Tense and Aspect in Ayeri III

This is part three in my series on tense and aspect in Ayeri. Like last time, we’re still 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.

B8. Definite state

This kind of statement is expressed with the verb unmarked for tense when there is a temporal adverbial (sitaday yāng sirtang ‘when I was young’) specifying the reference:

I lived in Africa when I was young.
Ang mitanay ya Aprika sitaday yāng sirtang.
ang mitan-ay-Ø ya Aprika sitaday Ø yāng sirtang
AF live-1S-FOC LOC Africa when COP 1S.A young.

B9. Definite event

The same as B8:

I saw him yesterday.
Ang silvay yās tamala.
ang silv-ay-Ø yās tamala
AF see-1S.FOC 3SM.P yesterday.

B10. Definite habit

Again, the habit is expressed with the habitual suffix -asa, while the past tense is indicated with an time adverbial (ada-tadayya ‘at that time’).

I got/used to get up early in those days.
Ang biganasāy benem ada-tadayya.

ang bigan-asa-ay benem ada=taday-ya
AF get_up-HAB-1S.FOC early that=time-LOC.

B11. Definite temporary [action]

The progressive adverbial manga can and is likely to be used here to indicate the ongoing nature of the action. If the context is clear, the verb does not need to be marked for past tense explicitly.

We were watching TV.
Ang manga məsilvayn silvakahuyam.
ang manga mə-silv-ayn-Ø silvakahu-yam
AF PROG PST-see-1P.FOC television-DAT.

I translated ‘television’ literally here: silv- ‘to see’, kahu ‘far’ (compare narakahu ‘telephone’). Note that ‘to watch’ is formed with silv- ‘to see’ + dative.

B12. Past before past time (event)

As a pre-past time frame is to be expressed here, the verb necessarily needs to be marked as past tense, with an adverb (maritay ‘before’) indicating the time relationship.

I had visited the island before.
Le məmenuyang maritay tadang.
le mə-menu-yang maritay tadang-Ø
PF.INAN PST-visit-1S.A before island-FOC.

B13. State up to past time

Like in B12, the pre-past frame is indicated with the verb explicitly marked as past tense, with an adverb (masahatay ‘for/since’) indicating that this action/state led up to a point – in the past, as evident from the marking on the verb.

I had known him since birth.
Ang məkoronay yās vesangya yana masahatay.
ang mə-koron-ay-Ø yās vesang-ya yana masahatay
AF PST-know-1S.FOC 3SM.P birth-LOC 3SM.GEN since.

B14. Temporary state up to past time

This is basically the same as in B12 and 13, however in this example there is no adverb, and the duration of the action may be emphasized by using manga again.

They had been lying in wait for him.
Ang (manga) məhemayan nikuyam yās.
ang (manga) mə-hema-yan-Ø niku-yam yās
AF (PROG) PST-lie-3P.FOC lurk-PTCP 3SM.P

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 2, Part 4.

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