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Re: Tenses etc.

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  • 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 1 of 3 , Aug 4, 2005
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      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 2 of 3 , Aug 6, 2005
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        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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