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Forum Home > The Language Room > Tense-Aspect in D'ni

KathTheDragon
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Posts: 381

To a close approximation, the D'ni tense and aspect prefices are notionally similar to English's system, though apparently not in every respect, as where English would use the simple present, the D'ni (apparently inexplicably) uses the 'progressive' in do-, a prefix which also serves to mark the passive in some cases. For a more exact system, I would propose that the system is interpreted differently.


To begin with do- should be seen as imparting stative aspect, rather than progressive (that is, domees is more exactly "I am in the state of speaking"), and l(e)- imparts retrospective or resultative aspect, rather than the nebulous "perfect tense". The tense prefices are unchanged, though bo- could be seen as a prospective aspect, rather than as a future tense.


Thoughts?

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February 8, 2015 at 10:04 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Talashar
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Posts: 30
It does seem that D'ni is more prone to use a progressive form with stative verbs than English is: dotsahven mreprad on Aitrus's map; maybe Yeesha's kodokenen fere[m] ben tonah b'rish. kodokenen fere[m] ben tonah b'rish refers to a period of time, consistent with the progressive analysis. Frustratingly, most examples of do either are passive, don't precede the main clause verb, or precede a verb that occurs nowhere else (making it difficult to judge lexical aspect).

(Whether or not the "canonical" use of do is stative, it's likely that its various uses all derive from an original stative/deverbal construction).
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Talashar Geltahn; Ki 183867 An overview of D'ni grammar | My books

February 8, 2015 at 9:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
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Additionally, an original stative function is easier to reconcile to the passive than a progressive is. Cf PIE, where the 'perfect' (a stative) and the mediopassive constructions are very obviously related, and may go back to a single category.

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February 9, 2015 at 7:34 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Khreestrefah
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Posts: 96

The construction used by Aitrus, kohooret ah met m’lah dotsahven, shows an interesting aspect of the do-form: he means that the fact of the lizard living in the cave was true at the time they found it, so the time indicated by dotsahven ‘it is living’ is relative to the “past” tense of kohooret ‘we found’.

 

Similarly in Gen lepahboyen set te dotahgen b’set r’ríway/reooshah, the time of dotahgen ‘he is giving’ is relative to lepahboyen ‘he has blessed’. Here the “perfect” seems to focus is on the present situation resulting from Gehn having blessed at some prior time. The verb dotahgen describes the same past event in terms of the action taking place then. The choice of do-form seems to relate to the syntactic metaphor that the blessing is located “in” or “by” the action of giving something.

 

In the case of donetsoet rekortee/relem tseemahen the correlated verb is “present” tense tseemahen ‘he needs’, but this refers to a state of Gehn’s that is habitual, or at least recurring. So the notion of the construction is that at whatever time (including the present) he happens to need books or ink, donestoet ‘we are producing’ them at that time.

 

Note that a more neutral way of expressing the facts here would be *nahvahot tseemahen rekortee/relem donetsoet ‘our master needs the books/ink we produce’. The reversal in the attested sentence seems to be a topicalization, which is possible because the construction is about simultaneity rather than causality. This could explain how the do-form, if it originated as an expression of action contingent with the main verb, came to be usable as a main verb in the sentence. (Atrus’s Prayer and Kadish’s Note both use do-forms at the beginning of a sentence -- the actions to which they are contingent being expressed by a subordinated clause or an infinitive.)

May 31, 2015 at 8:35 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Khreestrefah
Member
Posts: 96

About the possible origin of do- there is another suggestive construction on Aitrus’s Map: rehevo kroen . . . terthtes don erthchir fah “the swarm moves . . . as a group, as if it were a single organism.” Literally don erthchir is ‘like an organism’; but the English idiom used to translate it in context shows how this notion of resemblance to another action can be expressed in everyday language by the supposition of that hypothetical action taking place. The phrase “as if it were” is in English a suppositional or ‘subjunctive’ equivalent of “as it is” which itself can mean variously ‘in the manner that it is’, ‘to the extent that it is’, or ‘at the same time that it is’.

 

So D’ni do- and don might be etymologically related with a root sense ‘as, while’ extended to “at the same time as” and “in the same manner as, like.” If do- originated as an adverbial prefix (somewhat like the ultimately Greek prefix syn- in English syllogize, sympathize, synchronize, synthesize, etc.), then from rees ‘I eat’ beside dorees ‘I eat at the same time (as some other action)’ the past formation ko-rees ‘I ate’ would by analogy lead to ko-dorees ‘I ate at the same time, I was eating as (something else happened)’.

 

This idea of contingent action going on specifically in the past is seen in one of Gehn’s sentences: teegtahntee kodoteegeet rilte reahreeuhtahv . . . tseemahahl koneetsahvayeet ‘workers working without the necessary protection . . . suffered’. We don’t know exactly what they suffered, but clearly kodoteegeet ‘they were working’ indicates what they were in the midst of doing in the past when this happened. The difference conveyed by the use of the kodo-form to express the contingent activity in the past (in constrast with Aitrus’s sentence about the lizard) may be that this activity was interrupted by the past event that koneetsahvayeet ‘they suffered’.

June 7, 2015 at 12:47 AM Flag Quote & Reply

KathTheDragon
Site Owner
Posts: 381

Very interesting read, Khrees. Interestingly, an adverbial origin for do- requires similar adverbial origins for at least bo- and ko-, due to the ordering of these prefices. My reasoning is that if forms like korees were already part of the inflectional paradigm, the only possible position for do- would be word-initially, rather than being infixed.. Now, that leaves le- as the only possibly non-adverbial prefix, and is coincidentally the only one to feature e rather than o, a feature it shares with the prepositions and definite article.

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June 7, 2015 at 7:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Khreestrefah
Member
Posts: 96

With two prefixes combined one of them has to go first, even if they are exactly equivalent syntactically and only differ semantically.  So we really cannot say more than that the combination kodo- must come "later" (either historically or logically) than ko- and do- by themselves. 


If both prefixes were adverbial at some historical stage then they meant something like do-'simultaneously' and ko- 'previously'.  The semantics determine the order in which these are logically combined: it makes sense to say "previously to what I do now I did an action simultaneoulsy with another"; but it is less useful to say "simultaneoulsy with what I do now I did an action previous to another action."

June 7, 2015 at 2:35 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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