The continuing adventures of Øynduyska!
The Perfect, Imperfect, and Experiential
Three further past tenses are commonly encountered.
The perfect is used for past actions with an ongoing present relevence. It is formed from an auxiliary verb – either stąnn (“to be standing”) or ligga (“to be lying”) – followed by a preposition – either van or afti – and a verbal noun.
The choice of auxiliary is determined chiefly by the verb and the subject: inanimate subjects take ligga, while animate subjects of transitive verbs take stąnn. In the case of animate subjects of intransitive verbs, the choice encodes perceived agency and control – it is largely determined by the semantics of the verb, but may be altered to suit the specific circumstances. Thus lieg ða mann afti fąllung (“the man has fallen”), but stá ða mann afti yelung (“the man has shouted”).
The choice of preposition is more subjective. In general, afti is prefered for recent events and events with immediately pressing, direct relevence, while van is used for more remote events, and for events the relevence of which is more indirect. Thus, lieg ða mann afti fąllung may suggest “the man has fallen – help him up!”, whereas lieg ða mann van fąllung might connote “the man has fallen – that’s why he has a broken hip”.
The experiential tense is also employed in some situations where English would employ the perfect. This tense is reserved for certain types of past events that cannot be altered or ammended. There are three main uses: personal experiences, missed opportunities, and temporal contrasts. It is formed from the preterite of senn, the preposition at, and a verbal noun.
The personal experiential use occurs when relating the fact that the speaker has experienced something at least once in the past, at an unspecified time; it equates to one use of the perfect in English. Thus, ech was at øthung vilsfinsvjól, “I have eaten wild boar”. The same tense is also used to describe past events that brought opportunities that were not taken, and that are no longer open: she was at smilung at ech, “there was a time when she smiled at me (but I did nothing)”. Finally, the experiential tense may be used in explicitly comparing a lost past with the current situation: ða männer wár at hungrung; smiyl nu ða männer, “once the men hungered; now the men smile”.
The imperfect, meanwhile, is formed from the preterite of stąnn, the conjunction ay, and the preterite of the verb. This tense has two chief uses: for background context, and in subordinate clauses. In the former function, the imperfect is used, like the preterite, in describing events prior to the occurance of the main event. It is distinguished from the preterite by the aspect of the verb: the imperfect details events that are specific and concrete, and that are depicted as incomplete at the time of, and generally interrupted by the main event, whereas the preterite indicates a more general background condition, sometimes completed by the time of the main event. The preterite is also more likely to provide context for a known or unsurprising event, whereas the imperfect is usually used in presenting new or surprising information. Thus, drank ða männer, hav fannat ða hróf ynatyfąlla, “the men were drinking (i.e. they had drunk and were likely to drink again), at which point the roof collapsed”, or “the men had drunk when the roof collapsed”, whereas stá ay drank ða männer, hav fannat ða hróf ynatyfąlla, “the men were in the middle of drinking (i.e. the glass was halfway to their lips, or they were halfway through a quaff), when suddenly the roof collapsed”.
lieg ða mann afti fąllung – /lɪəg ðə mæːn ˈæftiː ˈfɑlʊŋg/
stá ay drank ða männer, hav fannat ða hróf ynatyfąlla – /staː aɪ dræŋk ðə ˈmenər hæv faˈnæt ða hrɔːf əˌnætəˈfɑlə/
ech was at øthung vilsfinsvjól – /ex wæs at ˈøːþʊŋg ˌvɪlsfɪnsˈfjɔːl/