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I would suggest that the critical difference between past and future, in 
this context, is that you don't know what's going to happen in the 
future, whereas you do know (or at least you theoretically _could_ know) 
what did or didn't happen in the past.  You can metaphorically extend 
this difference to the difference between the two basic kinds of 
conditional statements: "open" conditions (Stewart's "C"), where the 
speaker doesn't know whether the condition is true or false, and 
"closed" conditions (Stewart's "CF"), where the speaker knows, or 
believes, that the condition is false.  For instance, in English we have:
- "if he is here, I will talk to him" (present open condition, expressed 
by present indicative in the protasis [in the 18th century, it would 
have been present subjunctive, "if he be here", but present-day English 
has lost that distinction] and future indicative in the apodosis);
- "if he were here, I would talk to him" (present closed condition, 
expressed by past subjunctive in the protasis and by "conditional" 
[which originated as "future in the past"; "would" was originally the 
past tense of "will"] in the apodosis);
- "if he had been here, I would have talked to him" (past closed 
condition, expressed by pluperfect in the protasis and conditional 
perfect in the apodosis).
Classical Latin, IIRC, does something similar, although I'm fuzzy on the 
details:
- the present subjunctive (which looks a lot like the future indicative; 
in fact, the future indicative probably evolved from it) was used for 
nonpast open conditions;
- the imperfect (that is, imperfective past) subjunctive was used for 
nonpast closed conditions;
- the pluperfect subjunctive was used for past closed conditions.

Aidan, regarding your point about the future also being irrealis, I seem 
to remember reading that in Tagalog, which has no tense, but only aspect 
(perfective vs. imperfective) and modality (realis vs. irrealis), they 
use perfective realis for things that happened in the past; imperfective 
realis for things that are happening now; perfective irrealis for things 
that didn't happen in the past or aren't happening now (closed 
conditions, CF); and imperfective irrealis for things that are expected 
to happen in the future. Whether they also use imperfective irrealis for 
things that may or may not be happening now or in the future (open 
conditions, C), I don't know.

-- Tim

On 5/7/2018 10:13 AM, Aidan Aannestad wrote:
> I wonder if the counterfactual <> past tense conflation has to do with 
> the fact that both counterfactuals and past tense refer to things that 
> are not currently true as of the moment of discussion. I don't know if 
> it's true in every language, but in many, past tense tends to imply 
> that the state being referred to has ceased to be true at some point 
> between the time under discussion and the time of the discussion. In a 
> language without clear irrealis marking (eg English), extending the 
> 'not true now'-ness of past tense to be valid also for counterfactuals 
> seems like a pretty understandable extension to make.
>
> You might wonder, then, why this isn't done with future tenses when 
> those are available. I suspect it is, often, though that might suggest 
> an analysis where the future tense is more broadly 'irrealis' rather 
> than specifically future. I imagine English has chosen past rather 
> than future because English's future tense is /very explicitly /realis 
> - /it will happen/ doesn't mean 'it's likely to happen' or 'I expect 
> it to happen', but rather 'I pretty much guarantee it well happen'. 
> That's not at all appropriate for counterfactuals - the past tense's 
> 'not true now'-ness seems like the better choice.
>
>
> On 2018/05/07 0:04, Stewart Fraser wrote:
>>       I know what you are getting it. If you have a distinction of 
>> forms why not maximize its usage to give as many diverse meanings as 
>> possible. For example (a phrasal example), I am sure way back when, 
>> there was no distinction between “tax avoidance” and “tax evasion”. 
>> But then somebody (either mistakenly or trailblazingly) started to 
>> make the distinction … other hearing this subtle distinction thought 
>> (consciously or unconsciously), “that’s a pretty useful distinction” 
>> and it quickly became established over the whole English language 
>> community.
>>
>>      I think there is more to the "past tense = CF” distinction … a 
>> little more. Maybe once you see it you will say “that’s so trivial, 
>> it’s not worth saying”.
>>
>>      I am still putting my explanation together. I will post it 
>> before I sleep tonight. I live in Camiguin so maybe in about 10 hours 
>> time.
>>
>> … Stewart
>>
>> PS … Maybe Peter is on to something with what he said. I am not sure.
>>
>>> On May 6, 2018, at 11:46 PM, David McCann <[log in to unmask]> 
>>> wrote:
>>>
>>> On Sun, 6 May 2018 11:23:40 +0800
>>> Stewart Fraser <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>>
>>>> What they wrote was OK. However they never mentioned why CF was so
>>>> strongly aligned with past tense in many languages of the world.
>>>>
>>>> Has anybody got any idea what percentage of languages have CF aligned
>>>> with past tense ?
>>> I can't say the percentage, but when you consider it's common in 
>>> Europe,
>>> North America, and Africa, it must be sizable. None of the books I've
>>> got venture an explanation, though. I suspect that it's a case of
>>> "because it's there." Consider how some languages with a productive
>>> morphology for marking the perfective / imperfective distinction have
>>> recycled the present-perfective form as a future (Georgian, Hungarian).
>>> You have a form or construction that's surplus to requirements, so you
>>> employ it where you need something. Presumably there must be a
>>> rationale, but I can't see it. In the case of the future, at least the
>>> present would have been used as a future before a future evolved.
>>> Not everything in language makes sense; e.g. in Palmer's Mood and
>>> Modality, he remarks that conditionals in Amharic "defy explation"!
>