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A sketch of Old Albic 3/4: Verbal morphology

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Monday, June 21, 2004, 19:10
And another hallo!

And on it goes with part 3, in which I'll discuss Old Albic verbs.

Share and enjoy!



The OA verb is inflected for tense, aspect and mood, and conjugated
for the person and number of subject and object. The overall structure
of the finite verb is


wherein the abbreviations stand for the following:

A  Augment: the first vowel of the verb is repeated to indicate
   perfective (aorist) aspect.

PV Preverb: this is a prefix that raises an oblique argument to direct

TM Tense/Mood marker (see below).

OC Objective conjugation. On transitive verbs, this refers to the
   direct object; on non-active intransitive verbs, to the subject.

AC Agentive conjugation; used only on active verbs, and only if the
   subject is in agentive or dative case.

M  Middle voice.

Active vs. stative verbs

A very important distinction in OA, as in all Albic languages, is
between active and stative verbs. Active verbs are verbs referring to
actions performed by the subject; stative verbs are all the others.
Verbs of perception and emotion are a subclass of active verbs. Some
verbs, especially verbs of motion, are fluid verbs, i.e. they can be
active or stative, depending on whether the subject moves out of
itself or not.

All transitive verbs are active. Active verbs take agentive
conjugation suffixes indicating person and number of the subject;
transitive verbs also take objective conjugation suffixes indicating
person and number of the object. Stative verbs take objective
conjugation suffixes indicating person and number of the subject.

This distinction also affects case marking. Subjects of active verbs
are marked with the agentive or dative case, depending on the
degree of volition of the subject. The basic case marking is
agentive, except verbs of perception and emotion that usually take the
dative case. (This also means that the subject has to be animate,
though a zero-agent construction with an inanimate complement in
instrumental case can be used to express notions such as `The stone
smashed the pot'.) In contrast, subjects of stative verbs as well as
direct objects are marked with the objective case.

Root verbs vs. derived verbs

Verbs can be divided into root verbs and derived verbs after the
structure of the stem. Root verbs are the more basic ones; their stem
consists of a single root. Derived verbs are all verbs derived from
nouns, adjectives, other verbs etc. This includes nominal and
adjectival predicates. Root verbs and derived verbs differ in the form
of certain inflectional markings, which have more regular,
agglutinative forms with derived verbs. Thus, while the stem structure
of derived verbs is more complex, their inflections are simpler.


There are three moods: indicative, subjunctive and imperative. In the
indicative and subjunctive moods, two aspects, imperfective and
perfective (aorist) are distinguished; the imperfective indicative is
in turn divided into four tenses: present, imperfect (past), future
and conditional.

The present tense refers to an ongoing event in the present. It is
marked by the suffix -a- following the stem. This suffix and the 3rd
person singular objective suffix coalesce into -á-: _meláma_ `I love

The imperfect tense refers to an ongoing event (seen as uncompleted)
in the past. The imperfect tense of a derived verb is marked by a
suffix -@n-. In case of a root verb, the suffix is -n-; if the root
ends in a stop or fricative, the nasal is infixed before the final
consonant, assimilating to the point of assimilation of the obstruent,
e.g. brit- `break' -> brint- `broke'; _brintama_ `I broke it'.
the nasal is suffixed: sil- `shine' -> _silna_ `it shone'.  If the root
ends in a nasal, the suffix is -@n-, as in a derived verb. An example of
a derived verb: marar- `kill' -> _mararanara_ `he killed him'.

The future tense is used for ongoing events in the future. It is
marked with a suffix -u-.

The conditional, morphologically a cross between imperfect and future,
is used to refer to hypothetical events, especially in antecedents
of conditional clauses. It is marked by -u- suffixed to the imperfect,
e.g. brintu-, silnu-, mararanu-.

The aorist usually refers to completed events in the past and is used
as the narrative tense. It thus contrasts mainly with the imperfect.
However, an event referred to by the aorist need not be in the past;
the aorist is also used to express anteriority in relation to another
event, even if the event referred to is still ongoing or altogether in
the future. For example, in a sentence such as When the sun sets, we
will open the feast, the antecedent when the sun sets would be put in
the aorist:

Sí evessa Are, pathymi am matanal.

Another use of the aorist is the gnomic aorist, which expresses
timeless truth. The aorist is marked by the augment, a prefix @-
consisting of the root vowel. If the root has an initial vowel, an h
is inserted between the augment and the root-initial vowel:

Are ahaussa. `The sun has risen.' (aus- `to rise')

The subjunctive is marked by the suffix -i-. The aorist subjunctive is
marked by augment and -i-. The aorist subjunctive is used as a
`hearsay form' (`it may have been that...').

The imperative is the bare stem, followed by an objective conjugation
ending when transitive. Only active verbs form an imperative.

Objective conjugation

The objective conjugtion endings agree with an argument of the verb
that appears in the objective case. This is the direct object of a
transitive verb or the subject of a stative verb such as dat- `to

            Singular Plural

1st person  -ha      -hi
2nd person  -cha     -chi
3rd person  -a       -i

The verb agrees in number with the object only if the object is
animate. If the object is inanimate, the conjugation is always
singular (-a), regardless of the number of the object.

Agentive conjugation

The agentive conjugation endings are used with active verbs and mark
agreement with an agentive or dative subject.  An instrumental-case
`subject' triggers no agreement as it isn't really a subject but an
oblique complement to a zero-agent clause.

            Singular Plural

1st person  -ma      -mi
2nd person  -tha     -thi
3rd person  -sa/-ra  -si/-ri

The 3rd person endings have several allophones. The forms -ra and -ri
appear after vowels and r; after l, the endings take the forms -la and
-li. In all other cases, the endings are -sa and -si, which are the
underlying forms (the post-vocalic -ra and -ri forms result from
rhotacism of intervocalic *s, the forms that occur after l and r from
assimilation). However, if the ending follows a stop (including ph, th
and ch), metathesis occurs and the s of the ending precedes the stop
[example needed].


The middle voice is marked with the suffix -r. It has two functions.
Used intransitively, it has reflexive meaning; used transitively, it
denotes the so-called subject version, i.e. that the subject acts on
behalf of itself. The middle never functions as a passive.

Infinite forms

There are four participles: imperfective agentive, perfective
agentive, imperfective objective, perfective objective. The
participles are formed with the suffixes -@nth- (agentive) and -@th
(objective); the perfective participles were also marked with an


matanth `eating'
amatanth `having eaten'
matath `being eaten'
amatath `eaten'

The participles are inflected like regular adjectives.

There is also a verbal noun referring to the action/state/event
denoted by the verb which plays an infinitive-like role; it is in
inanimate noun formed with the suffix -@s, e.g. matas `(act of)

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