People use Figure-Ground Theory to explain inversions. By putting ground before figure, emphasis focus changes.

But how to explain inversion in condition clauses for subjunctive mood?

In English, if clauses containing past subjunctive 'were', as well as some other constructions that are used similarly to subjunctives, can be recast using inversion of subject and verb, with the conjunction 'if' being dropped.

Can Figure-Ground Theory explain this?

If not, what theories can be used to explain this kind of inversions for subjunctive mood?

  • AFAIK many Germanic languages support conditional subclauses without 'if' and with inversion, and some not only in the subjunctive. But I'm suspecting it's not an etymological answer you're looking for?
    – dainichi
    Oct 26, 2012 at 0:38
  • Can you explain this theory a bit more?
    – Cerberus
    Oct 26, 2012 at 3:29
  • @Cerberus One sentence for Figure-Ground Theory: When we see a cup on the table, we notice the figure (cup) out of the ground (table). Inversions in languages is similar to putting ground before figure.
    – weakish
    Oct 26, 2012 at 4:39
  • @weakish: Yeah I read part of the Wiki article, but I still don't understand how or why inversion could correspond to putting ground "before" figure. Inversion serves to convey meaning/information by being in contrast with normal word order, if that's what you mean?
    – Cerberus
    Oct 26, 2012 at 4:43
  • @dainichi Very helpful for me. Can you point me to some materials/articles to read more about inversions in conditional subclauses in Germanic languages?
    – weakish
    Oct 26, 2012 at 4:45


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