Home > 8. The Dragons of Grammar > A Spring in the Step: Mood and the Dragons of Grammar

A Spring in the Step: Mood and the Dragons of Grammar

File:Le Printemps - Giuseppe Arcimboldo.png

Spring is a bare three weeks away–o glorious vernal equinox, RT’s favorite moment of the year. Light, Hyperion’s free food, pours down on the frozen land, setting many a dragon to silly smiles, giggling, and contemplation of the season’s delightful prospects.

The Dragons of Grammar have, true to their nature, taken note. They have searched their beloved Dragonish, both High and Heroic, for the best means to convey the feeling of the moment; and lo! they have discovered that something called (what else?) grammatical mood is a chief conveyance of the many feelings that beings as intense as dragons experience.

One way to think of grammatical mood is as the speaker’s understanding of the statement he or she is about to make. The statement could be plain fact (indicative), a question (interrogatory), a command (imperative), and so forth. GM allows the speaker to indicate this distinction via inflection of the verb. Here are some examples from English: 1. “John is eating the apple.” (indicative); 2. “Is John eating the apple?” (interrogatory); 3. “John, eat the apple!” (imperative). English, which retains few inflections, usually indicates mood through word order (or syntax). But of course there are exceptions: “John would eat the apple if he were hungry.” (conditional mood–an action dependent on a circumstance).

Other common moods are the subjunctive (used to express wishes, judgments, and opinions) and the optative (used to express a wish or hope). But Nenets, (a language spoken in northern Russia) has up to 16 moods.

But now back to Dragonish, High and Heroic. The DoGs have discovered that the Heroic form of the language has 30 moods, but the High dialect beats it out at 31. What is the extra mood? The non-solitary dragons (that is, the typical ones) have a mood called “Joyful Spring Dance,” which indicates that the listener is being invited to the Great Spring Dance and Joyful Noise festival and that of course he or she must dance with the speaker (and of course in a joyful manner). The solitaries say “humph!” to that, but then they do tend to be grumpy; they need a good swig of RT’s Fired-Up Cider, a sure tonic for just about anything, to cure that…  RT

Painting: Le Printemps, Giuseppe Arcimboldo,  WikiCmns, Public Domain.


  1. March 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    Yes, those Nenets can be a moody bunch! In my long career as a writing teacher, I realized that, in general, most U.S. students had no idea about “mood” (in a grammatical sense). My students from China and Japan could tell me all about it (although using the correct mood in their writing was another matter). Well, talking about mood has put me in the mood for a nap.

  2. March 6, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Pesky things, links. If I’m not careful I’ll find I’m looking at all the links in your post and then be unable to find my way back here. So I’ll just say I love your choice of picture: Arcimboldo has a wonderful line in Still Life portraits. I particularly like the one with a bookish theme, but all of the organic ones are great too.

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