Tag Archives: tense

Translation Challenge: The Beginning of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”

Text in English

The text to be translated in this Translation Challenge is the initial passage of Tolstoy’s 1878 novel Anna Karenina.1 The Ayeri translation here follows the English one by Constance Garnett (1901), which can be found on Project Gutenberg.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Everything was in confusion in the Oblonskys’ house. The wife had discovered that the husband was carrying on an intrigue with a French girl, who had been a governess in their family, and she had announced to her husband that she could not go on living in the same house with him. This position of affairs had now lasted three days, and not only the husband and wife themselves, but all the members of their family and household, were painfully conscious of it. Every person in the house felt that there was no sense in their living together, and that the stray people brought together by chance in any inn had more in common with one another than they, the members of the family and household of the Oblonskys. The wife did not leave her own room, the husband had not been at home for three days. The children ran wild all over the house; the English governess quarreled with the housekeeper, and wrote to a friend asking her to look out for a new situation for her; the man-cook had walked off the day before just at dinner time; the kitchen-maid, and the coachman had given warning. (Tolstoy 2013)

Ayeri translation

Translation Challenge: The Beginning of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"

Kamayon pandahajang-hen mino; minarya miraneri sitang-ton pandahāng-hen minarya.

Enyareng atauya kāryo nangaya pandahana Oblonski. Silvisaye sarisa envanang, ang manga miraya ayon yena cān-cānas layeri Kahani, seri ganvayās pandahaya ton, nay ang narisaye ayonyam yena, ang ming saylingoyye mitanyam nangaya kamo kayvo yāy. Eng manga yomāran eda-mineye luga bahisya kay, nay tong vakas ten pulengeri, sitang-tong-namoy ayonang nay envanang, nārya nasimayajang-hen pandahana nay nangānena ton naynay. Ang mayayo nyān-hen nangaya, ming tenubisoyrey, mitantong kadanya. Ang engyon vihyam miromānjas keynam si sa lancon kadanya apineri kondangaya, nasimayajas pandahana nay nangānena Oblonski. Ang saroyye envan sangalas yena, ang manga yomoyya ayon rangya ton luga bahisya kay. Sa senyon ganye nangaya-hen; ang ranye ganvaya Angli kayvo lomāyaya visam nay ang tahanye ledoyam, yam mya balangyeng pinyan yanoley gumo hiro ye; ang saraya ersaya bahisya sarisa pidimya tarika sirutayyānena; ang narisaton lomāya risang nay lantaya vapatanas ton.

More information

I also made a PDF containing interlinear glosses and commentary for this translation.2,3

  • Plank, Frans, Thomas Mayer, Tatsiana Mayorava and Elena Filimonova, eds. The Universals Archive. 1998–2009. U Konstanz, 2009. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. ‹http://typo.uni-konstanz.de/archive/intro›.
  • Schachter, Paul. “The Subject in Philippine Languages: Topic, Actor, Actor-Topic, or None of the Above?” Subject and Topic. Ed. Charles N. Li. New York: Academic P, 1976. 493–518. Print.
  • Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Eds. David Brannan, David Widger and Andrew Sly. Trans. by Constance Garnett. Project Gutenberg. 11 Oct. 2014. Project Gutenberg, 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2014. ‹http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1399›.
  1. Hat tip to Steven Lytle for suggesting it.
  2. Also, please let me add that XƎTEX is pretty darn awesome.
  3. Updated with some corrections on Dec 11, 2014. See the diff on Github for changes.

Imperial Messages IV – “Nay marin yenuya silvayana ikan …”

This is the fourth posting in a series on the process of translating the short story “Eine kaiserliche Botschaft” by the Praguer writer Franz Kafka (*1883, †1924). The individual installments will go through the text mostly sentence by sentence, quoting from the German text as well as a translation of it into English. Following these quotations, I will discuss and comment on newly coined words and thoughts I had on grammar while doing the translation.

The text

Und vor der ganzen Zuschauerschaft seines Todes – alle hindernden Wände werden niedergebrochen und auf den weit und hoch sich schwingenden Freitreppen stehen im Ring die Großen des Reichs – vor allen diesen hat er den Boten abgefertigt. (Kafka 1994, 281:6–11)

And before the entire spectatorship of his death – all obstructing walls have been torn down and the great figures of the empire stand in a ring upon the broad, soaring exterior stairways – before all these he dispatched the messenger. (Kafka 2011)

Nay marin yenuya silvayana ikan tenyanena yana – manga adruran merengyeley-hen bidis nay ang manga bengyan nyānye tiga similena hicanya ling rivanya ehen, siya lingreng iray nay apan – sā tavya mayisa ya ninayāng marin enyaya-hen.

Interlinear glossing

Nay
and
marin
in_front_of
yenu-ya
group-LOC
silvaya-na
spectator-GEN
ikan
complete
tenyan-ena
death-GEN
yana
3SM.GEN
manga
PROG
adru-ran
destroy-3P.INAN
mereng-ye-ley=hen
wall-PL-P.INAN=all
bidis
obstructing
nay
and
ang
AF
manga
PROG
beng-yan
stand-3PM
nyān-ye
person-PL
tiga
honorable
simil-ena
country-GEN
hican-ya
circle-LOC
ling
top_of
rivan-ya
mountain-LOC
ehen,
stair,
si-ya
REL-LOC
ling-reng
ascend-3S.INAN
iray
high
nay
and
apan
wide
CAUF
tav-ya
become-3SM
mayisa
ready
ya
3SM.FOC
ninaya-ang
messenger-A
marin
in_front_of
enya-ya=hen.
everyone-LOC=all

‘And in front of the whole group of spectators of his death – all obstructing walls were being destroyed and the honorable persons of the country were standing in a circle on top of the mountain of stairs which ascended high and wide – in front of everyone of them he dispatched the messenger.’

Notes on translation

Few new words needed to be coined here: one is bidis ‘obstructing’, which I derived from the previously existing verb bidisa- ‘to block, obstruct’, which seems to be a causative derivation of the noun bidan ‘block’. Also, there was only a word for ‘stair in a staircase’ in the dictionary, ehen, but I discovered the lack of a regular way to derive sets of things. I left the word as ehen in the text, but made a compound with rivan ‘mountain’ as its head, since the setting Kafka describes reminds me strongly of Mayan pyramids or similar religious architecture with long and high-climbing stairs found in Asia. It should be noted that the compound is rivanehen ‘stair-mountain’ as an individual word, but the compound, headed by a noun, is regularly split after the the head for case marking: ling rivanya ehen ‘on top of the stair mountain’. Tiga ‘honorable’ was derived as an adjective from tigan ‘honor’.

One striking thing in the German text that has not been translated in the same way into English is the change to present tense in the parenthesis: the walls “werden niedergebrochen” (Kafka 1994, 281:8) in present tense, dynamic passive, while in English the walls “have been torn down” (Kafka 2011) in present perfect, stative passive, although the great ones “stehen” (Kafka 1994, 281:9) as well as they “stand” (Kafka 2011). Since Ayeri uses morphologic tense rather sparingly and does not employ an epic preterite like German and English do, I used the progressive marker manga to achieve a similar effect of immediacy.

A nifty feature of Ayeri comes into play in this sentence: usually, verbs have agreement in person and number with the agent of the clause, however, in “manga adruran merengyeley-hen bidis”, the verb adru- ‘to destroy’ has third person plural inanimate agreement (-ran), which refers to “merengyeley”, from mereng ‘wall’ + yePL’ + -leyP.INAN’, which is itself marked as a patient so that the clause does not contain an agent and thus is in passive voice.

What’s more, the German text has an adverbial clause right at the beginning of the sentence that is picked up again for emphasis after the parenthesis. However, usually Ayeri requires the verb phrase to come first, with the verb phrase here marked for location focus, since this seems like the prevalent perspective in the original. Still, for stylistic purposes, I think it might be better to keep the original structure, so that the constituent order of the sentence becomes marked in the face of this epic moment.

An issue I found problematic is that in the original, the circle of dignitaries is so strongly emphasized, while the structure in the last part of the sentence, “before all these he dispatched the messenger” (Kafka 2011) is translated in the most straightforward way by using a causative construction again (“sā tavya mayisa ya ninayāng”), thus the locative topic that should have been used must be replaced with the causative one out of syntactic constraints. I tried to compensate by overspecifying enya ‘everyone’ with the quantifier -hen ‘all’, which basically results in the meaning ‘all of them all’.

  • Kafka, Franz. “Eine kaiserliche Botschaft.” Drucke zu Lebzeiten. By Franz Kafka. Eds. Wolf Kittler et al. Frankfurt a. M.: S. Fischer, 1994. 280–82. Print.
  • ———. “A Message from the Emperor.” Trans. by Mark Harman. NYRblog. The New York Review of Books, 1 Jul. 2011. Web. 9 Feb. 2012. ‹http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/jul/01/message-emperor-new-translation›

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.’

Conclusion

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#ØTensePROGHAB+ADV
StateA1
Single eventA2
HabitsA3
Temporary actionsA4(✓)
Temporary habitsA5
State up to present timeB1(✓)
Indefnite event(s)B2(✓)
Habit up to present timeB3(✓)(✓)
[Past action] With present resultB4(✓)(✓)
Temporary state up to present timeB5(✓)
Temporary habit up to present timeB6(✓)
Temporary, with present resultB7(✓)
Definite stateB8(✓)
Definite eventB9(✓)
Definite habitB10(✓)
Definite temporary [action]B11(✓)
Past before past time (event)B12
State up to past timeB13
Temporary state up to past timeB14(✓)
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 timeC7(✓)

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.

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.

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!
Mərunuvāng!

mə-runu-vāng
PST-smoke-2S.A!

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.

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.
Pampangyang.
pampang-yang (pampang- < pang~pang-, ‘ITER~back’)
resign-1S.A.

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.