Bulgarian: aorist… not!

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by Psi-Lord, Dec 6, 2008.

  1. Psi-Lord

    Psi-Lord Member

    Cândido Mota, São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    At first I thought of starting two different threads, but then I realised I might group both sentences I’ve had problems with under the same topic: the aorist, the situations I thought it was fitting, and the forms I thought it had.

    First, what I’ve learnt so far.

    In a way, I equate much of the Bulgarian aorist to the Portuguese preterite indicative. I’m still a bit stuck with the idea of imperfective aorist forms, but, otherwise, no big problems.

    Then, I know that the aorist endings are the same as those of the imperfect, except for the 2nd and 3rd person singular (which happen to be identical).

    Okay, that said, I was once writing a paragraph on particular events of the Brazilian history, and wanted to say that, when Brazil became independent of Portugal, there was no war or bloodshed. I rendered this particular sentence as:

    „Няма обаче война или кръвопролитие.“

    (This was when I first learnt that I should use the renarrative mood for historical descriptions, so that I later rephrased it as Нямало обаче война или кръвопролитие. Bear with me in the indicative mood though.)

    In Portuguese, the verb would’ve been in the preterite indicative (não houve), and I saw that the Bulgarian 3rd person singular aorist was the same as the 3rd person singular present:

    Present: нямам, нямаш, няма, нямаме, нямате, нямат
    Aorist: нямах, няма, няма, нямахме, нямахте, нямаха

    The friend who corrected my text, however, told me that, if I wasn’t changing it to the renarrative mood, I should’ve used няма ‘in the past’. I told him I was confused, because I thought that the aorist was that, but he told me it should be нямаше, which I thought was the imperfect. I thought it might be just a matter of confusion over tense names, but, even then, should that sentence take the imperfect instead of the aorist? Any particular reasons for that?

    Then, a similar situation. I once again wrote another short text which started with the following sentence:

    „Боли ме глава цeлия ден, но сега съм добре.“

    I intended to say that I’d had a headache all day, but that by the time I was writing I was fine (so aorist for the first clause, present for the second). When I looked up how to say that a part of the body hurts, dictionaries pointed me to the verb боля in an impersonal (?) construction. The conjugation I had for it was:

    Present: боля, болиш, боли, болим, болите, болят
    Aorist: болих, боли, боли, болихме, болихте, болиха

    So I took боли to be the proper aorist form here. This time, another friend who corrected my text said she wouldn’t be able to explain why in grammatical terms, but that I should actually say Боля ме глава целия ден if I wanted to say my head had ached, but it no longer did, otherwise it’d sound my head still ached, which would clash with the meaning I intended (and the second clause). But isn’t this боля the 1st person singular present? What am I missing here?

  2. Darina Senior Member

    Hi Psi-Lord!
    Your sentence is grammatically correct. What you are missing here is the evolution of the language so to say ;). If the present and the aorist form are identical we tend to use imperfect instead. That's all! :)

    In the sentence Баща ти те търси вчера the word вчера helps you understand that it is in the past but not in Няма обаче война или кръвопролитие people.

    Боля is a special case because we normally use it in the 3th person/ impersonal. Боля is not only the 1th person/present but also the 3th person/aorist. I think your conjugation is wrong (I am not sure): болях, боля, боля, боляхме, боляхте, боляха.
  3. DarkChild Senior Member

    The proper aorist is болях, not болиx. So your friend is correct that you should say боля ме главата. Yes, this 3rd person aorist form coincides with 1st person present.

    P.S. I just discovered that even if they are written the same, the two боля are pronounced differently. 3st person aorist emphasizes much more on the я, the last syllable, so it sounds like болйА (capital letter indicating the stress), while first person is pronounced like болйЪ. I just found this out while saying the two sentencing to myself :D
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2008
  4. Darina Senior Member

    True. As a rule stressed a, я of verbs 1th person, present tense, are reduced to ъ, йъ: aз чета - четъ. :)

    Psi-Lord, neglecting that rule is dialectal! ;)
  5. Psi-Lord

    Psi-Lord Member

    Cândido Mota, São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Oh, that’s really interesting! :idea:

    So, if there was no вчера in your sentence, you’d say Баща ти те търсеше instead?

    I was following ‘faithfully’ the conjugation given by the PRONS dictionary for боля. According to its classification, it’s a II-1 verb (that is, second conjugation, type one), conjugated like деля. The problem, however, is that now I’ve tried to look it up in more sources, I’ve realised I am/was indeed missing something else about it – what a special verb it seems to be!

    The SA Dictionary gives no entry for боля, but it does for боли
    itself, as if it was a form of its own. The only non-present example it gives, however, is Болеше го глава, using an imperfect form that could belong to different conjugation patterns anyway.

    Hristo Krushkov’s page on morphological analysis then threw me back in a circle, because, when I looked forms such as боли and боля up, it gave them as forms of other verbs only – no mention to боля itself. Since it said боля was the 2nd and 3rd person singular aorist of болея (something the Bulgarian Wiktionary seemed to agree with), I looked this one up instead to see what it meant. Unrelated meaning, right?

    The Eurodict also has an entry for the 3rd person itself only: боли ме. It provides no special information about its conjugation in the Bulgarian–English mode, but surprise! it does in the monolingual Bulgarian mode:

    So, there it is, the aorist боля I was searching! It apparently conjugates not like деля (II-1), but like летя (II-3).

    And what a ‘dictionary journey’ I went into in order to find out why! :D

    Ah, that I did know – the friend who once told me about the proper pronunciation of the masculine definite articles (градът/града = градъ) also told me about the 1st person singular and 3rd person plural forms of the present (чета = четъ, четат = четът), and warned me that didn’t happen in other tenses (играх = играх).

    Thanks a lot, guys! :)
  6. Darina Senior Member

    You made me realise how difficult Bulgarian language is ;).

    Exactly. Otherwise it won't be clear. And this is becoming a rule in the spoken language. Almost noone will use the aorist in this case.

    Боля is used only in 3th person, both singular and plural. It is a so called impersonal verb, just like валя (to rain). You say: it's raining. No expression: I am raining, if am right. This is why the SA disctionary did not bother with this verb.

    However, болея is another verb!!! It means to be ill, to suffer. Той боля - he was ill. It is somehow poetic so better avoid it!
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2008
  7. Psi-Lord

    Psi-Lord Member

    Cândido Mota, São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Tell me about it! I’ll have to quote Azis and shout ‘Дай ми лед!’, because my head’s burning up! :D

  8. Teyata New Member

    Darina, you said that no one will use the aorist of a certain verb in spoken language if it will be confused with the present tense of the verb. Does that also apply to written language?
  9. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
  10. Kanes Senior Member

    No, just using aorist is useless if the exact time is stated, as in the case... yesterday. So in many cases people wont care to use it. It is the same in writen language I think.
  11. Arath Senior Member

    The above statement is wrong, or at least it's not entirely true. Let's take for example the verb "купя". I think Darina will agree with me that the sentence "Баща ти купи един хляб" ("Your father bought a loaf of bread) can only mean a past action, even though "купи" is both the present (аз да купя, ти да купиш, той да купи) and the aorist form (аз купих, ти/той купи) of the verb "купя". There are hundreds of verbs like купя, mostly verbs from the second conjugation (намеря, изработя, поговоря, обадя, поканя, повторя, науча...) and some from the first (отида, вляза) and third conjugations (поръчам, попитам, поискам, иненадам). So the following sentences:

    "Баща ти намери..." - "Your father found..."
    "Баща ти се обади." - "Your father called."
    "Баща ти отиде..." - "Your father went..."
    "Баща ти влезе..." - "You father entered..."
    "Баща ти поръча..." - "You father ordered..."
    "Баща ти попита..." - "You father asked..."
    "Баща ти изненада..." - "You father surprised..."

    can only mean a past action, despite the fact that the the same forms are used in the present tense:

    "Когато баща ти се обади, ще го питам кога ще се върне" - "When you father calls, I'll ask him when he'll be back" vs "Когато баща ти се обади, го питах кога ще се върне" - "When your father called, I asked him when he'd be back."

    The use of the imperfect in the above sentences is either impossible or it changes the whole meaning of the sentence. "Баща ти намереше..." are "Баща ти се обадеше..." are both wrong, whereas "(Винаги) Kогато баща ти се обадеше, го питах кога ще се прибере" means "Every time you father called, I asked him when he'd be back.").

    The sentence "Баща ти те търси" can be both present and past, because the verb "търся" is different from the ones listed above. "търся" is an imperfective verb (глагол от несвършен вид), while the other verbs are perfective (глаголи от свършен вид). Imperfective verbs can be used independently in the present tense ("аз търся" is fine) but perfective normally cannot ("Аз купя" is wrong, it shoud be "аз да купя" or "ако аз купя", etc). That's why the above sentences are only past and "баща ти те търси" can be both past and present.

    I think what Darina wanted to say is that "if the present and the aorist form of an imperfective verb are identical some Bulgarians tend to use the imperfect instead." and I stress the words "some Bulgarians" because this is not standard usage, it's a dialect, and not all Bulgarians do that. In fact, Bulgarians from different regions of the country do different things. In this case other Bulgarians would distinguish the two tenses by stressing different syllables of the verb:

    "Баща ти те тЪрси" with stress on the first syllable means present tense and
    "Баща ти те търсѝ" with stress on the last syllable means past tense.
    Similarly: "Баща ти глÉда..." means "Your father is watching"
    "Баща ти гледÁ" - "Your father watched"
    "Баща ти ѝска" - "Your father wants"
    "Баща ти искÁ" - "Your father wanted".

    But this is not standard Bulgarian, it's a dialect. I can't say which group of Bulgarians is the bigger one - the ones using the imperfect insead or the ones using different stress patterns, but in both cases this is not standard Bulgarian. So Darina's statement about the evolution of the Bulgarian language is also wrong. That's not the evolution of the whole language, it's the evolution of a particular dialect of the language. It's true that there is a considerable amount of Bulgarians who speak like that, but it's also true that there is a considerable amount of Bulgarians who don't speak like that.

    In standard Bulgarian the sentence "Бащи ти те търси" can be both present and past, the distinction is made from the context and it's not necessary to use the adverb "Вчера". The sentences "Баща ти те търсеше" and "Баща ти те търси" when the latter refers to the past, mean different things. It is only in some dialects that the first one replaces the second one and no distinction is made between the two.
  12. Psi-Lord

    Psi-Lord Member

    Cândido Mota, São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Thanks a lot for all the follow-ups! Very interesting to read this all.

    And sorry it's taken me a while to get back to the thread. I was (and still am, actually) mostly cut off from the Web, because of ISP problems, and so only today did I get to check the forum again.

    In this meantime, I've got to buy myself a copy of Ronelle Alexander's Intensive Bulgarian 1, and there's so much grammar I'm trying to absorb from there it's fantastic. In one of the sections on aorist, it's really pointed out that some Bulgarians shift the stress of forms that would otherwise be identical to present ones. The author says that can only be done in non-prefixed forms having the theme vowel -а- or -и-, and still points that many speakers don't shift the stress at all, and others vacillate between doing it or not. Unfortunately, though, the discussion moves no further, and no mention is made to using imperfect forms instead in such contexts.

    On the other hand, another section took me to an unexpected path regarding part of the question that brought me here – the author says that impersonal verbs have neither aorist nor imperfect tenses, but a single past tense instead that happens to look like the imperfect form, but covers both tenses. According to that, that's why verbs such as има, няма, може etc. (when used impersonally) can only be имаше, нямаше, можеше etc. in the past, be it in the context of aorist or imperfect.
  13. Darina Senior Member

    Arath, you are right! I just did not want to go too deep in detail.
    Some Bulgarians change the tense, others change the stress. Anyway, both are wrong!:)

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