Tense and Aspect in Ayeri I

Some weeks ago, I posted a “translation challenge” about tense and aspect in peoples’ conlangs to the ZBB (the thread has pruned by now), using the example sentences from Leech and Svartvik’s Communicative Grammar of English which were used by my Applied Grammar II class teacher. The examples, which revolve around strategies to express notions of points, processes, states, and habits at different levels of time in English, I found to be more or less useful to show how other languages express the presented distinctions, even though there may be mergers or differences present in English which are not made in other languages. This is why this list should be handled with care as far as conlanging goes. Even for the examples of how English deals with the different action-in-time types there are mergers, however.

Generally, Ayeri distinguishes present – which is unmarked – from three degrees each of past and future: immediate, ‘normal’ (if there’s better terminology, let me know), and distant. However, when the time frame is clear, e.g. by use of temporal adverbs, tense prefixes are not mandatory. On top of this, Ayeri distinguishes two aspects: habitual and progressive. Habitual aspect is indicated by an infix -asa-, progressive aspect by the modal particle manga. Manga is also found as a modifier of prepositions that marks movement. However, these markers are not as frequently used as e.g. the progressive aspect in English.

For simplicity, I’ve translated the example sentences from Leech and Svartvik from English into Ayeri. See the “Works cited” below for reference and credit.

A1. State

For simple statements that express a general state at the present time, the present tense is used:

I like Mary.
Ang vacay sa Mary.
ang vac-ay-Ø sa Mary
AF like-1S.FOC P Mary.

A2. Single event

For single current events, the present tense is used as well:

I resign.
pampang-yang (pampang- < pang~pang-, ‘ITER~back’)

A3. Habits

For general habits, the present habitual is used:

She gets up early.
Biganasayeng benem.
bigan-asa-yeng benem
get_up-HAB-3SF.A early

Note that in English, the present tense already covers this function, while the habitual aspect needs to be specially marked in Ayeri.

A4. Temporary actions

For currently ongoing, but temporary actions, the progressive marker manga can be used, but only optionally so, to emphasize the temporary nature of the action and that it is performed at this very moment:

He’s drinking Scotch.
Ang (manga) ginya le Scotch.
ang (manga) gin-ya-Ø le Scotch.
AF (PROG) drink-3SM.FOC P.INAN Scotch.

A5. Temporary habits

She’s getting up early (nowadays).
Biganasayeng benem luga eda-bahisyēa.
bigan-asa-yeng benem luga eda=bahis-ye-ea
get_up-HAB-3SF.A early during this=day-PL-LOC.

Here, it is necessary to mention the time reference ‘these days’ (I shamelessly translated from English here because I couldn’t think of anything better) to indicate that this is not a general habit – as above – but one that has been going on for a while already, and also will at least for some time in the future.

To be continued…

Since the table in Leech and Svartvik consists of all in all 26 distinctive action types in three large groups with a couple of subdivisions, it would be too much to cover everything in one post, so I will post those groups as a series of entries. This also permits me to think about this topic as I have time to translate the sentences: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

  • Leech, Geoffrey, and Jan Svartvik. A Communicative Grammar of English. 3rd ed. London: Longman, 2002. 82–83. Print.

2 thoughts on “Tense and Aspect in Ayeri I

  1. Ayeri is insanely naturalistic and your website is really impressive. I love how structured you are. I’m working on a similar project at my blog and it’s a shit storm. The inconsistencies is such relatively few entires are irritatingly high.

    Hats off. I played with legos too… a lot.

    1. Thanks 🙂 Though in fact the whole process of documenting my conlang is messy for me, too, even if I may seem organized. I suppose that’s normal…

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