Tense and Aspect in Ayeri IV

This is part four – and so far the last installment – in my series on tense and aspect in Ayeri. This time, we’re dealing with future tense, or references that involve future time. That points in the future are expressed with the simple future tense is taken for granted here. However, note that Ayeri distinguishes three levels of future: immediate (in a moment), ‘normal’ (some time ahead), remote (maybe sometime). Of course, these are fuzzy, subjective categories, so it is no use to try and define how many minutes, months, or years will have to pass for an event to be recounted in one of the respective future tenses. Note that In the table in Leech and Svartvik I am using as a reference here, the enumeration in ‘B – Past Time’ is carried on in ‘C – Future Time,’ and I can’t see why. So, instead of continuing with ‘C15,’ I will continue with ‘C1.’ Some of the examples provided here are more specific to English, however it will nonetheless be interesting to figure out how Ayeri deals with these. Also, since Ayeri is slightly pro-drop 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.

C1. Future time (neutral)

As before, the case here is that the future time reference is indicated by the adverbial tasela ‘tomorrow’, while the verb is unmarked for tense:

The letter will arrive tomorrow.
Ang sahāra tasela taman adaya.
ang saha-ara tasela taman-Ø adaya
AF come-3S.INAN tomorrow letter-FOC there

C2. Future time (arising from present time)

In this example, the adverb indicating the time frame is missing, so the verb is indeed marked for future tense here. If there were a time adverb, that marking would be dropped.

Prices are going to rise.
Sənakasaran sipānyereng.
sə-nakas-aran sipān-ye-reng
FUT-grow-3P.INAN price-PL-A.INAN

Although the verb here may seem to contain the habitative marker –asa-, it is wrong to parse it as ?nak(a)-asa-ran, as there is no verb stem *nak(a)-. Also, interpreting 3rd person singular inanimate genitive ran as a verb agreement would not make sense in context or this position, since the case of the referent of verb agreement is mostly the Agent, sometimes the Patient, and rarely a Cause, but basically never one of the other cases.

C3. Future time (plan or arrangement)

As in C1:

We’re moving next week.
Ang tilāyn nangās nana bihanya mararya.
ang tila-ayn-Ø nanga-as nana bihan-ya mararya
AF change-1P.FOC house-P 1P.GEN week-LOC next

C4. Future time (as fact)

Again, as in C1:

The match starts at 2.00 p.m.
Ang cunyo ajaman A:pd.
ang cun-yo ajaman-Ø A:pd
AF begin-3SN match-FOC A₁₂:hrs

The day is divided into 30 hours, starting at sunrise (approx. 6 a.m.), so (14 – 6) / 24 × 30 = 10 ⇒ A₁₂.

C5. Future time (as matter of course)

As a non-native speaker of English I am not quite sure what is intended in the example provided for this class, however, I assume it is supposed to refer to the assumption of the speaker that the predicted action is most certainly to occur. Thus, you would express the sentence in Ayeri like this:

I’ll be seeing you soon.
Ang silvay vās tasela.
ang silv-ay vās tasela
AF see-1S.FOC 2S.P soon

The lack of explicit tense-marking is triggered again by a time adverb: tasela ‘soon’. The verb is not marked for aspect or mood any further to indicate that what is expressed is a fact. Were the outcome of the action doubtful, or only assumed, you would use the subjunctive/irrealis marker -ong-: səsilvongyang ‘I might see’ (FUT-see-SUBJ-1S.A).

C6. Future time (temporary)

This is again as in C1, and using manga here indicates that the action will be currently happening at the time referenced by the time adverbial.

The astronauts will be sleeping at 4.00 a.m.
Ang manga toryan ayonagongye 24:pd.
ang manga tor-yan ayon_agong-ye-Ø 24:pd
AF PROG sleep-3SM man_space-PL-FOC 24₁₂:hrs

C7. Past in Future time

In this case, the verb could be marked for past tense to indicate that the action has been completed, and a time adverbial (here: adauyi pesan ‘by/until then’) would then indicate that the time frame refers to the future.

The plane will have landed by then.
?Məvingara besonreng ven adauyi pesan.
?mə-ving-ara beson-reng ven adauyi pesan
?PST-touch-3S.INAN ship-A.INAN air then until.

A more natural way to say this, however, is:

Eng yomāra iri besonven avanya adauyi pesan.
eng yoma-ara iri beson-ven-Ø avan-ya adauyi pesan
AF.INAN exist-3S.INAN already ship-air.FOC ground-LOC then until.
‘The plane is already/will already be on the ground by then.’


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 was too much to cover everything in one post, so I posted those groups as a series of entries. This also permitted me to think about this topic as I had time to translate the sentences: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Here is the use of tense and aspect in my translations schematized as a table again:

Type # Ø Tense PROG HAB +ADV
State A1
Single event A2
Habits A3
Temporary actions A4 (✓)
Temporary habits A5
State up to present time B1 (✓)
Indefnite event(s) B2 (✓)
Habit up to present time B3 (✓) (✓)
[Past action] With present result B4 (✓) (✓)
Temporary state up to present time B5 (✓)
Temporary habit up to present time B6 (✓)
Temporary, with present result B7 (✓)
Definite state B8 (✓)
Definite event B9 (✓)
Definite habit B10 (✓)
Definite temporary [action] B11 (✓)
Past before past time (event) B12
State up to past time B13
Temporary state up to past time B14 (✓)
Future time (neutral) C1 (✓)
Future time (arising from present time) C2 (✓)
Future time (plan or arrangement) C3 (✓)
Future time (as fact) C4 (✓)
Future time (as matter of course) C5
Future time (temporary) C6 (✓)
Past in Future time C7 (✓)

What you can see is that most time references can be expressed with the verb unmarked for tense (column “Ø”) and an adverb or adverbial that indicates the time frame of the action (“+ADV”), e.g. eda-bahisyēa ‘in these days’, iri ‘already’, maritay ‘before’, masahatay ‘since/for’, or tamala ‘yesterday’. If the time frame is not indicated either by context or by adverbs/adverbials, the tense marker is used – which you can see as a gray tick on most lines. Pluperfect is expressed with the verb mandatorily marked for past tense with an adverb or adverbial to indicate anteriority.

Marking of habitual aspect (“HAB”) only appears where the intention of the speaker is to expressedly point at either a habit. The same goes for the progressive aspect (“PROG”), which explicitly highlights that an action is/was just taking place at the time of reference, or which highlights the rather large amount of time an action took. If it is only a fact that is stated, even if it is not perpetually true, the simple aspect is more likely to be used.

  • Leech, Geoffrey and Jan Svartvik. A Communicative Grammar of English. 3rd ed. London: Longman, 2002. 82–83. Print.
  • Replaced image with HTML table and some CSS magic finally and retroactively fitted bibliography info to current format.