᠍ᠰᠡᠨ) ɣsan (gsen)，᠊ᠬᠣ (᠊ᠬᠦ) qu (kü) 后，有的用在 ᠊ᠳᠠᠭ (᠊ᠳᠡᠭ) daɣ (deg)，᠊ᠭᠠ (᠊ᠭᠡ) ɣ-a (ge) 后，有的用在静词后，表达的意义：
᠊ᠭᠰᠠᠨ ᠰᠠᠨ = ᠊ᠭᠰᠠᠨ ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ：过去的过去式动词
᠊ᠬᠤ ᠰᠠᠨ = ᠊ᠬᠤ ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ：过去的为实现动词
᠊ᠳᠠᠭ ᠰᠠᠨ = ᠊ᠳᠠᠭ ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ：过去的经常体动词
᠊ᠭᠠ (ᠦᠭᠡᠢ) ᠰᠠᠨ = ᠊ᠭᠠ (ᠦᠭᠡᠢ) ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ：过去的继续体动词（否定形式的话，为实现动词）
静词ᠰᠠᠨ = 静词ᠪᠠᠢᠰᠠᠨ：事物的曾经是什么性质的，曾经具有什么性质
Rough translation: From the above examples, it can be seen that in some it is used after -сан/сэн or -х, in some it is used after -даг/-дэг/-дог/-дөг, or -аа/-ээ, and in some it is used after stative forms. The meaning expressed is:
-сан сан = -сан байсан: past in past -х сан = -х байсан: unrealised in past -даг сан = -даг байсан: habitual in past -аа(гүй) сан = -аа(гүй) байсан: progressive in past (in the case of negative, unrealised action) stative word сан = stative word байсан: what nature things had in the past
-сан сан = -сан байсан: past in past
-х сан = -х байсан: unrealised in past
-даг сан = -даг байсан: habitual in past
-аа(гүй) сан = -аа(гүй) байсан: progressive in past (in the case of negative, unrealised action)
stative word сан = stative word байсан: what nature things had in the past
2) Chingeltei then discusses the abbreviated form ᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ (санжээ), which functions similarly to ᠪᠠᠢᠵᠡᠢ байжээ. It is mainly used after -сан or stative words and expresses past time. It is a low-frequency form and none of the examples he gives correspond to the counterfactual conditional.
3) 简略形式 ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ 的用法。ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ 主要用在-ᠭᠰᠠᠨ (-ᠭ᠍ᠭᠰᠡᠨ)᠂ -ᠬᠤ (-ᠬᠦ) 之后，有时也用在静词性术语之后，有时也用在静词性术语之后。它除了具有过去时的意义外，由于有《ᠶᠤᠮ yum》，所以也具有情态意义。这里᠊ᠭᠰᠠᠨ (᠊ᠭ᠍ᠰᠡᠨ) ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ 表示过去的过去时以外，同时还表示出乎预料或遗憾的意义，换成普通形式相当于 《᠊ᠭᠰᠠᠨ (᠊ᠭ᠍ᠰᠡᠨ) ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ ᠨᠢ ᠬᠠᠷᠢᠨ ɣsan (gsen) baiɣsan ni qarin》，《᠊ᠭᠰᠠᠨ (᠊ᠭ᠍ᠰᠡᠨ) ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ᠂ ᠭᠡᠲᠡᠯᠡ ɣsan (gsen) baiɣsan getel-e》。
᠊ᠬᠤ (᠊ᠬᠦ) ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ 表示过去的未实现的动词，同时还表示出乎预料或遗憾的意义，换成普通形式相当于《᠊ᠬᠤ (᠊ᠬᠦ) ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ ᠨᠢ ᠬᠠᠷᠢᠨ qu (kü) baiɣsan ni qarin》，《᠊ᠬᠤ (᠊ᠬᠦ) ᠪᠠᠢᠭᠰᠠᠨ᠂ ᠭᠡᠲᠡᠯᠡ qu (kü) baiɣsan getel-e》。这些形式的情态意义有时清楚一些，有时则不够清楚。
由于 ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ 的用法特殊一些，所以我们不得不举一些较长的例子，以便说明其特点。
3) Use of the abbreviated form юмсан.
юмсан is mainly used after -сан/-сэн/-сон/-сөн and -х. At times it is used after stative word predicates. Apart from the meaning of pastness, it also has a modal meaning because it contains юм. Here, apart from expressing past in past, -сан юмсан also expresses a sense of unexpectedness or regret. Converted to ordinary expression it is equivalent to "-сан байсан нь харин", "-сан байсан гэтэл".
-х юмсан expresses past non-realisation of the verb, while at the same time expressing unexpectedness or regret. Converted to everyday expression, it is equivalent to "-х байсан нь харин", "-х байсан нь гэтэл". At times the modal meaning of these forms is clear; at others it is not.
Because the usage of юмсан is somewhat special, we are forced to give rather long examples in order to explain its peculiarities.
(If the doctor had got here two hours earlier Dorj would still be breathing, what a pity he was too late.)
Mongolia: Эмч хэрвээ хоёр цагийн өнмө ирсэн бол Дорж амьсгаатай байх байсан юмсан, хөөрхий нэгэнт оройтов.
(If I hadn't split off and lost those livestock, our group would be able to hold our heads up before the Party and the government.)
Mongolia: Хэрвээ би салж явна гэж хэдэн малаа сүйтэгээгүйсан бол манай дугуйлан өнөөдөр нам засагтаа гутамшиггүй байж болох байсан юмсан
4) Chingeltei also deals with a fourth abbreviated form, ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ (юмсанжээ), which functions similarly to ᠶᠤᠮ ᠪᠠᠢᠵᠡᠢ юм байжээ, being used after -сан, -х, -аа/ээ, and stative words. Apart from indicating pastness, it also has the modal meaning of understanding after the fact. There are no examples of counterfactual conditions.
Chingeltei concludes with the following remarks:
总起来看，ᠰᠠᠨ, ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ, ᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ, ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ (ᠶᠤᠮ ᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ) 等简略形式只用语形动词及静词之末，而且它们都不是非用不可的形式，实际上其中有些形式很少使用。再从使用者的情况下看：（1）很多人基本上不用简略形式；（2）使用的一些人使用程度也不一样，有的多一些，有的少一些；（3）有一些人多用这个形式，另一些人则多用那个形式。譬如：有的人多用 ᠰᠠᠨ ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ 而少用 ᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ, ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ，可是另一些人则多用 ᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ, ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ，而少用 ᠰᠠᠨ, ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ。其中，ᠰᠠᠨ 与 ᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ 意义相近，可以互相代替；而ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨ 与 ᠶᠤᠮᠰᠠᠨᠵᠠᠢ 意义并不相同，所以不能互相代替。
Rough translation: Taken together, abbreviated forms like сан, санжээ, юмсан, юмсанжээ (юм санжээ) are only used after verbal nouns and stative words and none of them are essential to use. In fact, some of them are rarely used. Looking at the situation of users, (1) Many people essentially do not use abbreviated forms; (2) Those people who do use them do not use them to the same degree. Some use them quite frequently; others use them less; (3) Some people use one form quite often, other people use other forms quite often. For example, some people often use сан юмсан and make little use of санжээ and юмсанжээ. Others make frequent use of санжээ and юмсанжээ but make little use of сан and юмсан. Of these forms, сан and санжээ are similar in meaning and can be used interchangeably, while юмсан and юмсанжээ have different meanings and cannot be used interchangeably.
- The abbreviated forms that Chingeltei covers are not mainstream for counterfactual conditionals; Chingeltei himself equates them to more everyday usages.
- Chingeltei compares -сан to forms with байсан, which suggests that байсан should be regarded as having modal as well as tense functions. However, his treatment does not accommodate forms like байсансан (which he does not mention). Moreover, while he equates сан to байсан, he does not refer to counterfactual conditionals under байсан itself.
- Although the sources I have to hand don't mention forms like санжээ or юмсанжээ at all, they can be found in searches on the Internet.
- Chingeltei's treatment therefore throws an interesting light on Mongolian counterfactual conditionals, but the overall picture remains murky.
5. More miscellaneous examples
From Япон хэлний өгүүлбэр зүйн тайлбар толь (日本語文型辞典) (Раднаагийн Баттогтох) (2012).
These are all Mongolian examples translated from the Japanese. As such, they probably represent ordinary modern Mongolian written usage rather than colloquial, literary, or regional usage.
Translating ...ば ...だろう/...はずだ
(If the earthquake had happened one hour later the damage would have been much greater.)
(If people were being careful, that kind of accident shouldn't have happened.)
(If it had been discovered much later they might not have been saved.)
(If the operation had been carried out straight away, they would have been saved.)
(If he hadn't stepped in I think it would have become a terrible fight.)
(If I had been on that plane at that time, I wouldn't be here now.)
(If would have bought it if it was cheap.)
(If we (I, they, you...) were a bit earlier we (I, they, you...) would have been on time.)
(He would have been saved if treatment were a little earlier.)
(If there had beena clear explanation I wouldn't have been opposed.)
Translating ...たら ...だろう/...はずだ
(If a detailed examination had been done at the time it would not have been too late.)
(If a meteor had not struck the earth, the dinosaurs might not have died out.)
(If I hadn't heard something so terrible, I wouldn't have drunk till I got drunk.)
(If I'd married him my life would have been much happier.)
(It's a pity, if I'd read the book "The Harmful Effects of Medicine" at that time, I wouldn't have to put up with this suffering.)
An NDS can serve as a verbal adjective to a succeeding noun (явсан хүн), can take case endings (явсаныг), can be followed by the particle юм (явсан юм) or an auxiliary verb (явсан байна), and can form negatives (явсангүй) and interrogatives (явсан уу?)
A subordinating VDS (sVDS) is a VDS that involves subordination. Examples of sVDS include -вал (-вол, -вэл, -вөл), -магц (-могц, -мэгц, -мөгц), -тал (-тол, -тэл, -төл), -вч, etc. In equivalent English sentences, extra words like 'although', 'as soon as', 'since', or 'in order to' are used where Mongolian has an sVDS. The subject of the Mongolian subordinate clause can be in the nominative, accusative, or dative.