Re: Noun tense
|From:||Peter Clark <peter-clark@...>|
|Date:||Monday, January 27, 2003, 1:28|
On Sunday 26 January 2003 01:34 am, Josh Roth wrote:
> Well it's nothing too spectacular, in Eloshtan anyway. I snitched it from
> Unknown Native American Language(s) that I read about a long time ago. It
> just specifies the time period of the noun's existence, or existence as
> described in the sentence. "tem melegesi" is "my friend," "tem melegesit"
> is "my old/ex/former/late friend," "tem melegesir" is "the one who is
> *presently* my friend," "tem melegisin" is "my future friend." The
> subjunctive noun mood is still in regular use, and refers to something that
> does not necessarily exist or not exist at any point in time, but which you
> want to speak about anyway. So in the Babel story, for example, when they
> talk about building a city and a tower whose top reaches to heaven, those
> nouns are both hypothetical, so they are in the subjunctive. With "my
> friend" again, it would be "ten melegesine." Of course, for back-vowel
> words, that suffix is -no rather than -ne. Subjunctive nouns (as well as
> negative nouns) trigger subjunctive mood in verbs. Noun tenses don't
> trigger tense agreement in verbs though.
Interesting. I'm slightly disappointed that you don't remember the name of
the language you borrowed it from. Apparently, Panare (a Cariban language of
Venezuela) has a future participle that means something along the lines of
"destined to be." Of course, since the participles are derived from a verb,
it's not quite the same as what I usually refer to as "noun tense."
How do you handle multiple nouns in one sentence? Do all the nouns have a
tense associated with them? I take it from your description that verbs also
have tense associated with them as well, correct?
One of the things that I've struggled with in creating noun tense is the fact
that it is rather counter-intuitive to the way that human beings
conceptualize events. In general, we view events, not entities, as occuring
in sequences. Noun tense, at first glance, is not very utilitarian, and
languages have a tendancy to whittle away at un-utilitarian aspects.
On the other hand, closer observation shows that it is *sometimes* useful to
view entities as occuring in a sequence. Hence things like "her ex-husband,"
"my current roommate," and "our future daughter-in-law." In such instances,
however, these are more prone to act as identifiers, rather than tense.
So, some time ago, I tried to ponder on a probable intersection between
utility and perception, and hit upon what I think is the most utilitarian and
likely combination of nouns and tense. The easiest way to explain this is to
postulate a hypothetical future English (indeed, this is the way I imagined
that Enamyn's noun tense would have arisen) in which contractions have become
fused to the noun. "I'm," "you're," "he's," "we're," and "they're" have
completely replaced the full forms of "I am, you are, he is," etc. Of course,
in modern English, there isn't a contracted form for the past tense. What
could happen is that English, rather than splitting tense into past and
non-past, could shift to future and non-future, with the future form being
"-l" and the non-future being "-s." Or something. In the case of Enamyn, as
it was moving from a more isolating morphology to one more agglutinating, the
tense markers that had previously marked the verbs became afixed to the
subject. More importantly, however, is that at the same time, the aspect
marker, rather than fixing itself to the verb, fixed itself to the direct
object. As time went on, the aspect marker lost any sense of aspect and
became more of a "relative tense marker" that could be generalized to all
other nouns in the sentence besides the subject.
The result is that the absolute noun tense and the relative noun tense focus
on the *orientation* of entities in a sequence of events. That is, they do
not refer to past, present, or future *versions* or manifestations of
entities, but rather on their state within the sentence.
"Having risen from the chair, I walked to the kitchen to eat a sandwich."
In this case, "I" would be marked with the absolute past. "Chair" would be
relative past, "kitchen" relative present, and "sandwich" relative future. We
have a sequence of events, not entities, parade by, but with the relation of
the entities to the events clearly marked.
In other words, noun tense does for sequences as noun case does for role: it
makes it possible to have a freer order of sequences without losing clarity
of meaning. For instance, let's say English was a bit freer with word order:
"The dog bit me," is the neutral statement, but something like "me the dog
bit" would emphasize the fact that the dog bit me, rather than someone else.
Imagine this context: "I feed the dog and pet it, while John kicks it around,
but me the dog bit!" "Me" has been fronted to indicate the unusual or
specialness of the role. Of course, in real-world English, this is done by a
raised tone on "me." But you get the idea.
That idea is basically present behind noun tense. To take the previous
example, if a speaker wished to emphasize the intent of the sequence, she
could say, "to eat a sandwich I rise from the chair and walk to the kitchen"
or to emphasize the main event: "I walk to the kitchen, rise from the chair
to eat a sandwich."
Of course, noun tense allows some play with the entity as a sequence, but
that is not its prime concern. Enamyn also has a subjunctive noun tense,
which is used much in the same way as in Eloshtan. However, because noun
tense does such a good job of indicating both the tense of the sentence
(absolute tense) and the sequence of events within the sentence (relative
tense), verb tense is non-existant; rather, there is more of a concern with
mood and aspect.