[Lingtyp] Non-present lexemes

Riccardo Giomi rgiomi at campus.ul.pt
Sat Dec 3 16:49:36 UTC 2022

Dear all,

As I read Tom's most interesting inquiry, I was reminded of a short
term-paper of a student of mine, where he addressed the TMA system of
Macedonian (his mother tongue), with special focus on the aorist. This is
presumably not a tense marker in itself but an aspect marker: however, it
seems never to be used in present contexts, whereas it rather freely occurs
in both past- and future-referring ones. So it may be particularly relevant
to Tom's question, especially in that it is not a lexical item but a
grammatical form.

Before writing this, I have decided to double-check with my student. Below
are my question and his reply; however, I want to emphasize that I have no
first-hand knowledge of the language, nor can I cite any published work
that supports the claims below. So these claims should be carefully checked.

*I have a question. To judge from your squib, it would appear that the
Macedonian aorist can denote events occurring in the past or the future,
but never in present-tense contexts. But of course there might be more to
the semantic of this form that could be covered in a couple of pages. So I
am wondering if indeed the aorist can never denote present events -- or
maybe generic/atemporal ones?*
*I don't think it can be. I've been trying to think of a present tense or
atemporal usage of the aorist, but I struggle to think of any.*
*The aorist expresses some sort of perfect-like meaning, not exactly sure
what. When used with a past meaning, it seems to just function as some kind
of preterite. When used with a future meaning, it generally has the
implication of something being "imminent", like it is a guarranteed and
unavoidable event (or a strong promise or threat).*
*It only occurs with perfective verbs, which have a very limited usage in
the present to begin with. Perfective verbs may be used to refer to
habitual events when paired with kje (ex. "sekoj pat koga kje go vidam" -
"every time I see him"), but not paired with the aorist, so *"...koga kje
go vidov" is not possible and requires an imperfect instead, even if the
verb is perfective (which is actually unusual for the imperfect, as it
otherwise occurs with imperfective verbs).*

*In short, I haven't been able to think of a way to use the aorist with
present or generic/atemporal meaning.*


Hope this helps, all best,

Tom Koss <Tom.Koss at uantwerpen.be> escreveu no dia sexta, 2/12/2022 à(s)

> Dear all,
> I’m looking for any kind of linguistic item (TMA markers, particles,
> adverbials etc.) that can convey both past- and future-time reference but
> that do not appear in present contexts.
> The items I’m looking for do not have to be “non-present tense” markers in
> the strict sense, i.e., bound morphemes which have non-present time
> reference as their core meaning - even though this would be most
> interesting of course. They can also be more loosely connected to the verb
> phrase, have additional, more specific meanings, and/or be compatible with
> other tense markers.
> The only criterion is that the items in question allow for both past and
> future interpretations of the clauses they appear in (the choice between
> the two depending on non-linguistic or grammatical context), while a
> present interpretation is generally *not* possible. I would also be
> interested in languages where the expression of a certain grammatical
> category is similar in the past and future tense(s), while the present
> tense behaves differently in some way (see e.g. the Awa Pit example below).
> Below are a few examples for the phenomenon I am referring to:
>    - Nez Perce (Sahaptian) has a lexeme *watiisx *‘one day away’ that can
>    mean ‘tomorrow’ or ‘yesterday’, depending on the tense marking in the
>    respective clause (Deal 2010: 120). The same thing seems to happen with the
>    lexeme *kel *in Hindi (Indo-Aryan) (Kachru 1997: 95) and with *ejo *in
>    Kinyarwanda (Bantu) (Nkusi 1995: 580). All three languages have
>    separate lexemes meaning ‘today’.
>    - The lexeme *hibajata* in Jarawara (Arawá) is interpreted as ‘later
>    today’ in the absence of tense marking, and as ‘just now’ in
>    combination with the immediate past marker *-ra *(Dixon 2004: 224).
>    There are no examples given where it is translated as ‘right now’ or ‘at
>    this moment’.
>    - Awa Pit (Barbacoan) has several strategies to mark clausal negation.
>    One of them, the negative suffix *-ma*, indicates past-time reference
>    in the absence of tense marking, and future-time reference in combination
>    with the future marker *-ni *(Curnow 1997: 332/33). In my assessment,
>    it cannot combine with the imperfective suffix *-mtu*, which is the
>    default marker to express present-time reference in the language.
> If you can think of similar examples in languages you are familiar with, I
> would be very interested in knowing more about them, so as to get a better
> idea about how common such items with non-present semantics are
> cross-linguistically, and what their distribution might be. So far, I have
> mostly found them in the Americas.
> Many thanks in advance!
> Best wishes,
> Tom Koss
> PhD candidate at the University of Antwerp
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Riccardo Giomi, Ph.D.
University of Liège
Département de langues modernes : linguistique, littérature et traduction
Research group *Linguistique contrastive et typologie des langues*
F.R.S.-FNRS Postdoctoral fellow (CR - FC 43095)
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