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Tenses etc.

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  • Fredrik
    Speaking of tenses I wonder somethings. First of all, is gothic poor with tenses? What I can understand there s only one for now, present tense. And one for
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 3, 2005
      Speaking of tenses I wonder somethings.

      First of all, is gothic poor with tenses?
      What I can understand there's only one for now, present tense. And
      one for what has happend, preterite. So in that case what would be in
      I saw (or did see if that's a possible form), I have seen, and I had
      seen. These will all be translated in gothic to Ik sahw.
      Also a future tense I guess there is, but that's just skulan +
      If I'm not totaly wrong it could also work with present participle to
      describe something that happens or happend at a special time. E.g.
      Broþar meins gaggands ist/was. = My brother is/was going.
      Or, broþar meins gaggis/iddja þagkjands. = My brother is/was thinking
      whilst he goes/went.
      I wonder most if there's any way to translate a sentence such as have
      done, had done. And maybe a lot other tenses that I can think of
      right now.

      I have been a bit confused lately. In my book I've read that there's
      three moods in gothic. The swedish names of these are indikativ,
      konjunktiv and imperativ. I'm not good at the english names of
      grammar word but when I checked it out in a dictionary it turned out
      that konjunktiv is subjunctive in english. In verbix it says that the
      three moods are indicative, imperative and optative. Btw. optative is
      optativ in swedish. What's real? Is this third mood subjunctive or
      optative? As far as I know it ain't much difference between them
      anyway, but I don't know for sure.

    • Francisc Czobor
      Hi, Fredrik, The German authors (like Streitberg a century ago and Koebler in the present) speak about Indikativ, Optativ, Imperativ . David Salo in his
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 4, 2005
        Hi, Fredrik,

        The German authors (like Streitberg a century ago and Koebler in the
        present) speak about "Indikativ, Optativ, Imperativ". David Salo in
        his "Gothic Lessons" speaks about "Indicative, Subjunctive,
        Imperative", and it seems to me that most English-speaking authors use
        this terminology. As far as I remember the mood called "Subjunctive"
        or "Optativ" functions mainly as an optative in Gothic.


        --- In gothic-l@yahoogroups.com, "Fredrik" <gadrauhts@h...> wrote:
        > ....
        > I have been a bit confused lately. In my book I've read that there's
        > three moods in gothic. The swedish names of these are indikativ,
        > konjunktiv and imperativ. I'm not good at the english names of
        > grammar word but when I checked it out in a dictionary it turned out
        > that konjunktiv is subjunctive in english. In verbix it says that the
        > three moods are indicative, imperative and optative. Btw. optative is
        > optativ in swedish. What's real? Is this third mood subjunctive or
        > optative? As far as I know it ain't much difference between them
        > anyway, but I don't know for sure.
        > /Fredrik
      • llama_nom
        Hails Fredrik! If you see numbers in [] square brackets in this message, look at the bottom of the page for footnotes. Yes, I m afraid it s come to that...
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 6, 2005
          Hails Fredrik!

          If you see numbers in [] square brackets in this message, look at
          the bottom of the page for footnotes. Yes, I'm afraid it's come to

          Gothic has three moods: indicative, imperative and one other which
          can be called either "subjunctive" (=konjunktiv) or "optative". I
          think "subjunctive" means a mood for unreal or doubtful
          actions. "Optative" means to do with wished or desired actions or
          intentions. The Gothic optative/subjunctive performs both
          functions, so either name would be appropriate. Some people use
          one, some the other. Most English books that I've seen on the early
          Germanic languages use "subjunctive". Wright calls
          it "subjunctive". Streitberg and Braune "Optativ". Histiorically,
          the inflections of this mood (in Gothic and the other Germanic
          languages) are descended from those of the Indo-European optative.

          At first sight, Gothic does seem to have a limited range of tenses,
          but actually it's not as bad as it looks. True, the future is often
          not expressed, but then even in English you could say "We´re going
          shopping", "they´re getting married", "I'm sitting an exam
          tomorrow", "She leaves in three weeks time", "do that again and
          you're dead!" (a threat) – all with future meaning. Likewise in
          Gothic J 8,36, jabai nu sunus izwis frijans briggiþ, bi sunjai
          frijai sijuþ "so if the son makes you free (ELEUQERWSH), then you
          really will be (ESESQE) free". Both of these verbs are future in
          Greek, both present in Gothic. In the Early Modern English of the
          King James Bible, both verbs are explicitly future, but in modern
          colloquial English the first verb at least would normally be
          present. And compare the Swedish "Om nu Sonen gör eder fria, så
          bliven i verkligen fria." In English "would that it were not so"
          (past subjunctive), or more colloquially "if only it wasn't like
          this" (past indicative), both use past forms in reference to the
          present state of affairs. Gothic too uses the preterite subjunctive
          for unreal conditions, whether past, present or future: jabai þis
          fairhvaus weseiþ, aiþþau so manaseds swesans frijodedi "if you were
          of this world then the world would love its own" – but you're not,
          so the world doesn't love you (J 15,19).

          But even if Gothic doesn't normally require the future to be
          expressed, there are various ways of making it clear, where
          necessary. In fact, a distinction is made between two types of
          future, durative and perfective – but more on that later. And
          although the Gothic preterite is used more freely than the simple
          past in English, and appears also where English has a perfect or
          pluperfect, Gothic does have some other ways of emphasising past
          action relevant to the present, where need be (e.g. the dative
          absolute). Here´s a list of some of the distinctions Gothic
          expresses; see below for an explanation of these terms.

          English Gothic

          present present
          continuous present durative present

          simple past durative preterite, perfective preterite
          continuous past durative preterite
          perfect durative present, perfective preterite, absolute
          pluperfect durative preterite, perfective preterite,

          future present, durative future, perfective future
          future-in-past future-in-past

          *The following is just my interpretation. Don't take it as in any
          way authoritative or complete – I still have a lot to learn! In
          particular, my knowledge of New Testament Greek is still very
          limited. Again, see below for a fuller explanation.

          I am sitting (i.e. in a state of being seated) – sita, sitands im
          I sit down, I will sit down (i.e. go from a standing to a sitting
          state) - gasita

          I sat, I was sitting, I would (on various occasions in the past)
          sit – sat, sitands was
          I sat down – gasat
          I have sat down – sita, gasat
          I had sat down – gasat
          I had been sitting – sat, sitands was
          having sat down, when I sat down, when I had sat down – (at) mis
          while I was sitting, with me having been sitting – (at) mis sitandin

          I will sit, I will be sitting - sita
          I will sit down – gasita
          I will sit, I will be sitting, I will go on sitting, I will continue
          to sit – sitan haba
          I will sit, I will [be, continue] sitting; I begin to sit – sitan
          I will sit, I will [be, continue] sitting; I must sit – sitan skal
          ?(I will (gradually) come to be seated – sitands wairþa)?
          I would (later) sit down – gasitan habaida
          I would (later) be sitting – sitan habaida, sitan dugann, sitan
          shall I sit, should I sit? – sitau?

          jabai sita, ni gadriusa – if I'm sitting, I won't fall (REAL
          CONDITION, generally applicable to any time period when I sit)

          jabai sitau, sitan habau (duginnau, skuljau) – if I was sitting be
          sitting (should I happen to be sitting), I would go on sitting
          (POTENTIAL CONDITION, a future possibility, something that may

          ni nauhþanuh setjau, gasetjau, akei sat – if I wasn't already
          sitting (If I hadn't already been sitting), I would sit down (I
          would have have sat down), but I was sitting (NEGATIVE UNREAL
          CONDITION, no time distinction made)

          iþ setjau, nauh sitan habaidedjau, akei ni sat – if I was sitting, I
          would have gone on sitting (would go on sitting), but I wasn´t
          sitting (POSITIVE UNREAL CONDITION, no time distinction made)

          To begin at the beginning... In Gothic, as in the Slavonic
          languages, the idea of time is linked to the idea of "aspect" [1].
          There are essentially two aspects: perfective and durative
          (imperfective) [2]. Perfective verbs express a single action with
          no reference to it lasting for any length of time (they may imply
          the beginning of a task, the action taken as a whole event, the
          completion of a task, even the successful result). Durative verbs
          (also called "imperfective") describe an ongoing action, something
          that is (has been, or will be) happening for some duration.

          Perfective verbs are sometimes simple (niman, qiman, finþan, qiþan,
          wairþan), but more often are formed from the corresponding durative
          by means of a prefix, especially GA-, though sometimes another
          prefix with a more specific meaning [4]. In the following I'll use
          the English continuous tenses to translate the duratives, but it
          would be possible with some verbs in some contexts to translate them
          with the simple tenses.

          sitan "to be sitting" (durative)
          gasitan "to sit down" (perfective); ussitan "to sit up" (perfective)

          standan "to be standing" (durative)
          gastandan "to stop, to come to a standstill" (perfective);
          usstandan "to stand up" (perfective)

          swiltan "to be dying"
          gaswiltan "to die"

          rodjan "to speak" (durative)
          qiþan "to say" (perfective)

          wisan "to be" (durative)
          wairþan "to become" (perfective)

          swa rinnaiþ, ei garinnaiþ "run in such a way that you achieve the
          result of running", in other words: "run to win"! King James
          Bible: "so run, that ye may attain." Good News Bible: "run then in
          such a way as to receive the prize". Swedish 1917 "Löpen såsom
          denne, för att I mån vinna lönen" (1Cor 9,24).

          The perfective present typically implies future action, as in
          Russian [3], and is sometimes used to make a contrast between
          present and future.

          timreiþ OIKODOMEI "builds" (1Cor 10,23)
          gatimrja OIKODOMHSW "I will build" (Mk 14,58)

          gaarma þanei arma ELEHSW ´ON AN ELEW KAI OIKTIRHSW ´ON AN OIKTIRW "I
          will take pity on whoever I pity and I will have mercy on whoever I
          am merciful towards". Swedish 1917 "Jag skall vara barmhärtig mot
          den jag vill vara barmhärtig emot, och jag skall förbarma mig över
          den jag vill förbarma mig över" (R 9,15).

          The future of the verb "to be" is often, but not always, rendered
          with WAIRÞAN [5].

          jus wairþiþ mis du sunum jah dauhtrum "you will be (ESESQE) my sons
          and daughters" (2Cor 16,18).
          guda sijuþ "you are (ESTE) gods" (J 10,34)
          jus frijai sijuþ "you will be (ESESQE) free" (J 8,36)
          wai izwis, jus sadans nu, unte gredagai wairþiþ (PEINASETE) Good
          News Bible: "How terrible for you who are full now; you will go
          hungry!" (i.e. "be hungry"); "Ve eder, som nu ären mätta, ty I
          skolen hungra!" (L 6,25).

          The durative future can be expressed with one of three auxiliary
          verbs: HABAN, DUGINNAN or SKULAN. Examples of these composite
          futures are rare (7 with ´haban´; 2 with ´duginnan´; not sure about
          ´skulan´ -- SKULAN is harder to count because it's more common and
          has other auxiliary uses). They are used where a contrast is made
          between present and future: tauja jah taujan haba "I do and will
          continue to do" (2Cor 11,12). Or they are used to express future in
          past: ni kunnandans, hvaþar skuldedi maiza "not knowing which was to
          be the greater" (Sk 3,4 - Marchand's translation); þanei skuldedun
          niman þai galaubjandans du imma "which those believing in him would
          receive" (J 7,39); sa auk habaida ina galewjan "for he would betray
          him", "for he was going to betray him" (J 6,71). As can be seen
          from these last two examples, the future in the past with HABAN and
          SKULAN can also be used with a perfective infinitive. All examples
          of the simple future with HABAN seem to me to be durative though.
          There are no examples of DUGINNAN being used for future-in-the-
          past. gaunon jah gretan duginniþ "you will mourn (TENQHSETE) and
          weep (KLAUSETE)" (L 6,25); in þamma fagino akei jah faginon
          duginna "I rejoice (XAIRW) in that and will go on rejoicing
          (XARHSOMAI)" (Php 1,18). `duginnan' can also mean "to begin to".

          hva skuli þata barn wairþan TI ARA TO PAIDION TOUTO ESTAI, King
          James Bible "what manner of child shall this be?" (L 1,66)

          Here the Greek future ESTAI "will be" is translated with two Gothic
          verbs: skuli...wairþan. On other occasions too, the present
          subjunctive indicates a durative future. Streitberg has three
          examples. Here are two I've found where the subjunctive is used
          with uncompounded verbs for what seems to me like a perfective
          future. (If any speakers of Slavonic languages are reading this,
          I'd be interested in your opinions...)

          hva taujau TI POIHSW "what shall I do?" (L 16,3)
          niu drigkau þana MH PIW AUTO "am I not to drink that?" (J 18,11)

          An inchoative future ([gradually] becoming) can be expressed with
          WAIRÞAN + present participle: jus saurgandans wairþiþ ´UMEIS
          LUPHQHSESQE "you will become sorrowful" (J 16,22; jah stairnons
          himinis wairþand driusandeins KAI ´OI ASTERES ESONTAI EK OURANOU
          PIPONTES "and the stars will start falling out of the sky" (Mk
          13,25). The latter example follows the Greek closely, but note the
          choice of verb, WAIRÞAN rather than WISAN. The construction is also
          found in Old and Middle High German (Priebsch & Collinson "The
          German Language" 328), and gave rise ultimately to the modern German
          future with ´werden´ + infinitive.

          New Testament Greek has the following past tenses: aorist (did);
          imperfect (was doing); perfect (has done); pluperfect (had done).
          Gothic usually translates these in the following ways:

          aorist (did) – perfective preterite (gaswalt "died").

          imperfect (was doing) – durative preterite (swalt "was dying").

          perfect (has done) – often with present (atist asans "harvest time
          is here"); occasionally with perfective preterite (qam hveila "the
          time has come"; nahts framis galaiþ "night is far spent", "it has
          got towards the end of the night"). Sometimes Greek has an aorist
          where English would use the perfect: jus gatawideduþ ita du filigrja
          waidedjane "you have made (EPOIHSATE) it into a den of criminals" –
          in this instance, at least, Gothic uses the perfective preterite.

          pluperfect (had done) – The formal pluperfect is rare in New
          Testament Greek and often expressed in other ways. Here's an
          example where a Gothic perfective preterite translates a Greek
          aorist: biþeh þan gaandida rodjands "when he had finished
          speaking". Here a Gothic durative preterite translates a Greek
          imperfect: saei was blinds "the man who had been blind". From this
          it would appear that Gothic uses the preterite, durative or
          imperfective depending on the sense required.

          (Incidentally, going back to your example, there is SAHV
          meaning "has seen" at Col 2,18 and 1Tim 6,16; and SAHV = "saw" J
          18,26. Can't see an example of SAHV = "had seen", but I'm sure it's
          possible. GASAHV appears with both meanings too, "saw", "has
          seen".) The perfective prefix, I think emphasises "perception", the
          moment of seeing, or of coming to notice, or the result of seeing.

          The "absolute" is often equivalent to an English perfect or
          pluperfect. In Greek this uses the genitive, in Gothic the dative
          case. It is formed with the present or past participle. Sometimes
          the preposition AT comes before the verb. dalaþ þan atgaggandin
          imma af fairgunja "when he had come down from the mountain"; at Jesu
          ufdaupidamma "when Jesus had been baptised"; at andanahtja þan
          waurþanamma "when evening had come"; jabai auk diabulau...nih
          nauþjandin ak uslutondin mannan "for if the devil had been not
          compelling but deceiving man". As far as I can see, the present
          participle doesn't make any time distinction from the past
          participle in the absolute. But the same construction, with the
          present participle, is also used to express an ongoing action or
          situation: at bajoþum daupjandam "with both of them (at that time)
          baptising"; at urrinnandin sunnin "at the rising of the sun". It is
          a genuine Germanic construction as can be seen from Old Norse prases
          like: at áliðnum vetri "towards the end of winter", "when winter was
          far spent"; at liðnum vetri "when winter had passed", "at the end of

          NT Greek sometimes uses a "narrative present" to describe past
          events. This is common in Old Norse sagas and in colloquial Modern
          English. But Gothic generally translates the Greek narrative
          present with the preterite. Examples from Streitberg: Mk 8,4; Mk
          1,12; Mk 1,21.

          In NT Greek, the tense in reported (indirect) speech matches the
          original statement, rather than that of the verb "say". So "they
          said that they will come" (so long as the coming is in the speaker's
          future, even if the coming is in our past), rather than "they said
          that they would come". Gothic follows the Greek practice.

          Unreal conditions, as mentioned above, are expressed with the
          preterite subjunctive, whether they refer to past present or future;
          no time distinction is made: jabai allis Moses galaubidedi, ga-þau-
          laubidedeiþ mis "for if you had believed Moses, you would have
          believed me."

          Present participles are very common in the Gothic bible, but almost
          always correspond to Greek participles. So it's unclear to what
          extent this was a genuine feature of Gothic syntax. See J 16,22 for
          an example of a present participle construction not in the
          original. Let me know if you find others. It is generally assumed
          that present participles would have been less prelevant in natural
          Gothic, since this is the case in the other early Germanic
          languages. But it´s hard to be sure. NT Greek could express more
          tenses with participles than either Gothic or English, leading to
          potential confusion when these languages try to imitate Greek too
          closely. But still, a present participle + WISAN may well have been
          used in some circumstances; there are parallels in Old English,
          etc. But bear in mind that this was (a) much rarer in OE than in
          Modern English, though most frequent in translations from Latin, and
          (b) not restricted to the same contexts as the modern English
          progressive, e.g. seo ea bið flowende ofer eal Ægypta land,
          literally "that river is flowing ofer all the Egyptians' land" – but
          we would now say "floods"
          [http://helmer.aksis.uib.no/icame/ij18/elsness.pdf ]. This paper
          says it can be used for any durative action. The following paper
          [www.mab.ms/doc/reanalysis.pdf ] is hard for me to understand in
          many places, but has some stuff relevant to the present question in
          Chapter 5. See especially 5.1.2 and 5.1.4 for some useful quotes.

          "...when such a periphrasis occurs in early Germanic languages
          (including, of course, Old English) its source, Mossé points out,
          can be traced directly to Greek or Latin influence. [...] Mossé
          attributes the overwhelming development of this form to the demise
          of the aspectual system of the preverbs which he argues were used to
          mark, in OE, perfective events."

          If so, we might assume that present participle + WISAN constructions
          were are in natural Gothic, since the system of aspectual preverbs
          is still thriving there. Here is a quote from Mitchell concerning
          Old English, cited in 5.1.4.

          "First, the verbs which on Nickel's evidence display periphrastic
          forms tend to be `imperfective' (...) and to belong to certain
          semantic groups—verbs of rest, e.g. wunian; of movement, e.g. faran;
          of speaking, e.g. cweþan; and of physical action, e.g. feohtan; and
          verbs which express a state or a change of state, e.g. libban and
          growan, or a mood, e.g. sorgian. (...) Second, they tend to be
          intransitive (...) The periphrases are more often found in the third
          person singular or plural (...) They are often accompanied by
          temporal, local, or modal, adverb modifiers (Mitchell, Bruce. 1985.
          Old English Syntax (vol. I). Oxford: Clarendon Press. §691)."

          It would be interesting to know how much these tendencies are
          reflected in other old Germanic languages. Álvarez says that the
          predicate use of the present participle appears in Old Norse in
          learned style, "en estilo culto" with VERA and VERÐA (Pilar
          Fernández Álvarez, Antiguo Islandés: Historia y lengua). "Learned"
          might imply Latin influence, though Álvarez doesn't make that
          explicit. As in Old English, the construction is rarer than the
          corresponding Modern English progressive, and used in contexts where
          it would not appear in Modern English. Hallfreðr var eggjandi at
          við honum væri tekit "H. was urging them to take him on [as a
          guide]" (Hallfreðar saga vandræðaskálds (Möðruvallabók)). ...ok
          eggjandi vil ek þess vera at... "...and I hope that..." (Hálfdanar
          saga Eysteinssonar, Pálsson & Edwards translation in Seven Viking
          Romances). ok fór Helga til bús með honum ok varð honum lítt
          unnandi "Helga went there to live with him, but had little feeling
          for him" – i.e. "not much affection affection" (Gunnlaugs saga
          ormstungu, Gwyn Jones´s translation in Eirik the Red and Other
          Icelandic Sagas). It´s not that she once loved this man Þorkell and
          then loses affection for him; rather, she never had much in the
          first place, and that doesn't change.

          So, to know how exactly it worked in Gothic, we'd need some more
          evidence in the form of examples that differ from the Greek.
          Streitberg just says that the present participle with WISAN serves
          to express durative action, following the model of the Greek
          (Gotische Syntax 323). Until we have more examples or some handy
          references, we might have to leave that for now.

          Another thing to consider, when thinking about Gothic tenses, is how
          WISAN and WAIRÞAN are used to express the preterite passive.
          Streitberg gives statistics for which is chosen to translate which
          Greek tense. There are strong tendencies, but no absolute one-to-
          one correspondence. Another time, perhaps...

          Llama Nom



          [1] What Streitberg calls "Aktionsart" (Wilhelm
          Streitberg "Gotische Syntax"). Actually sometimes linguists make a
          distinction in English between "aspect" and "aktionsart". When such
          a distinction is made, the latter is a broader term, I think,
          while "aspect" would be restricted to the perfective-imperfective
          duality as found in the Slavonic tongues. But, rightly or wrongly,
          I'm just using "aspect" here for Streitberg's "Aktionsart", since it
          is this duality that forms the main part of his description. For
          more on the history of these terms, and references to Streitberg's
          critics, see Anna Mlynarczyk, "Aspectual Pairing in Polish", LOT
          Dissertation Series 87, chapter 2 [
          http://www.lotpublications.nl/index3.html ], [
          http://www.lotpublications.nl/publish/articles/000622/bookpart.pdf ].
          The objection has been made that there are too many exceptions to
          Streitberg´s rules. Nevertheless, I think there must be something
          in the idea, even if it isn´t such a strict dichotomy in Gothic as
          in Slavonic.

          [2] Streitberg also identifies "inchoative", gradually becoming,
          slowly entering into a state of being. This is expressed, he says,
          by the Class 4 weak verbs. He also suggests that an "iterative"
          meaning (repeated action) can be expressed by the present of
          perfective verbs when used with a present rather than the (more
          usual?) future meaning.

          [3] According to Streitberg, the association of future with
          perfective present is not as strict as in the Slavonic languages
          because Gothic lacks a formal iterative.

          [4] With certain verbs however, GA- means "together"; to this may
          be added a second perfectivising GA-, thus GAGAHAFTJAN, GAGAWAIRÞJAN.

          [5] Streitberg regarded examples of WAIRÞA for Greek ESOMAI "I will
          be" as only possible where the Greek future can be understood as
          perfect (wenn das griechische Futurum perfektiv aufgefasst werden
          kann (Gotische Syntax 302.b)). If so, I suppose `gredagai wairþiþ'
          would have to be interpreted as, say, "you will become hungry",
          rather than either "you will be hungry", "you will go hungry",
          or "you will hunger". And likewise the other examples of WAIRÞAN
          here. But clearly they haven't always been interpreted thus by
          translators from the Greek to these various languages.
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