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Serbian (BCS): Tenses

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by Duya, May 16, 2007.

  1. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    Split from here.

    A bit off-topic, but for most practical purposes, B/C/S has only one past tense (the other 3 are fairly dead in modern language, especially the vernacular, only aorist survived to a small extent). The "other" future tense (known as "Futur II") is applicable only to dependent clause and often replaced with present. Not that other features don't represent an obstacle in learning...
     
  2. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    čeština
    Could you please show some examples of all those future and past tenses? :)
     
  3. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    More precisely, this is true only for perfective verbs. In fact, their present inherently has the "Second Future" meaning, just like it has the "ordinary" future meaning in Russian.
     
  4. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    You can find some examples here.

    Aorist and imperfect are basically the simple past tense of perfective and imperfective verbs, respectively. Nowadays they are both dead for all practical purposes, except in highly poetic language and certain fixed expressions. A modern native speaker feels no semantic difference whatsoever between these tenses and the perfect, and would have a hard time conjugating them, especially the imperfect. The pluperfect is more or less identical to its English equivalent, but it's also used very rarely these days. I don't remember having any feeling for its difference from the perfect before I learned about the English past perfect.

    The difference between Future 1 and Future 2 is a bit tricky; the latter one is used mainly in subordinate clauses, and it's usually replaced by present for perfective verbs. As an interesting side-note, most Kajkavian dialects of Croatian use only Future 2, and, curiously, mixing up the future tenses is the only Kajkavian feature that crept into my everyday speech during more than a decade of living in Zagreb. :)
     
  5. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    A few (semi-random) thoughts on the future and present constructs in B/C/S:

    The "proper" future in Shtokavian dialects is formed in the same way as in Bulgarian and Macedonian, with auxiliary verb hteti -> (ho)ću, ćeš... etc. The Second Future is the same as in Western and Eastern Slavic languages, i.e. with [future of*] auxiliary verb biti -> budem, bude... +past participle.

    However, unlike in Western and Eastern languages, the present of perfective verbs practically cannot occur in the main clause (in e.g. Czech, as I saw here, it is applicable and has a future meaning). For example:

    Ja čekam voz. (I'm waiting for the train, imperfective), but
    Ja sačekam voz. (I wait for the train, perfective) is impossible** in B/C/S. (As I get it, in. e.g. Czech, it means "I will have waited for the train" ).

    However, present tense of perfective verbs is applicable in dependent clauses, and tends to replace second future in vernacular speech. For example:

    Doći ću čim budem sačekao voz (I will come as soon as I will have waited*** for the train, second future).

    Doći ću čim sačekam voz (I will come as soon as I will have waited for the train, present).

    are practically synonymous, and the second form is more often used.

    Duja

    *) I don't quite know which tense of biti is budem, budeš... In my opinion, this is a present of "perfective form" of biti, as opposed to "imperfective", copula, (je)sam, (je)si...

    **) Actually, it is possible, but only in narrative context, e.g. when telling a story or a joke. The aorist is also possible and still occasionally used only in narrative contexts.

    ***) Um, what's the correct English form of this? This one sounds clumsy.
     
  6. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    A consequence of dialect continuum with Slovenian, I suppose, which forms the "proper" future with bom+past participle.

    Actually, the Kajkavian phrase bumo vid'li (we will see) can be occasionally encountered even in Serbian slang (google), when one wants to express sarcasm or disbelief in the supposed event. Spread through popular culture, I guess.

    ZOMG how fast I am to get off topic... sorry. I'll try to restrain myself. :)
     
  7. cajzl Senior Member

    Prag
    Czech
    The Czech language had the aorist and imperfect (even in dual), too. I think they are still easily understandable. Reading of Dalimilova kronika (Dalimil's chronicle, 14th century) is the best way how to learn them (at least passively).

    Examples from the chronicle:

    Král český syna Václava jmieše (= měl),
    ten již králem uherským korunován bieše (= byl).

    Durynk přěd komnatú stáše (= stál)
    a svého časa ždáše (= ždál).

    Jindřich s Ješkem vždy u Švábóv biešta (= byli, dual)
    a škodu jim velikú činiešta (= činili, dual).

    Text of the chronicle is here.
     
  8. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia

    It's also possible when describing some routine repeated actions. E.g. "Ponekad poslije večere popijem pivo." = "Sometimes I drink [perfective] a beer after dinner."

    I think the closest translation would be "I will come as soon as I'm done waiting for the train." (though the original sentence has a somewhat stronger implication that the waiting will end by the actual arrival of the train, and not any other reason).
     
  9. Maja

    Maja Senior Member

    Binghamton, NY
    Serbian, Serbia
    Actually, I think that Future II is a mood (like imperative and conditional), and not a tense.
     
  10. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    The whole tense vs. aspect vs. mood business in linguistics has never been clear to me, even though at one point I really tried to understand the criteria used to discern between those three categories. There are also significant differences between the definitions used by different linguists there. Some of them define "tense" so as to exclude compound tenses altogether (I guess they view those as aspects) and therefore insist that English has only two tenses (non-past and simple past). But according to such definitions, modern Croatian and Serbian (i.e. without the aorist and imperfect) would have only one tense.

    At the end, I realized that for an amateur such as myself, it's best to just stick to the colloquial usage where any verb form that has anything to do with time is liberally called "tense". :D
     
  11. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I don't think that linguists who exclude compound verbs from the repertoire of "tenses" in a language would use "aspect" for the compound forms.

    There are two ways to look at tense, aspect, or mood: either you look at the morphology, or you look at the meaning. Suppose your language had a noun case with two different functions (I and II), but the declensions associated with those two functions were always exactly the same. If I started to learn your language, I wouldn't need to learn two sets of words for the two cases; just one. Semantically, you had two cases with coincident forms, but morphologically you had one case with a double function. I think it's a matter of perspective.

    With compound verbs, the argument is that what is determining function is not the way you inflect the verb itself, but rather the way you combine it syntactically with the auxiliary verb. All the work of switching around tense/aspect/mood is done by the auxiliary verb, and codified more in the syntax than in the morphology.
     
  12. Maja

    Maja Senior Member

    Binghamton, NY
    Serbian, Serbia
    Me too, with most of them! :D
    The weird thing is that Futur II is called "predbuduće vreme", but my grammar book says it is a mood! ;)
     
  13. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Thanks for a very good explanation. The issue makes a bit more sense to me now.
     
  14. vput Junior Member

    Shangri-La, English
    Outsider's explanation can also be used to tackle the merging in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian of dative and locative. As a learner of Croatian, I quickly started to treat dative and locative as the same since the declensions are the same. I note that Norris' "Teach Yourself Croatian" also treats the dative and locative as one, and uses only the term "dative". But one Croat acquaintance took mild offense at this thinking and insisted to me that they are still separate cases, identical endings notwithstanding.
     
  15. :Bruno

    :Bruno New Member

    Zagreb, Croatia
    Croatia, Croatian
    Reportedly, aorist is making a limited comeback in Croatian due to the huge popularity of SMS-messaging. Namely, it is shorter than perfect and thus quicker to type with your thumb.
     
  16. nexy Senior Member

    Trieste (Italia)
    српски/srpski
    Aorist is used quite often in speech in Serbia (at least in Sumadija)
     
  17. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Yes, an article about this topic was published 3-4 years ago. It claimed that both aorist and imperfect were returning to use in text messaging. I've never experienced it personally, though.

    Also, I'd say that while aorist perhaps has some theoretical chance of revival, imperfect is completely and utterly dead. The vast majority of people don't even know how to conjugate verbs in it, and the imperfect of most verbs sounds completely alien and unnatural (pecijah, čujah... sounds to me like a foreign language). The only exception is perhaps the imperfect of the verb to be (bijah, bijaše, etc.), which still sounds pretty natural and recognizable.
     
  18. !netko! Junior Member

    Croatian, Croatia
    Well, everybody on this topic seems to agree with this statement but I'm not quite so sure. I agree that Imperfect is dead and buried (and rightfully so, because its construction is anything but graceful).

    And, as someone said, Aorist is making sort of a comeback with text messagges, but also young people, at least where I'm from, sometimes use it speaking to each other (of course, such a conversation usually has humorous undertones). Also, in such conversations and messagges some kind of Imperfect is sometimes used but people form it as if it were aorist (because, who would actually say stuff like "izlažah")...

    However, Plusquamperfect seems to me to be pretty alive for a supposedly dead tense. A lot of people I communicate with daily use it quite often, many of whom probably wouldn't know what Plusquamperfect actually is.
    Of course I'm referring to the "bila sam otišla" form of Plqperfect, not "bijah otišla" or "bjeh otišla"... Actually, I've noticed kids use it quite a lot (sometimes when they should just use the Perfect)... I remember my mom scolding me for using it when I was a kid, cause she thought it was wrong altogether...

    @Maja: Futur II. is definitely defined as a tense in Croatian. Maybe it's defined differently in Serbia? But I agree, it definitely differs a lot from other tenses...
     
  19. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    Yes, we sort of avoided pluperfect from this discussion. I do agree that its "bio sam" form is still alive to an extent; at least, I use it myself occasionally. :)

    The point is that the language doesn't really force you to use it (as in English); plain perfect, especially if accompanied by an adverb like već (already), usually suffices. Compare:

    Kad smo stigli, oni su otišli. (perfect: implies that they left after or at the same time we arrived)
    Kad smo stigli, oni su bili otišli. (Pluperfect; they left before we arrived)
    Kad smo stigli, oni su već otišli. (Perfect: već clarifies the situation and makes it synonymous with 2) )

    Personally, I use it only when I feel that a disambiguation is needed.
     
  20. !netko! Junior Member

    Croatian, Croatia
    I use it rather automatically most of the time. Maybe it's also my reaction to associating it with the English Past Perfect now, which I try to use as often as possible...
     
  21. :Bruno

    :Bruno New Member

    Zagreb, Croatia
    Croatia, Croatian
    Same here. Using it habitually in English has led to using it much more in Croatian, too.
     
  22. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    In my case, definitely. :D I don't remember having any sort of intuitive feeling for the use of the Croatian pluperfect before I learned the English past perfect. Afterwards I started using it pretty much the same way as the English past perfect.
     
  23. Aleksey Groz Junior Member

    Belgrade, Serbia
    Serbia, Serbo-Croatian
    I don't know, but in Serbia aorist is very often. Also, imperfect is often. Many people use. Me, for example :p
     
  24. :Bruno

    :Bruno New Member

    Zagreb, Croatia
    Croatia, Croatian
    I feel uneasy about correcting your English, given that we are talking about the South Slavic languages, but this is a language forum...

    'Often' was not a good choice. It is an adverb. You needed an adjective, like 'frequent'.
     
  25. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Whatever
    Such as...?

    Having lived in Serbia for 15 years, I've yet to hear anyone using imperfect in speech, writing, or any kind of everyday communication. Maybe Vuk Drašković? He generally likes archaic language. :cool:
     
  26. Aleksey Groz Junior Member

    Belgrade, Serbia
    Serbia, Serbo-Croatian
    Well, imperfect has two types: for example 1. Bejase isao and 2. Bio je isao. When I said that sometimes we use imperfect, I mean on this second type. For example: Kad sam stigao, oni su vec bili otisli. I didn't say that it's something what you use every day, but we use it, without any political or ideological meaning. How ever, I don't know, maybe in Novi Sad people don't use it, but in Belgrade you can hear it normally. Pozdrav
     
  27. :Bruno

    :Bruno New Member

    Zagreb, Croatia
    Croatia, Croatian
    I think you are talking of pluperfect (pluskvamperfekt), not of imperfect. Imperfect would be 'iđah'.
     
  28. Aleksey Groz Junior Member

    Belgrade, Serbia
    Serbia, Serbo-Croatian
    Yeah, that's right Bruno. Sorry everyone! That's plusquamperfect...

    Pozdrav!
     
  29. Diaspora Senior Member

    USA
    Serbocroatian, English
    The following tenses exist in BCS, followed by aspects.

    *Present (Perfective, Imperfective)
    *Perfect (Perfective, Imperfective)-used as a past tense, especially if it relevant to to the present conversation
    *Plusquamperfect (P, I)-"past in the past"
    *Aorist (P, I)-used in certain set phrases as a momentary past, literature, music
    *Imperfect (I)-literature and music (ex. sve djevojke bembasanke na kapiji stajahu)
    *Future (P, I) from the verb "htjeti"
    *Future Perfect (P, I) past in the future, from verb "biti", technically can be used freely but in reality limited to certain constructions

    There is also the "Historical Present" and some subjunctive concepts but they are not tenses per se.
     
  30. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    Serbia
    Serbo-Croatian
    I'd say that proclaiming a tense "dead" is pretty a subjective claim. As some of the members in this thread confirmed, if one is listening carefully (and in all the areas of society) he will hear both aorist and plusquamperfect in everyday speach very often, especially plusquamperfect. I just can't imagine basical communication without it, how otherwise you describe the older of two acts? (Note: there are two types of plusquamperfect, and one of them is really almost dead - like "bejah išao" - but the other one - "bio sam išao" - here, in Šumadija, is used even by little children.) Also I can't imagine expressing some nuances without aorist. (I wonder how many times I asked one my sons: "Uradi li konačno taj domaći zadatak?" or "Obrisa li prašinu u svojoj sobi?" :) )
     
  31. Diaspora Senior Member

    USA
    Serbocroatian, English
    I agree, plusquamperfect is quite common, I hear it in USA among Bosnian immigrants all the time. And sometimes, the aorist just makes more sense, (ex. Vela havle vela, što to uradi, Fadile!, Good God, what did you do, Fadil:)) The imperfect is very common in traditional songs.
    I think that if someone is learning Serbo-Croatian, they don't need to know all the tenses but if someone wants to enjoy Yugoslav literature and nuance expressions they should learn it.
     

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