I have heard time and again that languages will reject words and structures that are redundant. That is, for example, if though two words may seem like they are perfect synonyms (e.g., rotund and corpulent), we will find that they actually differ slightly in meaning or register.
This seems to make sense: Redundancy would be troublesome. But is it really impossible? I present a case where I think there is redundancy. Perhaps there are also others.
Spanish imperfect subjunctive. In Spanish, there are two forms for the imperfect subjunctive, one using the morpheme -ra (e.g. contara) and the other using -se (e.g. contase). They seem to be exactly equal in meaning and register, with -ra being more common.
- This question confirms this: Is there any subtle difference between the two forms of the imperfect subjuntive?
- as well as the article "-Ra vs. -se Subjunctive: a New Look at an Old Topic," which appeared in Hispania in 1993
- and more recently "The Semantic Value of Verbal Forms in -ra and in -se of Past Imperfect and Pluscuamperfect of Subjunctive in the Spanish of Venezuela," which appeared in Nucleo in 2005.
Is this an example of redundancy?
If so, could it be the case that the -ra form is becoming more popular as a form of differentiating the two forms? After all, when the -se form is rarer, its sociolinguistic properties change (it may be more prestigious, feel more antiquated, etc.). But if this is true, why did the -ra form get chosen and not the -se form?
What can we make of this?