Tense and Aspect in Ayeri II

This is part two in my series on tense and aspect in Ayeri. This time, we’re dealing with past tense, or references that involve past time. That points in the past are expressed with the simple past tense is taken for granted here. However, note that Ayeri distinguishes three levels of past: immediate (just a moment ago), ‘normal’ (some time ago), remote (long ago). Of course, these are fuzzy, subjective categories, so it is no use to try and define how many minutes, months, or years have to pass until an event is recounted in one of the respective past tenses. Also, since Ayeri is slightly droppy regarding grammatical marking of categories expressed by context or adverbs in the same sentence, the tense markers are frequently dropped as long as the reference is clear. This will be illustrated in many of the examples below. As in the last post on this topic, these example sentences come from Leech and Svartvik.

B1. State up to present time

Since Ayeri does not have a morphologically marked perfect, simple present is used here with a time adverbial (pericanya-ikan masahatay ‘for many years’) indicating that the state has been going on for a period before and leading up to now:

I’ve known her for years.
Ang koronay (edauyi) yes pericanya-ikan masahatay.
ang koron-ay-Ø (edauyi) yes perican-ya=ikan masahatay
AF know-1S.FOC (now) 3SF.P year-LOC=many since.

B2. Indefinite event(s)

This is basically the same as in B1:

I’ve seen better plays.
Ang silvay maritay ajānyeas baneng.
ang silv-ay-Ø maritay ajān-ye-as ban-eng
AF see-1S.FOC before play-PL-P good-COMP.

Since the past reference is clarified by using maritay ‘before’, the sentence is grammatical even without marking the verb explicitly for past tense.

B3. Habit up to present time

Since this category is about habit, I included the habitual marker -asa- in the example sentence below, however it feels unnatural to use there. What is important is the word masahatay ‘since/for’, as above, which establishes the time reference of an action that lasts up to the time of speaking. Use -asa- additionally to emphasize that this was a habitual action (“He used to conduct…”):

He’s conducted that orchestra for 15 years.
Sa lant(asa)yāng (edauyi) eda-tingrayeno pericanya 13 masahatay.
sa lant-(asa-)yāng (edauyi) eda=tingrayeno-Ø perican-ya 13₁₂ masahatay
PF lead-(HAB-)3SM.A (now) this=orchestra-FOC year-LOC 15 since.

To be honest, I don’t know anymore where I got tingrayeno from exactly, but it looks like a compound, and it involves tingra ‘tune, melody, music’, maybe also yenu ‘group’ with an older (and even meta-factually!) fossilized nominalizer -no fused. However, the compound would then be the wrong way round, ‘music group’ ought to be yenutingra if it were regular. One of the woes of not keeping track too closely on where you get your compound expressions from.

B4. [Past action] With present result

The simple past tense is used here:

You’ve ruined my dress!
Le kādruvāng vehim nā!
le kə-adru-vāng vehim-Ø nā
PF.INAN IPST-destroy-2S.A dress-FOC 1S.GEN

Note that the immediacy of action is expressed by the immediate past tense marker kə- here.

B5. Temporary state up to present time

And again, the present tense is used here together with a time adverb (iri ‘already’) to indicate that the state leads up to present time. The adverb manga may be used here especially to emphasize the large amount of time the state/action took:

I’ve been waiting for an hour.
Ang manga galamay pidimeri men iri.
ang manga galam-ay-Ø pidim-eri men iri
AF PROG wait-1S.FOC hour-INS one already.

B6. Temporary habit up to present time

This is like B5, only that you may empasize the habituality of the action with the habitual marker:

He’s been walking since he was 8 months old.
Ang lamp(asa)ya henanya koncanena yā masahatay.

ang lamp-(asa-)ya-Ø hen-an-ya koncan-ena yā masahatay
AF walk-(HAB-)3SM.FOC eight-NMLZ-LOC month-GEN 3SM.GEN since.

In Ayeri it is more natural to say ‘since his eighth month’. Henan ‘eighth’ is formed by nominalizing hen ‘eight’, masahatay ‘since’ is a postposition and requires its head to be marked as an adverbial of place, hence the locative marker -ya.

B7. Temporary, with present result

Like in most of the other cases, there is no indication of the completeness of the action here, so for past reference, the simple past is used. The progressive marker manga is not usually used in this situation either:

You’ve been smoking!


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 1, Part 3, Part 4.

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