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Re: THEORY: Tenses (was: Re: THEORY: ... Auxiliaries...)

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 13, 2005, 14:32
On Tuesday, July 12, 2005, at 12:17 , Doug Dee wrote:

> In a message dated 7/10/2005 5:08:38 PM Eastern Daylight Time, > salut_vous_autre@HOTMAIL.COM writes: > >> But except latin and romance languages, are there languages that really >> have >> a grammatical futur? > > Yes, lots: Greek, at least some of the Celtic languages,
Well, yes and no. It depends what Max's question actually means. After all, "I will have" is _grammatical_. It is also analytical and is formed using a modal auxiliary. I guess all languages have grammatical ways of expressing future time if need be. By homing in on Latin does Max mean 'having synthetically formed tenses'? If so, then Ancient Greek fits, but modern Greek does not. It uses the invariable auxiliary particle /Ta/ followed by either the 'present' or 'aorist' subjunctive, depending upon whether we want imperfective or perfective aspect. In Latin itself, which is the first language Max mentions, the future tenses were both time-aspect combos. The Latin verb formed all its various bits and pieces from three stems or bases: the infectum, the perfectum and the supinum. The last was used only for forming the perfect & future paticiples as well as, of course, the supine itself and for forming various deverbal nouns & adjectives. Latin combined, in theory, the infectum & perfectum, with three time references to give the familiar six tenses of the textbooks: INFECTUM PERFECTUM NEUTRAL present tense: scribo perfect tense: sripsisse PAST imperfect tense: sribebam pluperfect tense: scripseram FUTURE future tense: scribam future perfect tense: scripsero Now it would be nice if we had neat imperfective ~ perfective aspect contrast in the three time frames, as we find in the Slav languages, for example. But it is not so neat. The Latin perfect tense did duty both for 'present perfect' (not perfective!) and for the 'past perfective' (the pluperfect was 'past perfect'). Also the Latin 'present tense' was often used for 'narrative past' - that is why I used the term 'neutral' rather than 'present' above. Any way, back to the future :) It will be seen from the above that the Latin 'future tenses' combine both time & aspect. Max & I had a longish exchange about whether the 'future tense' in the Romance languages was purely temporal, or whether it combined time & aspect. Certainly the synthetic future of Ancient Greek was part of its _aspectual_ system, as I have shown several times in past mails; and the futures of modern Greek are certainly time-aspect combos. I won't pursue the Celtic languages with their several different futures - progressive, habitual, perfect etc ;)
> many Australian > languages, and others.
I guess in fact that the majority of languages with tense systems (in the conventional sense of the word) have grammatical future tenses. =============================================== On Tuesday, July 12, 2005, at 02:40 , caeruleancentaur wrote: [snip]
> Swahili forms the future tense by infixing -ta- between the personal > pronoun prefix and the verb: > > nitasoma - I shall read > utasema - you shall say > atapenda - he/she shall love > etc.
Yep - but the in relative form of the future the infix is -taka- as in _atakayependa_ (a-taka-ye-penda) "he who will love" - thus betraying its origin from 'taka' "to want". It is not uncommon for languages to use a verb meaning 'want' or 'will' to form expressions to denote future time (cf. English!). Chinese which has no formal tense system sometimes uses yao4 (want) with little more meaning than a future auxiliary. I do not know Swahili well enough to know wether its future is purely temporal with no overtones of aspect and/or mood, or not. Another Bantu language, Xhosa, has several future tenses: near future: ndiza hukamba = I will/shall go (now, soon) future (full form): ndiya kuhamba = I will/shall go future (short form): ndo.hamba = I'll go future continuous: ndiya kuba ndihamba = I will/shall be going It is quite clear that we are dealing with both aspect & time here. It seems to me that in the majority of languages conventional tenses combine both time & aspect and sometimes mood (apart from, of course, indicative). I know that at one extreme, so to speak, we have Chinese which has no formal tense system, but does have suffixes to denote aspect. The Semitic languages were also like this - but I think some have developed some simple tense systems. Are there any natlangs at the opposite end of spectrum, i.e. that formally mark only time reference with no formal way of denoting aspect? (That is a genuine question :) Ray =============================================== =============================================== MAKE POVERTY HISTORY


Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>