Persian & English past tense markers.

PersoLatin

Senior Member
UK
Persian - Iran
With some exceptions in English, the past tense marker in both Persian & English is ‘d’. In Persian ‘d’ changes to ‘t’ in some verbs.

Can someone please explain if this marker comes from a common PIE root and if so, how is that common root reflected in other IE languages.
 
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  • berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    The generally accepted theory about Germanic weak past tense ending is that it is a contraction of an auxiliary verb. In pre-PGmc newly formed verbs that did not have an inherited past tense constructed it's past tense with the past tense of to do as the auxiliary verb put after the main verb. So, to give an example in modern verb forms, he loved is a contraction of he love did. The past tense forms directly inherited from PIE are precisely not those with the ending -ed or -t, like he loved or he felt. The past tense form inherited from PIE are strong verbs, i.e. those with ablauts as markers like give-gave but also those without any marker like run-run. (Note that read-read is a weak verb also you can't tell by its modern form any more.)
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    I am afraid I have difficulty understanding most of the technical jargon and sometimes to the level where I can't work out if the answer is a definite yes, a definite no or even a definite somewhere in between, my problem I suppose.

    Having said that, the answer to the OP seems to be a definite no, so thank you berndf.

    I always wanted to ask the following but now I will assume they are coincidences or happen in none IE languages too:
    a) Infinitive forms Persian present stem + '-d' marker + -en/-an, German: present stem + -en
    b) Presence of '-t-' marker in past tense and particles in Latin & Italian.
    c) Past participles : present stem + '-d' marker + -e/-a, French past participles : present stem + -e/-u/-i
    d) Formation of present & past perfect tenses etc., Persian: 'to be' & 'to have' + PP, French/English: 'to be' & 'to have', German: 'to have' + PP
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    b) Presence of '-t-' marker in past tense and particles in Latin & Italian.
    Where do you see a -t- past tense marker in Latin? I see it only in the past participle but not in any other past tense forms.

    Also in Person I cannot really see a -d- or -t- marker for past tense only for perfect aspect and that is because the Person perfect is constructed from the past participle. I would rather understand -d-/-t- as participle and not as tense markers and only in some conjugation patterns.
     
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    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    The New Persian past tense in –d or –t continues the Old Persian perfect passive participle in –ta (as also in Sanskrit and Avestan), generally added to the zero-grade root. In Middle and New Persian /t/ becomes /d/ after vowels and voiced consonants. This ending is cognate with that of verbal adjectives in (Greek) –tos or (Latin) –tus. As an example, Old Persian kṛ- “make” has a p.p.p. kṛta-, becoming kird in Middle Persian and kard in New Persian.

    Persian has two suppletive verbs for “to see”: wayn- and day-. The present stem is OP wayn- > MP wēn > NP bīn. The p.p.p. is (zero-grade) dīta- > MP and NP dīd.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    ... I would rather understand -d-/-t- as participle and not as tense markers and only in some conjugation patterns.
    Maybe you have good reasons for this but in Persian -d-/-t- is a past tense marker which then goes on to give us the past tense which is used in all other tenses. Persian is 100% regular when it comes to verb tenses, the only diversion is the choice between 'd' or 't' which is quite regular itself, so when the present stem ends is a vowel, sound change rule changes 'd' to 't', also all infinitive forms end in -en/an, no exception, so you could easily see the roadmap of their development.

    I may well be wrong as I believe present tense of verbs developed first (all languages) then the need for the past tense was realised, these then led to development of the participles.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Maybe you have good reasons for this but in Persian -d-/-t- is a past tense marker which then goes on to give us the past tense which is used in all other tenses. Persian is 100% regular
    Yes, but this is Modern Persian. As @fdb explained, the Modern Persian past tense is based on the historic perfect and not on the past tense and the perfect is build on the perfect passive participle.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Maybe you have good reasons for this but in Persian -d-/-t- is a past tense marker which then goes on to give us the past tense which is used in all other tenses. Persian is 100% regular when it comes to verb tenses, the only diversion is the choice between 'd' or 't' which is quite regular itself, so when the present stem ends is a vowel, sound change rule changes 'd' to 't', also all infinitive forms end in -en/an, no exception, so you could easily see the roadmap of their development.

    I may well be wrong as I believe present tense of verbs developed first (all languages) then the need for the past tense was realised, these then led to development of the participles.

    As I tried to explain (no. 11) the Old Iranian ending –ta is for the perfect participle. Middle Persian lost the historic past tenses (imperfect, aorist, perfect) and formed new past tenses from the perfect participle. In the case of intransitive verbs this was by adding the verb “to be” to the participle, e.g. raft hem “I went” > NP raftam. For the transitive verbs the participle plus “to be” formed a passive/ergative construction: u-š dīd hem means “and by him I was seen, he saw me”, but in New Persian the ergative construction was replaced by analogy to the intransitive verbs (dīd-am “I saw”).

    The infinitive in –tan or –dan looks like it is the perfect participle plus –an, but in fact it derives from the Old Persian infinitive in –tanai.
     
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    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    How was the past tense of 'to do' formed ('did')?

    To recap in less technical language, I suppose that you’re asking whether the -d in did (the preterite of to do) has the same origin as the dental (sounds like d/t/th) suffix used to form the preterite (= past tense form) of weak verbs in Germanic languages, like brought, then the answer generally accepted is ‘no’, because the conventional explanation for this dental suffix is that it originated from a contraction with did, i.e., brought bring + did. It would be circular to say that the final -d in did is itself a contraction of the sort did do + did, so this is inadmissible just from a logical point of view.

    In fact, the second d in did came about through of reduplication of a monosyllabic root in Proto-Indo-European: dʰeh- → dʰedʰeh-. The simple root had a perfective (≈ past) meaning ‘put’, and the reduplicated form had an imperfective (≈ present) meaning ‘is putting’. (I also used the term ‘athematic’ before, but this notion is largely superfluous for our purposes.) This is reflected in the Greek cognate (= descended from the same word) of this stem in Greek, τἰθημι from the root θε = dʰeh-, meaning ‘I put’ in the present. In principle, the reduplicated consonant should be the same, but Greek deaspirates the first consonant by Grassmann's law: τἰθημι ← θιθημι.

    In the Germanic languages, wherein the reflex of the reduplicated stem dʰedʰeh- → dedē, originally with an imperfective meaning, was used as the preterite of the Germanic verb dōną ‘to do’ by way of suppletion, which is to say, it was supplied as the past tense form of another (unrelated) verb. (The same thing has occurred with the verb to go, whose preterite went actually comes from the unrelated verb to wend.) That was the point of Berndf’s reply. Now, in fact, dōną and dedē are not, strictly speaking, unrelated, because the former is derived from the simple (unreduplicated) stem of the same root dʰeh- → dōną, but the point here is that the Germanic preterite dedē was not derived by reduplication of the present stem dōną. Rather, at an earlier stage of the language, the opposite happened, that reduplication produced an imperfective stem dʰedʰeh- from the perfective dʰeh, and subsequently, in Germanic, these stems were put together as the present and preterite of a single verb.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    As I tried to explain (no. 11) the Old Iranian ending –ta is for the perfect participle.
    Yes, but this is Modern Persian. As @fdb explained, the Modern Persian past tense is based on the historic perfect and not on the past tense and the perfect is build on the perfect passive participle.
    Yes if by modern we mean at least 2000 years, because by then this set of rules were well established.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Thank you guys, since we are here could someone please explain, by modern examples in Persian or English and if not possible in Latin (but not Greek), the difference between perfective/perfect & their opposites plus other terms mentioned, in the context we are talking about. I’m not being lazy I have looked these up & read a little about them but I can’t connect with them, I’d like to understand the concepts before the terminology.

    At this I can’t work out whether the past tense developed from the present tense directly or via another less direct route, or maybe thinking that present tense is the first ever developed tense, is not even right.
     
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    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    Could someone please explain, by modern examples in Persian or English and if not possible in Latin (but not Greek), the difference between perfective/perfect & their opposites plus other terms mentioned, in the context we are talking about.

    The terms ‘perfect’, ‘imperfect’, etc. refer to forms. Thus in English, from the verb to bear, we have the present stem bear- which inflects I bear, he bears, etc., the preterite bore, and the past participle borne. In Latin, the cognate verb has present fero, imperfect ferebam, perfect tuli, past part. latus, etc. Note that these terms refer simply to the morphological form, and may or may not be related across languages. Thus, the present stem are cognate in English and Latin, both from PIE bʰéroh, the root thematic (this term is unimportant here and may be ignored, but it basically means that the endings are attached to the stem using a connecting vowel) verb from the root bʰér ‘to carry’. Their past stems, however, are not. The English preterite bore is regularly derived by ablaut, the o-grade of a Class IV Germanic strong verb, whereas Latin tuli is suppletive, from another PIE root telh- also meaning ‘to bear’, and whose reflex in Latin is the verb tollo ‘I lift’, which consequently added a prefix to for its own perfect sustuli. Note that the foregoing discussion is purely about forms, and nothing has been said about what the various forms mean. And the choice of names is conventional, and may be language-dependent, such that Latin has an imperfect, but we speak instead of the past progressive in English.

    The terms ‘perfective’ and ‘imperfective’ refer to meaning rather than form. A perfective verb presents an action or event as a complete whole, whilst an imperfective verb presents the same as being ongoing, corresponding roughly the distinction between ‘I carry’ and ‘I am carrying’. Note that the primary distinction is one of aspect, rather than tense, and thus ‘I carried’ and ‘I was carrying’ are likewise perfective and imperfective respectively. Going back to our PIE examples, the root dʰeh ‘to put’ is perfective, whilst the root bʰér ‘to be carrying’ is imperfective. Note that the aspect is an intrinsic feature of the root, and not morphologically determined. In other words, you cannot determine if a root is perfective or imperfective merely from its form, but you may be able to deduce it from the meaning, since the act of putting is usually punctual, whilst that of carrying is generally durative.

    From the root dʰeh, you can form an athematic root aorist verb dʰéhm, dʰéhs, dʰéht, ... ‘put, puttest, putteth, ...’, with a perfective meaning, by adding the inflexional endings. ‘Aorist’, because it has a perfective meaning; ‘root’, because the verbal ending are added to the simple root; and ‘athematic’, because no thematic vowel is inserted between the root and the ending. Note that, as before, no time is implied be the perfective aspect, so this verb may be used equally of the past and the present.

    Now, although the notion of putting is generally punctual, it may happen that you want to express the progressive sense ‘I am putting’. To do so, you need another verb, because the verb stem dʰéh- has an intrinsically perfective meaning. How do you get this verb? Well, one strategy to derive an imperfective verb from a perfective root was reduplication, whence the verb stem dʰedʰeh- ‘to be putting’, to which the inflexional endings may be added. This time, two sets of endings may be added: the primary endings dʰedʰehmi, dʰedʰehsi, dʰedʰehti, ... ‘am putting, art putting, is putting’, with a present meaning; and the secondary endings dʰedʰehm, dʰedʰehs, dʰedʰeht, ... ‘was putting, wert putting, was putting’, with a past meaning. This time, we have an athematic reduplicated verb, ‘reduplicated’ because the root was reduplicated to form the stem, and ‘athematic’ again because no thematic vowel is used. (With perfective verbs, only the secondary endings are used.)

    It is important to note that dʰedʰehm and dʰéhm are not merely two forms of the one verb, like ‘put’ and ‘was putting’; they are two separate verbs, one with a perfective meaning and one with an imperfective meaning, related, obviously, because they are derived from the same root. The analogy in English would be ‘to fall’ and ‘to fell’, which are two separate verbs derived from the same root, with the latter having a causative meaning.

    At this I can’t work out whether the past tense developed from the present tense directly or via another less direct route, or maybe thinking that present tense is the first ever developed tense, is not even right.

    This question is too general, and therefore has no answer. It can be answered only in the context of a particular language. Which past tense and present tense do you mean?
     
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    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Many thanks radagasty, this massively helps, we should have this great piece of text as a reference point on this forum. Reading it just the once brought my existing knowledge inline with majority of the terminology, as you clarified them in appropriate setting & context.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    This question is too general, and therefore has no answer. It can be answered only in the context of a particular language. Which past tense and present tense do you mean?
    You asked "Which past tense and present tense do you mean?" I hope you mean the past/present tense in which 'language', and not which 'type' of past/present tense.

    I can give language examples but they will the ones in the OP which are still under my microscope. But I really meant this as a general question, do we know how tenses developed, regardless of the language?

    I go back to early days, after the grunting stage as a means of communication by humans, early words started to developed then at later stage the concept of a verb, most probably from the same early words. So in this process the concept of tense must have been next. I would have thought the very first simple verbs were in, what we now call, the present tense. so my question is what happened next, i.e. which form of verbs were next, perfective, imperfective, participles, conjugations or tenses?

    With regards to IE languages you would have thought by the time they split into major branches, the development of verbs & their various forms had already started. So if it helps to get closer to an answer to this question please use any IE language that we have the most information about.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    You asked "Which past tense and present tense do you mean?" I hope you mean the past/present tense in which 'language', and not which 'type' of past/present tense.
    May I remind you that it has been explained several times in this thread that many languages have several different tenses to which the label "past tense" could be applied. There are indeed many "types" or past senses. Among them older development stages of Persian. The modern Persian past tense has developed out of the Old Persian perfect. At it s development stage, proto-Germanic is quite unique among IE languages only to to distinguish two tenses, namely past and non-past.

    PIE is assumed not to have had any tenses at all but only aspects. The Germanic past tense is assumed to have developed out of the PIE stative. The Old Persian perfect from which the modern Persian past tense is derived has developed out of the perfect participle.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    May I remind you that it has been explained several times in this thread that many languages have several different tenses to which the label "past tense" could be applied.
    Thank you very much, understood.

    I usually note these things, I would appreciate it if you could point out the post(s) that explained this & I will revisit it.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    As I tried to explain (no. 11) the Old Iranian ending –ta is for the perfect participle. Middle Persian lost the historic past tenses (imperfect, aorist, perfect) and formed new past tenses from the perfect participle.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    ^ Thank you berndf & fdb.


    Middle Persian lost the historic past tenses (imperfect, aorist, perfect) and formed new past tenses from the perfect participle.

    Is there any evidence/examples on these lost (imperfect, aorist, perfect) tenses, basically do we know how they were formed please?
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Is there any evidence/examples on these lost (imperfect, aorist, perfect) tenses, basically do we know how they were formed please?

    Old Persian and Avestan have the classic Indo-European tense system, much the same as Sanskrit and Greek. This involves an “augment” a- and “secondary” personal endings. All of this disappears without a trace in Middle Persian (though at least partially retained in Eastern Iranian languages like Sogdian, Bactrian, Chorasmian). On the other hand, Old Persian also has also “mana kṛta-” meaning “made by me” (literally “of me”, genitive), the direct ancestor of MP –m kird and then of NP kardam “I made”.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    So, the MP and ModP past tense is best compared to the Western present perfect, which also replaced the past tense in some languages, like in colloquial French or German. The basic semantic development in Persian to express
    I wrote the letter
    is then:
    The letter is written by me > The letter has been written by me > I have written the letter > I wrote the letter.
    While in colloquial French or German the development is
    I have the written letter > I have written the letter > I wrote the letter.
    So, the perfect aspect expressed by the passive participle is used to produce a periphrastic construct to express pastness. While in European language this periphrastic construct remains visibly two words, it developed into a single inflected word in Persian; similar into the Romance future tense (Latin (ego) scribere habeo > French j'écrirai).
    Is this the basic idea?
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Yes, formally much the same thing happens in Middle Iranian as in Romance and Germanic (though considerably earlier in Iranian). There is however a significant difference in that in Middle Iranian we have what we call split ergativity. The present tense of transitive verbs has a nominative subject, an oblique object and a verb agreeing with the subject. The past tense of transitive verbs has an agent in an oblique case, the logical object in the nominative, and a verb (=old perfect passive participle plus copula) agreeing with the logical object. Thus, we say “I write the letter”, but instead of “I wrote the letter” we say “the letter is written of me”.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Literally نامه را نوشتم = letter the written[-is-of]-me with نوشتم being essentially a contraction of نوشته‌ام. Correct? (Sorry, my knowledge of Persian is quite rudimentary).
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Old Persian also has also “mana kṛta-” meaning “made by me” (literally “of me”, genitive), the direct ancestor of MP –m kird and then of NP kardam “I made”.
    Hi fdb, so the /a/ in mana means ‘of’ and this led to NP kardam & its MP variant, then presumably there was other cases of “mana kṛta-” in use e.g. “toa kṛta-” or “built by/of you” or “you built” but this would lead to NP kardat rather than kardi which what it is now. That’s if I have understood what you said.
     
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