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Thread: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

  1. #1
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    All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Hello everyone,
    I would like to know if you still use imperfect and aorist (if they exist in your language). In serbian we still use the aorist while the imperfect completely disappeared (except for the verb biti (to be) - beše).
    An example of the imperfect in Serbian would be:

    Misliti (to think): 1. Ja mišljah 1. Mi mišljasmo
    2. Ti mišljaše 2. Vi mišljaste
    3. On(a) mišljaše 3. Oni mišljahu

    An example of the aorist would be:

    Videti (to see): 1. Ja videh 1. Mi videsmo
    2. Ti vide 2. Vi videste
    3. On(a) vide 3. Oni videše

    I noticed some similar forms in Bulgarian (мислех), and in Macedonian (абортираше). I would like to know more about this in your language.

    Thanks.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Neither of them exists anymore in Slovene.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    They are simple tenses, what do you want to know about them? I can give you links if you want? Wiki has prety nice article on the whole grammer. Here are examples:

    Past imperfect: пристигаx (I was arriving)
    Aorist: пристигнах (I arrived)

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Quote Originally Posted by trance0 View Post
    Neither of them exists anymore in Slovene.
    Except for the dialects of the valley of Resia/Rezija in Friuli, Italy. There for a few verbs (if I remember correctly not more than 20?) aorist forms still are known.

    West and East Slavic languages haven't retained neither aorist nor imperfect. (Well - I wouldn't know for Sorbian, but for Polish, Czech, Slovak, Belorussian, Ukrainian and Russian this is true.) In BCMS it seems to depend on region and dialect to what extent aorist is used, right?
    "An esoteric may claim more nonsense in 5 minutes than a scientist may be able to disprove in his entire life." Vince Ebert, about fighting sciolism.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Here are some historical details, summarized from Meillet (please substitute your own preferred language names).

    Common Slavic developed new ways of forming the imperfect and the aorist (they do not go back directly to Indo-European forms) but as soon as these paradigms became stable, they were made redundant by the development and increased used of the compound past tense. They were further disadvantaged by the fact that they had the same forms for the 2nd and 3rd persons in the singular.

    The languages that lost the aorist also lost the imperfect, and in principle those that preserved the aorist also preserved the imperfect. Both disappeared very early in Russian and Polish, a bit later in Czech. They are preserved in Sorbian, some varieties of Serbo-Croatian, and Bulgaro-Macedonian.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Would aortist be a rough equivalent of pervective?

    CrapnPrep, does your source say when they dissapeared from Polish?

    Tom
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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas1 View Post
    CrapnPrep, does your source say when they dissappeared from Polish?
    No, but Wikipedia says 14th-15th century, without giving any sources.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas1
    Would aortist be a rough equivalent of perfective?
    Not really; in Common Slavic the aorist was the "all-purpose" preterit. When used with perfective verbs or "determined" (telic) imperfective verbs, it was more or less equivalent to the compound perfect, and when used with other imperfective verbs, it was more or less equivalent to the imperfect. There must have been some subtle distinctions (see this brief discussion of OCS, for example), but there was apparently enough overlap for speakers to start abandoning "superfluous" forms, and eventually to start "overloading" the surviving compound past tense.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    As already stated by CapnPrep, aorist isn't quite perfective, and the matter of perfect-imperfect-aorist tense system is rather complicated; but for what it's worth some remarks on how much I have understood about this:

    Aorist indeed somewhat is related-ish to perfective aspect but both are not the same; it is only that when aorist and imperfect are paired that aorist is used for actions which happened once, and which are finished, while imperfect is used for descriptions. Not unsimilar to Spanish indefinido ('aorist') and imperfecto (if that's any use to you).

    The important thing is that aorist and imperfect are paired, that is (I think) that in those Slavic languages where both still are used they are the tenses used in story-telling: if you tell a story which happened in the past you will use aorist for actions and imperfect for descriptions (both tenses with both imperfective and perfective verbs).
    Or something like that.

    (I'd appreciate very much if someone with knowledge of its use in Old Church Slavonic and/or Bulgarian and/or Macedonian could correct me; what I said above is only an educated guess.)
    "An esoteric may claim more nonsense in 5 minutes than a scientist may be able to disprove in his entire life." Vince Ebert, about fighting sciolism.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    Not unsimilar to Spanish indefinido ('aorist') and imperfecto (if that's any use to you).

    The important thing is that aorist and imperfect are paired, that is (I think) that in those Slavic languages where both still are used they are the tenses used in story-telling: if you tell a story which happened in the past you will use aorist for actions and imperfect for descriptions (both tenses with both imperfective and perfective verbs).
    Or something like that.

    You are right, it is similar to Spanish (indefinido/imperfecto), and Italian (passato remoto/imperfetto). However, in Serbian, imperfect disappeared completely, and it is not used in story-telling, while aorist is still frequently used in everyday speech and in story-telling (like "indefinido" in Spanish and "passato remoto" in Italian).
    You cannot use both tenses with both imperfective and perfective verbs (at least not in Serbian). I would like to know how these things function in other languages which preserved both imperfect and aorist.
    Last edited by nexy; 9th November 2008 at 11:52 AM.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Sokole, they are not realy used for story telling, we use imperfect when refering to an action that is happening in reference to some other past action. So in most cases the imperfect would be temporaly hooked to some other past tense. And the aorist doesn't fit for telling a story, because to use it you had to been a witness of the event. Of course it depence what story you are telling, plus there arent really many rules for story telling. Normaly you would use past perfect or in some cases past future perfect. All in inferential/unwitnessed mood.
    Last edited by Kanes; 9th November 2008 at 7:05 PM.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Quote Originally Posted by Kanes View Post
    And the aorist doesn't fit for telling a story, because to use it you had to been a witness of the event.
    This is quite interesting: so there has to be a connection between event in the past and person who reports this event?

    This is not the case for Spanish indefinido which simply states that an action had been completed and that it had been completed in the past (in a time-span which you consider 'past') while simple past in Spanish (= preterito perfecto = for Slavic languages biti + participle) is an action which has been completed but which is considered still being part of the present frame of reference.
    (Usually you say that preterito perfecto is what happened today or this week, while indefinido = what happened yesterday, last week etc.)

    [And please let's not discuss the details of Spanish tenses, I have given them only as an example, in the hope that it is clear this would not fit with your explanation for Bulgarian, Kanes.]

    So anyway, Kanes: what you said is that most times you use for example past tense (съм дал - the 'biti' of other Slavic languages + participle) in the main clause and imperfective only in subordinate clauses - in sentences referring to sentences with past tense?
    And that aorist only could be used for very special cases to emphasise that you were present personally when something happened?
    (Just to check if I got that right.)
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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    I don't know Bulgarian, but I happen to have a grammar here (by someone called Rå Hauge… doesn't sound very Slavic, but seems quite competent, although he may not use the same terminology as Kanes above). According to him, the aorist and imperfect are "in constant interplay in narratives about past events", with the aorist typically correlated with perfective verbs and the imperfect with imperfective (but the opposite combinations are also possible). "Bulgarian school grammar teaches that aorists answer to the question Какво стана? What happened?,while imperfects answer to the question Какво беше? What [state] was [there]?"

    But then there is also the perfect, and when you add in the notion of status, things become very complicated! The simple aorist and imperfect have non-reported, "vouched-for" status, while the compound perfect has "neutral" status. However, there are also versions of the imperfect and aorist for "reported" status are compound forms, and in the case of the reported aorist, almost identical to the perfect (except that there is no auxiliary in the 3rd person).

    Here is an example, three ways of saying "It rained last night":
    През нощта валя [aorist, vouched-for] I was awake and saw it raining.
    През нощта е валяло [perfect, neutral] I see that the grass is wet this morning.
    През нощта валяло [aorist, reported] Someone told me.
    But in actual reported speech, you don't normally use the reported forms: Той каза, че през нощта е валяло (He said that it rained last night).

    The use of these forms in different types of narratives, according to Rå Hauge:
    folk tales, jokes, anecdotes: reported forms
    modern fiction: reported forms almost never used in 3rd person
    non-fiction and news reports: too complicated

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Thank you very much, CapnPrep, that sheds some light on this complicated issue. (I too don't speak any Bulgarian and only understand it through my knowledge of other Slavic languages.)
    The "aorist vouched-for" meaning really is something I don't know from any other language, so anyway I did understand Kanes correctly concerning this, but at least according to this grammar there's also a "reported aorist".
    "An esoteric may claim more nonsense in 5 minutes than a scientist may be able to disprove in his entire life." Vince Ebert, about fighting sciolism.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    I think you are right, just what this Ra Hauge calls reported form is simply unwitnessed mood. There are eight of them, when you combine them with the tenses they effectivly make what looks like more tenses. The basic aorist is a witnesed one, when you add moods though the meaning changes. Its real mind twister to contiosly think about them even if you are Bulgarian. Across person, number, voice, aspect, mood, tense and gender I think there are about 3000 verb forms...

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Today the form of past tense in Polish has merged into one and there is no auxiliary verb, although there used to be. I did some research on the aorist in Old Polish and found one text that contains it:
    widziech, prawi, anjeła Bożego mocnego
    (the text is one of the oldest heritage found in Polish beginning of fourteenth century).
    To me as a speaker of modern Polish this form is of course something foreign, and for many it would be almost incomprehensible, and I would use our modern past tense instead of it.

    Sokol, thanks for the comparison with Spanish am still just a beginner at it but through analogy with French wouldn’t it be the same with passé simple and passé compose?

    Just to make sure I understood it well:
    the past tense that we use in modern Polish is historically the one that relates past with presence?

    And if I would like to use a past tense that is kind of detached from the present that would be aorist?

    Tom

    PS: CapnPrep, sorry for typos I was worn-out writing that post, thanks for the corrections.
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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    The discussion there could be helpful:

    http://forum.wordreference.com/showp...30&postcount=3

    The purpose of that thread was to clarify the non-witness mood in Bulgarian.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    Except for the dialects of the valley of Resia/Rezija in Friuli, Italy. There for a few verbs (if I remember correctly not more than 20?) aorist forms still are known.

    West and East Slavic languages haven't retained neither aorist nor imperfect. (Well - I wouldn't know for Sorbian, but for Polish, Czech, Slovak, Belorussian, Ukrainian and Russian this is true.) In BCMS it seems to depend on region and dialect to what extent aorist is used, right?

    You are right regarding the aorist in the Resian dialect of Slovene. I was of course writing about Standard Slovene in which no trace of either of the mentioned synthetic past tenses exists.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Quote Originally Posted by trance0 View Post
    You are right regarding the aorist in the Resian dialect of Slovene. I was of course writing about Standard Slovene in which no trace of either of the mentioned synthetic past tenses exists.
    Yes, I thought so.
    Also aorist is on the brink of dying out in Resia dialect as it isn't used anymore for all verbs (and as the dialect generally is endangered due to Italian influence).

    Thomas1, unfortunately French tenses do not compare well with this (as do Spanish and Italian).
    Read instead Christo's post linked by him - to Christo: very helpful indeed!
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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Quote Originally Posted by nexy View Post
    You are right, it is similar to Spanish (indefinido/imperfecto), and Italian (passato remoto/imperfetto). However, in Serbian, imperfect disappeared completely, and it is not used in story-telling, while aorist is still frequently used in everyday speech and in story-telling (like "indefinido" in Spanish and "passato remoto" in Italian).
    You cannot use both tenses with both imperfective and perfective verbs (at least not in Serbian). I would like to know how these things function in other languages which preserved both imperfect and aorist.
    Nexy, imperfect didn´t dissapeare in Serbian. In some cases, the aorist and imperfect endings are the same or similar (like for the 1st.p.sg or 1st.,2nd.p.pl) and some of them look same but stand for different persons (like the 3rd.p.sg imp. and the 3rd.p.pl.aor.) Thats why some people like to mess endings and thats why it just looks like aorist but it is actualy imperfect. But I didn´t notice this problem at old people, they use the both tenses in right way (just like my grandmother and grandfather).

    Besides, aorist and imperfect are used in most of cases in the 3rd. p. sg. and pl. and here are made most of misstakes: (aorist) они казаше, (imperfect) они казиваху, but people say here wrong они казиваше, so that this only looks like aorist but its infact imperfect.

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    Re: All Slavic languages: imperfect and aorist

    Extremely rarely do I hear imperfect in everyday speech. The fact is that more than 90% of people cannot conjugate verbs in imperfect (for example, if you ask someone to conjugate the verbs želeti, voleti, graditi, he would say želeh/želesmo, voleh/volesmo, gradih/gradismo instead of željah/željasmo, voljah/voljasmo, gradjah/gradjasmo). How many people could conjugate the verb moći (moćijah, moćijaše, moćijaše…)? I guess less than 0.5%. I know perfectly well the difference between aorist and imperfect and I never confuse them, but I (almost) never hear imperfect in everyday speech. Aorist is frequently used (my grandmother uses it more frequently than simple perfect). Maybe you know some region where imperfect is still used at some degree? For example, if I said to someone: "Hotijahu se odmoriti zato što se ne osećahu dobro.", or "Posekoh se dok secijah hleb" he would look at me as if I were crazy.
    Last edited by nexy; 11th November 2008 at 4:57 PM.

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