i. Atátevis vai Preféktevis?
The first dilemma of the Chiba verb is which tense to use. Given that an event is past, present or future, when should the atátevis be used, and when the preféktevis?
If the event occurred before the ‘reference time’ of the narration in question, the answer is simple: use the preféktevis praitéretu, which may function as a pluperfect. This tense is also the case with events that occurred ‘a long time ago’, and that can no longer have any present relevance.
If the event is occurring in the present, the question is instead whether to use the atátevis praisemz or the narátevis.
If, however, the event is occurring in the relevant past or in the future, a choice must be made between the atátevis, denoting events with internal constituency, and the preféktevis, denoting completed events. The distinction may be phrased in terms of pairs of events:
– Where both verbs are atátevis, the events occur at the same time, or the second overlaps the first;
– Where the first verb is atátevis and the second, preféktevis, the first event is interrupted by the second;
– Where the first verb is preféktevis and the second is atátevis, the first event occurs, is completed, and the second then begins
– Where both verbs are preféktevis, the two events are both completed
A further connotation of the preféktevis is that the event bears continuing relevance, either for the following events or at the time of the relation. The atátevis, by contrast, has no such connotation. It connotes duration, and sometimes iteration; it can also connote incompletion or insignificance. It is also used to show that a person has had experience of something. The preféktevis connotes brevity, and singularity. It also implies that the event had an inherent natural end that was reached, rather than merely a halt.
A further distinction between the preféktevis praisemz and the atátevis praitéretu is that, as the names suggest, the latter is strictly for past events, while the former can also be used with present semantics.
Ve vami kamchator
I used to sing / I was singing
I sang / I have sung
Ve vami kamchator. Il vami dviendor.
I was singing. She arrived while I was singing. Or: I used to sing. She used to arrive while I was singing.
Ve vami kamchator. Il au dviémd.
I was singing, but she arrived.
When the subject matter is not a narration, but isolated statements, the preféktevis is most commonly used for single past events, while the atátevis is used for past habits or to show experience. In the future, the preféktevis is used for stable plans and objectives, while the preféktevis is used for single incidents without inherent worth.
Ve sezo kamchár.
I am going to be singing / I hope to sing
Ve sezo kamchát
I am going to sing / I will have to sing (so as then to…)
ii. Tempa Imćépteva and Tempa Fitura
The inceptive tenses are used in the sense of an event that is/was/will be about to happen at a point of the narration. It should be noted that the imćéptevis praisemz¸unlike the preféktevis praisemz is a genuine present tense, with no preterite meaning. Whether or not the even described does then happen depends upon the following tense. Following events in the atátevis are not held to be relevant; events in the relevant (ie not praitéretu) preféktevis interrupt or prevent events in the imćeptevis; these events only occur if the narátevis occurs before the next preféktevis.
V’abo kamchámz. Il vami dviendor. Il dra un khani.
I was going to sing. She arrived. [I sang]. She brought the dog.
V’abo kamchámz. Il vami dviendor. Il au un khani dráp.
I was going to sing. She arrived. She brought the dog. [I did not sing]
N.B. Such sequences of plain sentences without conjunctions are not good style in Chiba, and serve here only for illustrative purposes.
The distinction between the imćéptevis praisemz and either main future tense is theoretically a near/remote distinction, but in practice the imćéptevis is chiefly used either to make commitments or to invite disagreement:
Ve sezo kamchámz
I’m about to sing… (unless you stop me?)
Ve sezo kamchát
I’m going to sing (and you can’t stop me)