Catalan : periphrastic past perfect

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by J.F. de TROYES, Oct 23, 2012.

  1. J.F. de TROYES Senior Member

    The periphrastic past perfect is a feature of Catalan that cannot be found in other Romance languages and using the auxiliary anar to express a past looks to me surprising. So I I'd liked to ask these questions :

    1. Is this verbal form old ? What time can it be dated back to ?

    2. Is it possible to make it out ? How is it that the verb anar with the present infinitive conveys the notion of past ?

    3 . Is it right that this periphrastic past ( jo vaig dir ) has currently replaced the simple past perfect ( jo diguí ) ?

    4. What's the difference between ha parlat and va parlar ? I wonder if both tenses are currently used.

    Thanks a lot for any enlightment.
  2. CapnPrep Senior Member

  3. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    I have a related question: why do many Catalan Grammars online ignore this tense form, and don't even mention it?
  4. J.F. de TROYES Senior Member

    Thanks a lot for the threads, CapnPrep, :thumbsup: ; I am going to read them and see if they answer my questions.
  5. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Hi. I'll just answer the questions briefly as the info can certainly be found in CanNPrep's links.
    1) Yes, it is several centuries old even existing in old Catalan. Don't know exact starting moment but it's not at all new. The regular preterite simple (digué, digueres...) is extremely common in written texts as it's considered more literary. Now, it's also important to know that there are several dialects of Catalan and the periphrastic is very typical of Eastern variety, but less of Western.
    2) The periphrastic past does not match completely to the present tense of the verb "anar" (to go): which has the forms "vaig, vas, vas, anem, aneu, van" and is almost always followed by the preposition "a" or the pronouns "hi" or "en". The periphrastic past, howver, can use these alternate forms "vaig/vareig, vares, va, vam/varem, vareu, varen".
    El dijous van a menjar al restaurant... (on thursday they are going to eat at the restaurant), El dijous varen menjar al restaurant... (On thursday they ate at the restaurant).
    3) Yes, I would say in Eastern dialect it has largely replaced the preterite simple in general conversation yet not so in writing.
    4) "He parlat" is a perfect form. It is used a lot, for recent actions (today, tonight, this morning, at noon, this afternoon), also for (this week, this month, this spring, this century), or any proximity implied either physical or emotional to the present time. This tense does not really correspond to the English present perfect. It is much more frequently and liberally used. "Aquest matí he parlat amb el meu amic" (I spoke with my friend this morning.) The periphrastic (and the preterite simple), on the contrary, corresponds to finished past actions divorced completely from the present in all respects (Last year, in 2008, last month, last Tuesday.... that day, that year, that month.... when he was born...). "Aquell matí vaig parlar (parlí) amb el meu amic" (That morning I spoke with my friend). The periphrastic and the preterite simple have the same use, that of a true past, viewed from the present time as history.

    Edit: The periphrastic even existed in old Catalan (with evidence of it existing in Old Spanish and Old Occitan). If you want a long 30 page study on the intricacies of the periphrastic, have a look here
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2012
  6. J.F. de TROYES Senior Member

    Moltes gràcies per les explicacions, Merquiadies. Your comment is really enlightening and I thank you for the link too : good stuff, a bit hard to take in , but very interesting.

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