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Thread: Bulgarian tense system in comparison to other languages

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    Bulgarian tense system in comparison to other languages

    Split from here.

    Well, to start with: I never meant to vouch that Bulgarian is much easier than the others. I don't know that, as I have never experienced learning Bulgarian as a foreign language - obviously, because I'm a native speaker of it! I just wanted to object to specific claims about its supposed difficulty that had been made and that I felt were a long way off the mark - scaremongering with the Definite Article of Doom and what not. Bulgarian is not hyper-easy, no Slavic language is, and while native command of Bulgarian helps with Russian a lot, I don't know just how useful a beginner's Bulgarian would be. Good luck to JFman00 in any case! The strategy that he has chosen certainly sounds exciting.

    But you're wrong here: the Bulgarian system is completely different, and difficult to learn even for speakers of those Romance languages which still make distinctions similar to aorist and imperfect.
    The point is that even aorist and imperfect aren't exactly the same as indefinido and imperfecto in Spanish, to give an example, and even more different to its equivalents in French, English and German.
    Disagree. French is the one I know best, so here goes:

    Imperfect: J'écrivais = Bul. аз пишех (= Rus. я писал)
    Preterite: J'écrivis = (usually) Bul. аз написах (= Rus. я написал)

    Aspect is, of course, also relevant for these examples - coming shortly.

    But more importantly, there is Slavic aspect entwined with Bulgarian tenses, and uses which are completely foreign to native speakers of Romance and Germanic languages (like non-witness mood and the like).
    It's good you pointed out the aspect issue, I was wrong not to mention it in my previous post. I still maintain I was right to say that the use of the tenses shouldn't be a problem, it's largely the same as in Romance. But the way they are formed morphologically is indeed messier than in Romance.

    Basically, to translate the West European imperfect into Bulgarian, you need to use the imperfect tense and you must pick the imperfective aspect version of the verb (pres. пиша - imperf. пишех). To translate the West European preterite, you need to use the Bulgarian preterite/aorist and you must pick the perfective version of the verb (pres. напиша - aor. написах). So while most Slavic languages only force you to choose between the perfective and the imperfective aspect version of the verb in order to express the imperfect/preterite difference (Rus. писал - написал), but at least the tense morphology is the same (originally a participle), in Bulgarian you have this and you also have to use the correct tense. This means that in Bulgarian both ways of signalling the contrast - aspect and tense - are used redundantly: imperfect tense + imperfective aspect; preterite tense + perfective aspect.

    Morphologically, this may be disconcerting, but I'm not sure it's much worse than the other Slavic languages. In Bulgarian, you need to memorize the aspect versions of the verb (пиша vs напиша), just like in the other Slavic languages, and in addition you need to remember how the aorist stem is formed (писа-х). But in the other Slavic languages, you also need to memorize the ancient aorist stem to build the participle-turned-past-tense (писа-л). It should also be noted that while the aspect expression in the past is messy, the same distinction in the future is formed in a more consistent way than in most other Slavic languages (compare Bul. ще пиша - ще напиша vs Rus. буду писать - напишу).

    Of course I'm oversimplifying things when I say that the ancient tense and the new aspect double up completely redundantly in Bulgarian (imperfect tense + imperfective aspect пишех and aorist tense + perfective aspect написах). Still, I think that this is actually true about 90 % of the time. The remaining two logical possibilities (imperfect tense + perfective aspect писах and aorist tense + imperfective aspect напишех) are rare, seldom obligatory, express pretty fine nuances and a foreigner won't need to use them until a very advanced stage of learning. The first one has a meaning that is hard to describe (вчера писах писмо, kinda "I did some letter-writing yesterday"), but it is vague, it's used in relatively few situations and can be replaced with the imperfect or something else without too much harm being done. Also, it tends to coincide completely with other forms, so even native speakers confuse it occasionally without fatal consequences (I regularly confuse aorist говорих and imperfect говорех). As for the other remaining possibility, it can be used as a kind of conjunctive in some subordinate clauses (ако напишех "if I were to write"), but you can always replace it with more ordinary forms such as the present (ако напиша) and the real conjunctive constructions, corresponding to the Czech and Russian ones (ако бих написал).
    Last edited by sokol; 19th January 2010 at 7:55 PM. Reason: punctuation

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    Re: All Slavic languages: The degree of difficulty

    Mungu, sorry if I sounded like I was trying to put the Bulgarian language down. I know a guy who chose to learn a Slavic language (Polish) based on another language aspect - script and word stress. He thought Cyrillic was too hard to master! Plus the obvious obstacle - random word stress - this problem doesn't exist in Polish, Czech and Slovak. I guess some people choose languages based on their apparent easy aspect, not on the pragmatic need. I for one, like languages, which are difficult - complex scripts and grammar but what really puts me off is lack of good textbooks, readers, listening resource and other things. My long time hobby is Japanese, Chinese (both intermediate) and partially Arabic (upper beginner. I am learning some very basics of Thai, Hindi and Vietnamese - just dabbling (script, accent, basic phrases and words). It's quite different from my previous studies of German, English and French (lower intermediate), Polish (intermediate) but I am having fun. The degree of difficulty of Italian, Spanish or Swedish are not challenging enough for me, I have familiarised enough. Does anyone else learn a language based on degree of difficulty? Do you choose easy or difficult?
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    Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    (Creating a new topic as this goes beyond the topic of the original thread. )
    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    Disagree. French is the one I know best, so here goes:

    Imperfect: J'écrivais = Bul. аз пишех (= Rus. я писал)
    Preterite: J'écrivis = (usually) Bul. аз написах (= Rus. я написал)

    Aspect is, of course, also relevant for these examples - coming shortly.
    Well, French has the same number of tenses - but their use still differs significantly from Bulgarian.
    Also I'd say that the Spanish tense system definitely is closer to the Bulgarian one than the French one - because in French imparfait and passé simple aren't used consistantly anymore, especially in spoken language they're rare and even in written language one can easily avoid passé simple, and it is hardly spoken anymore (or so you learn in school so probably that's only true for the north or Paris region - it could be different in the south for all I know).

    Spanish indefinido (which equals French passé simple) and Spanish imperfecto (more or less French imparfait) still is used in both spoken an d written language - but nevertheless the meanings of those tenses in Spanish are not equal to Bulgarian imperfect and aorist.
    It is the Slavic aspect system which makes Bulgarian tenses so much more complex than the tense systems of Romance languages: if you translate Spanish imperfecto/French imparfait with Bulgarian imperfect, and Spanish indefinido/French passé simple with aorist, then what you get are simply wrong translations.

    And please note, I do not intend to say that the Bulgarian system or the Romance system were "better": that's not the point. What is important here is that you should see that they're different.

    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    Basically, to translate the West European imperfect into Bulgarian, you need to use the imperfect tense and you must pick the imperfective aspect version of the verb (pres. пиша - imperf. пишех). To translate the West European preterite, you need to use the Bulgarian preterite/aorist and you must pick the perfective version of the verb (pres. напиша - aor. написах).
    This will work as a rule of thumb for a number of sentences but will lead to wrong translations for others.
    In French it is clear that the use of passé simple in spoken language just sounds archaic; you cannot translate aorist with passé simple.
    And while it may work in many cases if you translate perfective aorist to Spanish indefinido the latter is defined as a tense of a time-frame which is past - if you use indefinido in Spanish you are indicating with this that the things you tell in past tense are of no immediate relevance to the present; or to use the rule of thumb you'll learn in school: things that happened yesterday, or last week, or last year, demand indefinido - but things which happened today, or this week, or this year, demand pretérito perfecto = French passé composé = Bulgarian perfect tense (съм учил, to leave no doubt ).

    PS: We already had some discussions about Bulgarian tenses (and they all gave me nightmares, no offense meant ), e. g.:
    Past perfect and aspect
    Past tense
    aorist ... not!
    Non-witness mood (Bulgarian+Macedonian)

    Imperfect and aorist in all Slavic languages
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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Sure, there are no two languages that are exactly alike. Spanish use of tenses is slightly different from Portuguese is slightly different from French is slightly different from Bulgarian. But there are enough similarities to ease learning and the differences are certainly not as enormous as the difference between the presence of these tenses and their complete absence in Russian, and between the absence of case and its presence in Russian.

    About French:

    Yes, modern spoken French tends to use passé composé instead of passé simple. But as should have been clear, I was referring to classical, literary ("archaic", as you say) French, which uses passé simple, and which most Frenchmen understand at least passively. And even if you insist on using modern spoken French, imparfait is still used in the same way as before to the best of my knowledge, so all you need to do is restate my wording to the effect that passé composé equals the aorist (except those few cases in which passé composé preserves its perfect tense function). You're saying that if you translate French imparfait with Bulgarian imperfect and French passé simple with Bulgarian preterite, "what you get are simply wrong translations". I challenge you to prove this with specific examples. This is the way I've always translated from and to French (replacing passé simple with passé composé, of course), so it's quite a news for me that my translations were "simply wrong" all this time.

    About Spanish:

    Now you're mixing in the present perfect here - that's a separate issue. I was talking about the imperfect/preterite contrast, not about the present perfect. The imperfect is the same as in Bulgarian, but the present perfect is used in Spanish and in English in more situations than in Bulgarian; in those cases, Bulgarian uses the aorist instead. Nothing dramatic about that. All it means is that most of the few time one can ignore the existence of the present perfect in Bulgarian without going wrong.

    About Bulgarian:

    We already had some discussions about Bulgarian tenses (and they all gave me nightmares, no offense meant), e. g.:
    Past perfect and aspect
    Past tense
    aorist ... not!
    Non-witness mood (Bulgarian+Macedonian)
    Imperfect and aorist in all Slavic languages
    A general reference to discussions of obscure points in grammar by amateurs such as ourselves should not be cited as evidence that the language is complicated and difficult. I took a look at them and saw nothing remarkable in them, and they don't really contradict what I've said. If you understand Bulgarian grammar sufficiently well to prove its difficulty, then go ahead, but for the time being I stand by what I've explained above. Sure, Bulgarian tense use differs from the other languages, but not more than those languages differ between each other. The aspects are there, but they are present in all Slavic languages, and their interaction with tense is, again, nothing dramatic.
    Last edited by mungu; 19th January 2010 at 11:41 PM. Reason: changed my mind

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    A general reference to discussions of obscure points in grammar by amateurs such as ourselves should not be cited as evidence that the language is complicated and difficult. I took a look at them and saw nothing remarkable in them, and they don't really contradict what I've said. If you understand Bulgarian grammar sufficiently well to prove its difficulty, then go ahead, but for the time being I stand by what I've explained above. Sure, Bulgarian tense use differs from the other languages, but not more than those languages differ between each other. The aspects are there, but they are present in all Slavic languages, and their interaction with tense is, again, nothing dramatic.
    Quote Originally Posted by WannaBeMe View Post
    Bulgarian has reduced the cases, but it has the most complicated verbal system. Besides it is only in cirilic script.
    I agree.

    Bulgarian has the most complicated verbal system of all European languages except Basque. This sentence could be disproved only if another European language is specified as having more complicated verbal system than Bulgarian.
    Last edited by Christo Tamarin; 20th January 2010 at 12:36 PM. Reason: Thanks to Duya.

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Christo Tamarin View Post
    I agree.

    Bulgarian has the most complicated verbal system of all European languages. This sentence could be disproved only if another European language is specified as having more complicated verbal system than Bulgarian.
    I'm not familiar enough with either to judge, but Basque certainly seems like a good candidate.

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Christo Tamarin View Post
    I agree.

    Bulgarian has the most complicated verbal system of all European languages except Basque. This sentence could be disproved only if another European language is specified as having more complicated verbal system than Bulgarian.
    I find it both hard and pointless to measure "complexity" (number of distinct forms; synthetic vs analytic formation and regularity of morphology?). My point was that it is not that hard to master the necessary basics of the system, and that the features aren't that different from what is found in the West European languages (Slavic aspect being the exception, although I'd argue that even it has parallels in those languages). Unlike Basque, we are nothing really exotic (the renarrative verges on being exotic, but even it isn't so alien IMO). It's another matter that learning to use all the forms like a native will always be a challenging task, and that's normal: hell, in this very thread, I don't use the perfect tenses precisely like an English native speaker would!

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Hello Mungu,

    you grew up with Slavic aspect - for you aspect is dead easy.
    Let me tell you that for those who do not know something like Slavic aspect the use of aspect (not its formation, that's easily enough learned) are very hard to learn indeed.

    It is already bad with those Slavic languages which only have a much reduced set of tenses.
    But in Bulgarian it is even much more different (and in Macedonian for that matter, while in BCS aorist and imperfect aren't as fully functional anymore, similar - to give an analogy - to French where for spoken purposes it is mainly passé composé).

    Aspect and tenses intertwine to complex meanings and constructions, you need to be very careful about aspect but also about tenses.
    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    About Spanish:

    Now you're mixing in the present perfect here - that's a separate issue. I was talking about the imperfect/preterite contrast, not about the present perfect. The imperfect is the same as in Bulgarian, but the present perfect is used in Spanish and in English in more situations than in Bulgarian; in those cases, Bulgarian uses the aorist instead. Nothing dramatic about that. All it means is that most of the few time one can ignore the existence of the present perfect in Bulgarian without going wrong.
    I am not mixing them up.

    What you call present perfect in Bulgarian (съм учил) is more or less equivalent to Spanish pretérito perfecto (he aprendido), further Spanish indefinido is more or less equivalent to Bulgarian aorist, and Spanish imperfecto more or less equals Bulgarian imperfect.

    We should better avoid French (as the tense system isn't really preserved in the "traditional" sense) - it's more useful to use Spanish for comparison. But if you refer to the style of older literature in French then probably the French tenses more or less were used similarly to the Spanish ones; but note, even use of tenses in Spain and America differs:
    For example, in Mexico (my first Spanish teacher was Mexican so I'll refer to Mexican use ) indefinido = a tense of the past with no relation to the present in Spain also may be used when Spaniards would prefer pretérito perfecto (or even would say that use of indefinido is wrong).
    I think this different use also exists in southern Spanish dialects (that is, on the Iberian peninsula) but of that I'm not sure.

    Anyway - the point being is: while you use imperfect tense mainly with imperfective aspect and perfect tense mainly with perfective aspect*) there is still the tense with "bil" participle (съм учил) which one can use with perfective and imperfective verbs.
    And even though it seems this tense is called "present perfect" in Bulgarian (or so say English grammars) it is still a tense of the past.

    *) You wrote that imperfect+perfective and aorist+imperfective are rare and have special meaning; I couldn't say anything about that as I never learned Bulgarian - but it is interesting that those special uses exist, uses which no Romance language could express quite like Bulgarian can.


    I guess only Bulgarian present perfect with imperfective verbs may be more or less equivalent to Spanish pretérito perfecto, while present perfect with perfective verbs probably do not have a "direct" translation to Spanish but you need to use other means to express the same in Spanish.

    The problem is that I don't know how Bulgarian tenses are exactly used - in all combinations with aspect, and that my knowledge of Spanish use of tenses is far from perfect.
    So let's give an example: in Spanish, if you tell a story with no immediate relevance to the present you'd use indefinido and imperfecto: indefinido whenever something happens, and imperfecto do describe landscapes or persons or make statements which are of general relevance.
    But the rules are of course more complex.

    So for example, if you tell a fairy tale then the description of the castle, and the princess, will be in imperfecto while the action the princess takes (fishing the golden ball out of the water, kissing the frog) will be in indefinido.
    However, when describing how the princess was playing with the ball when suddenly the frog jumps out of the water the verb for playing with the ball should be in imperfecto and the action interrupting this - the jumping of the frog - in indefinido.

    What tenses would you use for this in Bulgarian, and what aspects?
    I guess that in the cases above probably all uses of indefinido could go with aorist-perfective, and imperfecto with imperfect-imperfective.

    But even if this were so problems are bound to arise as soon as pretérito perfecto = present perfect is involved. And even more so of course if you compare Spanish tenses according to American use.
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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Could someone list all Bulgarian moods and tenses?

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by phosphore View Post
    Could someone list all Bulgarian moods and tenses?
    I'll use мисля ("think") a verb with an imperfective aspect.

    Moods: indicative (мисля), imperative (мисли!), conditional (бих мислил), renarrative (мислел съм).

    Tenses: present (мисля), aorist (мислих), future simple (ще мисля), present perfect / "past indefinite" (мислил съм), imperfect (мислех), past perfect (бях мислил), future perfect (ще съм мислил), future in the past (щях да мисля), future perfect in the past (щях да съм мислил).

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    I'll use мисля ("think") a verb with an imperfective aspect.

    Moods: indicative (мисля), imperative (мисли!), conditional (бих мислил), renarrative (мислел съм).

    Tenses: present (мисля), aorist (мислих), future simple (ще мисля), present perfect / "past indefinite" (мислил съм), imperfect (мислех), past perfect (бях мислил), future perfect (ще съм мислил), future in the past (щях да мисля), future perfect in the past (щях да съм мислил).
    This renarrative has all these tenses?

    Thank you.

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Hi Sokol!

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    ...while in BCS aorist and imperfect aren't as fully functional anymore, similar - to give an analogy - to French where for spoken purposes it is mainly passé composé
    You keep repeating this, but to the best of my knowledge, imparfait is very much alive in French and only passé simple is dead. I checked several grammars on that and none mentions that imparfait is dead.

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    Aspect and tenses intertwine to complex meanings and constructions, you need to be very careful about aspect but also about tenses.
    Very general, already discussed.

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    So for example, if you tell a fairy tale then the description of the castle, and the princess, will be in imperfecto while the action the princess takes (fishing the golden ball out of the water, kissing the frog) will be in indefinido.
    However, when describing how the princess was playing with the ball when suddenly the frog jumps out of the water the verb for playing with the ball should be in imperfecto and the action interrupting this - the jumping of the frog - in indefinido.

    What tenses would you use for this in Bulgarian, and what aspects?
    I guess that in the cases above probably all uses of indefinido could go with aorist-perfective, and imperfecto with imperfect-imperfective.
    You're quite right. Thanks for the fun challenge: Замъкът се извисяваше (the castle stood high, imperfect imperfective), принцесата се любуваше на пейзажа (the princess was enjoying the landscape, imperfect imperfective). Принцесата извади златното кълбо от водата (the princess fished the golden ball out of the water, aorist perfective). Принцесата си играеше с кълбото (the princess was playing with the ball, imperfect imperfective), когато внезапно от водата изскочи една жаба (when suddenly a frog jumped out of the water, aorist perfective).

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    But even if this were so problems are bound to arise as soon as pretérito perfecto = present perfect is involved.
    Sure, the perfect is somewhat different. I think the rule of thumb for the Western European should be not to use it. I find it very difficult to generalize on when the Bulgarian perfect is used and when it isn't, I'd have to check some good grammar. The only cases I can think of right away where you really must use it are: 1. if you are establishing that the action is "on your list of things you've done": "I have studied Japanese [at some unspecified point in my life, for some unspecified period]". 2. If you didn't witness the action, don't really know for sure that it happened and are just guessing or inferring: "He has [probably] packed his luggage by now, so his luggage is ready.". Now that I think of it, this is separate from the renarrative mood - even though morphologically it's almost the same as the perfect - which actively emphasizes that that someone told you that.

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    I guess only Bulgarian present perfect with imperfective verbs may be more or less equivalent to Spanish pretérito perfecto, while present perfect with perfective verbs probably do not have a "direct" translation to Spanish but you need to use other means to express the same in Spanish.
    No, there is no such connection. I just found the example Elena ha ganado el premio, and it is a single completed action, so we may use the perfect perfective Елена е спечелила наградата if we want to emphasize that we didn't personally witness her winning and just learned it from somewhere. But if we did see it personally, I think we can't use the present perfect and must use the aorist instead: Елена спечели наградата.

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by phosphore View Post
    This renarrative has all these tenses?

    Thank you.
    Yes and no - several tenses share the same form. That's because the renarrative form is formally more or less a perfect tense form of the corresponding finite verb of the indicative, and that is true regardless of whether that finite verb is in the present or in the past tense (both съм and бях become бил съм, both ще and щях become щял съм). The last few forms aren't used very often at all (and the last pair sounds more like a joke), although they are constructed according to the same analytic logic as all the rest, so they are available "on demand".

    present and imperfect: мисля -> мислел съм; мислех -> мислел съм
    aorist: мислих -> мислил съм
    future simple and future in the past: ще мисля -> щял съм да мисля; щях да мисля -> щял съм да мисля
    present perfect and past perfect: мислил съм -> бил съм мислил; бях мислил -> бил съм мислил
    future perfect and future perfect in the past: ще съм мислил -> щял съм да съм мислил; щях да съм мислил -> щял съм да съм мислил

    The finite verb "to be" is dropped in the 3rd singular, so you get той мислел ... and so on until той щял да е мислил.
    Last edited by mungu; 21st January 2010 at 1:04 AM. Reason: clearer punctuation

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Now some tense correspondences with French and English:

    Tenses: present (мисля) = je pense, I think or I'm thinking
    aorist (мислих) ≈ je pensai, I thought
    imperfect (мислех) = je pensais, I was thinking or I thought
    future simple (ще мисля) = je penserai, I will be thinking or I will think
    present perfect / "past indefinite" (мислил съм) ≈ j'ai pensé, I have thought
    past perfect (бях мислил) = j'avais pensé/j'eus pensé, I had thought
    future perfect (ще съм мислил) = j'aurai pensé, I will have thought
    future in the past (щях да мисля) ≈ je penserais, I would think or I was going to think
    future perfect in the past (щях да съм мислил) ≈ *j'aurais pensé, I would have thought
    Last edited by mungu; 21st January 2010 at 4:08 PM. Reason: correction

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Concerning French tenses:
    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    You keep repeating this, but to the best of my knowledge, imparfait is very much alive in French and only passé simple is dead. I checked several grammars on that and none mentions that imparfait is dead.
    I know that imparfait is much more alive in modern French (especially in written language, in spoken language my French teacher claimed that you wouldn't stick out if you never use it - but I only have her word for that, and she wasn't a French native speaker).
    But passé simple is pretty much dead.

    And this is the reason why French tenses never could compare perfectly to Bulgarian: there's only imparfait equaling approx. Bulgarian imperfect; but the difference between passé simple and passé composé in modern French rather is stylistic than anything else.
    For this reason it is much easier to compare Spanish tenses with Bulgarian (and you also have a great deal more similarities, as the short fairy tale test showed ).
    Still, the use of indefinido and imperfecto in Spanish is quite a complicated topic - and I'm sure there are plenty of uses when they do not compare to imperfect-imperfective and aorist-perfective of Bulgarian: the problem is that I only know Spanish tenses.

    And about perfect tense (pretérito perfecto - present perfect):
    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    No, there is no such connection. I just found the example Elena ha ganado el premio, and it is a single completed action, so we may use the perfect perfective Елена е спечелила наградата if we want to emphasize that we didn't personally witness her winning and just learned it from somewhere. But if we did see it personally, I think we can't use the present perfect and must use the aorist instead: Елена спечели наградата.
    Here we are then: in Spanish you couldn't express through use of a specific tense whether you witnessed an action or not. Of course there are means to express the same meaning if needed - but Bulgarian sticks out with using tense and aspect combined to do so.

    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    Now some tense correspondences with French and English:

    Tenses: present (мисля) = je pense, I think or I'm thinking
    Well not quite, or more precisely: only present-imperfective equals present tense of FR and EN.
    Present-perfective I guess will have some specialised meanings as it has in other South Slavic languages - still more or less means "present" but either pointing to the near future, or habitual actions, or those rare instances when your words actually are an action (e. g. baptising).
    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    aorist (мислих) ≈ je pensai, I thought
    imperfect (мислех) = je pensais, I was thinking or I thought
    Again, instead of "je pensai" you will hear "j'ai pensé"
    And English progressive tenses one could compare with iterative Slavic verbs (so definitely imperfective aspect - but not any kind of imperfective aspect ); they don't relate directly to Bulgarian tenses, as I'm sure you're aware.

    Of course I don't have an understanding of how aspect works in Bulgarian - even though all Slavic languages make use of it aspect still is used differently in different Slavic languages (especially but not only about aspect in present tense); thus it is perfectly possible that I'm mistaken here concerning some fine details.
    "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: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    I know that imparfait is much more alive in modern French (especially in written language, in spoken language my French teacher claimed that you wouldn't stick out if you never use it - but I only have her word for that, and she wasn't a French native speaker).
    But passé simple is pretty much dead.

    You are wrong here. The imparfait is pretty much alive. However, I don't see how we could draw parallels between the imparfait and the passé composé on one side and the aorist, the perfect and the imperfect on the other.

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by phosphore View Post
    You are wrong here. The imparfait is pretty much alive. However, I don't see how we could draw parallels between the imparfait and the passé composé on one side and the aorist, the perfect and the imperfect on the other.
    Imparfait is imperfect, no difference here at all. Passé composé used to be a typical West European perfect, both in form and in function, in classical literary French. However, in modern spoken use it has overtaken the meaning of passé simple as well, so its original "perfect" nature hardly ever surfaces.

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by mungu View Post
    Imparfait is imperfect, no difference here at all. Passé composé used to be a typical West European perfect, both in form and in function, in classical literary French. However, in modern spoken use it has overtaken the meaning of passé simple as well, so its original "perfect" nature hardly ever surfaces.
    I don't know what's a typical Western European past perfect tense, nor do I know what's classical literary French supposed to be, but the passé composé is used in contemporary French for both Bulgarian perfect and Bulgarian aorist. You were claiming that a Frenchman (among other Western Europeans) would easily learn Bulgarian tenses because they are same as in French. But how could he know whether the aorist or the perfect should be used in a phrase where he uses the passé composé? That was my point.

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    And this is the reason why French tenses never could compare perfectly to Bulgarian: there's only imparfait equaling approx. Bulgarian imperfect; but the difference between passé simple and passé composé in modern French rather is stylistic than anything else.
    We've been through this already. Nothing in this world could compare perfectly to anything, otherwise it would be the same thing. Yes, the modern spoken French tense system is a worse parallel than the classical literary French tense system, and that's why I'm using the latter in my examples, just like "thou" is used to express the meaning of "2nd person singular" in foreign languages for English speakers. Literate Francophones will get the idea, as would literate Anglophones in the case of "thou". So please stop bugging me about that.

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    Still, the use of indefinido and imperfecto in Spanish is quite a complicated topic - and I'm sure there are plenty of uses when they do not compare to imperfect-imperfective and aorist-perfective of Bulgarian: the problem is that I only know Spanish tenses.
    I wouldn't be so sure if I were you.
    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    Here we are then: in Spanish you couldn't express through use of a specific tense whether you witnessed an action or not.
    Yes, the Bulgarian perfect is used - or rather restricted - in a somewhat untypical way, it is perhaps the most untypically used tense in the language. That said, I don't know about Spanish, but the use of the perfect to indicate guessing or inferring an event does have some parallels in German and in Norwegian, as I remember from reading grammars of those languages years ago. But of course, the uses are not precisely identical - and I never said everything was precisely identical. If the purpose of this thread is for me to confess that Bulgarian is not identical to Spanish, I confess right away. In fact, you can tell already by the alphabet, some of the letters look kinda different.

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    Here we are then: in Spanish you couldn't express through use of a specific tense whether you witnessed an action or not. Of course there are means to express the same meaning if needed - but Bulgarian sticks out with using tense and aspect combined to do so.
    Aspect has got nothing to do with this at all, don't mix it in to make things look more complicated than they are. You can say "Елена е спечелила наградата" perfectively, or "Елена е печелила наградата" imperfectively. The difference in meaning is only the one you would expect from an aspect, and is in no way connected to the choice of tense.

    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    Well not quite, or more precisely: only present-imperfective equals present tense of FR and EN.
    Present-perfective I guess will have some specialised meanings as it has in other South Slavic languages - still more or less means "present" but either pointing to the near future, or habitual actions, or those rare instances when your words actually are an action (e. g. baptising).
    Well, the present tense of perfective verbs doesn't normally occur as an independent form at all and that's why I didn't mention it and picked an imperfective verb for my examples. The "present tense" of perfective verbs as a morphological form is only necessary to construct the future of perfective verbs (ще помисля "I'll think [perfective]") and is also preferred in certain subordinate clauses ("когато помисля" "when I think [perfective]"). It was interesting to learn about the other South Slavic uses you mentioned, I'm only familiar with the second one of the three, and that only from pretty old folksy literature.
    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    Again, instead of "je pensai" you will hear "j'ai pensé"
    <Sigh>
    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    And English progressive tenses one could compare with iterative Slavic verbs (so definitely imperfective aspect - but not any kind of imperfective aspect ); they don't relate directly to Bulgarian tenses, as I'm sure you're aware.
    Nothing relates directly to anything, except God. Sometimes there is a correspondence between English past-simple/past-progressive contrast and the French/Bulgarian preterite/imperfect contrast and the Slavic perfective/imperfective contrast, sometimes there isn't. That's why I put "or" there. For paedagogical and informative reasons it is better to point out a correspondence that works sometimes than not to mention the correspondence at all - unless one's purpose is not to help understanding, but to confuse and put off. That said, I've no idea what you mean with "iterative Slavic verbs" being comparable to English progressive tenses. I'd say iterative use of Slavic imperfective aspect, and of Bulgarian and French imperfect tense, is the most common case of them not corresponding to English progressive tenses. Please elaborate.
    Quote Originally Posted by sokol View Post
    thus it is perfectly possible that I'm mistaken here concerning some fine details.
    We ain't got no fine details ,we only got coarse and rough details, 'cause we is a coarse and rough, and vulgar Balkan people.
    Last edited by mungu; 21st January 2010 at 10:27 PM. Reason: correction

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    Re: Bulgarian tenses vs. tense systems of Romance languages

    Quote Originally Posted by phosphore View Post
    I don't know what's a typical Western European past perfect tense, nor do I know what's classical literary French supposed to be, but the passé composé is used in contemporary French for both Bulgarian perfect and Bulgarian aorist. You were claiming that a Frenchman (among other Western Europeans) would easily learn Bulgarian tenses because they are same as in French. But how could he know whether the aorist or the perfect should be used in a phrase where he uses the passé composé? That was my point.
    Fair enough. But: 1. A Frenchman is likely to be familiar with the original use from literature. 2. Anyway, I argued above that specifically the Bulgarian present perfect is one (possibly the one) tense for which a West European shouldn't rely on his habits in his mother tongue very much. And that its use is very restricted, so that the simplest strategy at the early stages of learning is to avoid it altogether. Which shouldn't be that hard to do.

    BTW, other Slavs learning Bulgarian usually do the reverse. They usually learn the perfect first and use only the perfect to express past actions, because the perfect is formally identical or near-identical to the default preterite in their own languages. You can often hear a Russian say things like "Вчера в кино бил интересен филм и аз го гледал" or, perhaps, a Pole say "Вчера в кино е бил интересен филм и аз съм го гледал" ("yesterday there has been interesting film at cinema and I have watched it"). It does work perfectly well for practical communication, funny as it sounds to a native.
    Last edited by mungu; 21st January 2010 at 10:29 PM.

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