Øynduyska – VII (Aorist, Preterite, Compound Past and Double Past)

The continuing adventures of Øynduyska!


Use of the Aorist and Preterite

Øynduyskar verbs morphologically distinguish two tenses: aorist and preterite. Both simple tenses, however, have somewhat restricted application.

Many function are shared between the two simple tenses, with the aorist employed for present-tense uses and the preterite for the past. In this way, both tenses may be used to express habitual events: eeth ech, “I (habitually) eat”; yęng ech alang ða stráð (“I used to walk along the shore”). Both tenses may also be used in ‘occasioned’ clauses – main clauses temporally, causally or logically limited by an attached subordinate clause. Thus: alang stá’ch hungrað, eeth ech (“when I am hungry, I eat” or “when I am hungry, I will eat”); etter stóð ech hungrað, es ech (“because I was hungry, I ate”; note that etha, “to eat”, is irregular). Both tenses may also be employed where such limiting clauses are merely implicit – particularly when answering questions. Hence: fas an hav ðu wirkji? – grésd ech (“what did you do (then)?” – “I lightly ate”).

Each tense does, however, have some unique uses of its own. The aorist is also used to express timeless, gnomic truths, (eeth cätta myssa, “cats eat mice”), and actions performed by the act of speaking (varcweeð ech, “I promise”). More broadly, the aorist is also used extensively as a future tense; such use in formal language implies a future event that is beyond the control of either speaker or listener (way ða aäroplenn menn at tenn, “my plane leaves at ten”), and in colloquial speech may more widely be used to suggest something unquestionable or decided: her ethað wi, “we are going to eat here”.

The preterite, meanwhile, is used as a ‘precursive’ – that is, to explain relevant background information relating to events immediately prior to or synchronous with the beginning of a foregrounded event. Hence, for example: drank ða männer, hav fannat ða tarb ynygąch – “the men were drinking, when the bull walked in” or “the men had drunk when the bull walked in”. In this function, preterites may be chained into a narrative in which the ‘foregrounded event’ occurs only at the end of the narrative, or not at all. This is effectively a narrative tense – although as each precursive preterite effectively promises a ‘punchline’, the overuse of this sort of narration is often seen as either manipulative or over-excited. It is a construction often used in live sports commentary, despite the theoretically past-tense implications of the preterite.

Most past tense occurances, however, employ a periphrastic tense.


The Compound Past and the Double Past

The compound past is the basic and most common past tense in Øynduyska, formed from an auxiliary and a past participle.

In the case of intransitive verbs, the auxiliary is the copula, senn: ech em com, “I arrived”. In the case of transitive verbs – including reflexives and transitives with no overt object – the auxiliary is hebba, and the past participle takes the prefix y-: heb ech het ytaw, “I told them”. Where the main verb already bears a separable prefix, the prefix y- becomes an infix, between prefix and verb: heb ech ðat upybrǫka, “I broke it”. However, the prefix y- is not present where the verb already bears an inseparable prefix, such as y- or be-.

The double past is a rather rarer tense, formed in a similar way, but employing the preterite form of the auxiliary. Hence, had ech het ytaw, “I had told them”, and ech was com, “I had arrived”. The double past has two functions: as a past perfect (most often when a narrator ‘doubles back’ to mention an event prior to those most lately narrated), and as a remote past. There is no precise dividing line for when to consider the past ‘remote’, but it generally implies that a different era is being discussed, not directly relevant to the present. It is used frequently when discussing events before the speaker’s lifetime, but may also be used to describe events in an earlier phase of life – an adult discussing their childhood, a widow discussing the time before her bereavement, an employee talking about how things were in their last job. Anything with direct relevence to the present should not be considered ‘remote’, although the double past may be used in these situations for comic or ironic effect. The double past is particularly common when the events in question are non-specific.

The double past may also sometimes be used in a concessive sense. Hence, ech was com may be translated “oh, and I had already arrived by then” (doubling back), “I arrived (in an earlier part of my life)” (remote past), or as “I did indeed arrive, it’s true, but…” (concessive).


[pronounciation samples:
yęng ech alang ða stráð – /yɛŋ ex əˈlæŋ ðə stɹað/
drank ða männer, hav fannat ða tarb ynygąch – /dɹænk ðə ˈmenəɹ hæv faˈnæt ðə ˈtæɹəb ˌɪnəˈgɑx/]


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