Perfect aspect (was: "I'm after ..." )
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, September 28, 2004, 17:44|
On Monday, September 27, 2004, at 11:04 , Keith Gaughan wrote:
> Joe wrote:
>> Keith Gaughan wrote:[snip]
>>> The meaning comes from the use of the phrase 'tar eis' (these days
>>> written by some as 'tareis', but that looks terrible and Irish is rarely
>>> their first language when they do), meaning... no, guess! Yup, 'after'.
>>> The Hiberno-English usage is identical to the one in Gaelic, all forms.
>> Welsh, too. 'Rydw i wedi gwneud' - 'I have done' - 'Am I after doing'.
> All down to a lack of a direct equivalent to 'to have'.
But why should you use the verb "to have" to express the perfect aspect?
What, for example, does 'he' actually possess in "He has gone"? What is a
It has always seemed to me, in fact, that the Cambro-Gaelic use of 'after'
is more logical. If someone has gone somwhere, it has already happened
and it is behind us. "He is after [his] going" seems logical enough.
Some languages, of course, use a perfect active participle like Esperanto:
li estas irita - he is having-gone/after-going.
Indeed, this seems to have been the norm for intransitive verbs in Vulgar
Latin. In Classical Latin, with few exceptions, the perfect participle has
a passive meaning. An intransitive verb, like "to come", could use te
participle only in the 'impersonal passive' construction: ventum est - 'on
est arrivé; they have come/people have come/we have come' etc according to
context. But in Vulgar Latin we have new forms, *ven'utus (in Gaul & Italy)
, *ven'itus (in the Iberian peninsular) = 'having gone', so:
je suis venu <-- *ego sujo venutus
Forms like "j'ai les vus" derive from */eGo ajo los ved'utos/ = CL (ego)
illos visos habeo. That construction _is_ attested in the Classical
language. Forms like:
multa bona bene parta habemus = we have many well produced goods (Plautus)
abstrusam habebam = I kept her hidden (Plautus)
But already as early as Plautus (2nd cent. BC) we find such phrases
sometimes amount to no more than a periphrastic perfect, e.g.
hasce aedis conductas habebam = I have rented this house (note: _aedi:s_
acc. plural of plurale_tantum noun_aede;s_ "house")
So in VL the perfect was expressed:
- if verb is intransitive, use perfect (active) participle, agreeing with
subject, + verb "to be".
- if verb is intransitive, use perfect (passive) participle, agreeing with
object, + verb "to have".
That was the system in the proto-romance system, but modern romance
languages have modified it. Spanish uses _haber_ only, but the verb has
become a 'perfect auxiliary', the actual meaning 'to own', 'to keep' being
denoted by _tener_.
Some conlangs use a special auxiliary for the perfect, cf. Novial
me veni = I'm coming me have = I have/ I've got
me ha veni = I've come me ha have = I've had/ I had got
The Germanic languages appear to have imitated the VL system. But English
now uses only 'have' - forms like "he is come" are now regarded as archaic.
But to return to where we started. Yes, the Cambro-Gaelic method is to use
"after", but Breton has developed a verb "to have" by fusing possessive
particles with "to be", thus:
am eus (I have) hon eus (we have)
az peus (thou hast, you have) ho peus (ye have, you have)
en deus (he has) o deus (they have)
he deus (she has)
Unlike its sister languages, Breton expresses the perfect in the same way
as Vulgar Latin did, e.g.
Mammig he deus prenet traou e Brest
Mum has bought (some) things in Brest
Tadig a zo chomet er gêr
Dad is having-stayed at home = Dad has stayed at home (_a_ is a
preverbal particle denoting a positive verb)
A few ideas for conlangs here :)
Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight,
which is not so much a twilight of the gods
as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]