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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. :Peter