Tense

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[edit] Introduction

Grammatical Tense refers to the expression of time at which a verb is carried out and is usually though of in terms of present, past and future.

The past tense is subdivded between at least three sets of possible morphemes to mark not only that the utterance is past tense but also the source of information, a grammatical category known as evidentiality.

We will use the term discourse time to refer to the time when someone says something and event time refers to the time when the event that they are talking about took place.

[edit] Present

If the event time and the discourse time overlap the event is interpreted as present tense. In the present tense the verb is unmarked for tense.

[edit] Past Tense

If the event time precedes the discourse time the the sentence is given a past tense interpretation. This is marked using one of three suffixes -p'n, -s'n, and -s'p'n. Which suffixes is used depends on the grammatical person and the source of speakers knowledge.

In Mi'gmaq, when a verb is marked for past tense it is marked with a suffix that surfaces after person marking and is followed by additional suffixes that mark plurality.

  1. negmow  nemia'ti-pn-ig  
    They    see.3>3-PST-PL  
    'They saw them'

Each ending has two variants depending on their position in the verb. Unless followed by a plural or obvaitive suffix the past tense is marked word-finally. Generally, when word final we drop the final n of the suffix.

  1. gil  nemit-'p     
    you  see.2>1-PST  
    'You(sg)see me'

Two exceptions to n dropping is in conditionals and in embedded sentences.

  1. ulagu      etug   lugwega-pn  
    yesterday  maybe  work.1-PST  
    'yesterday maybe I would have worked (I.e if you had asked)'
  1. teltasi-ap   nemia-p'n    
    think.1-PST  see.3>3-PST  
    'I thought that he saw him'


When the sentence involves Obviation, the -l suffix that marks obviation becomes an long -n.

  1. negum  nemia-pn-n       
    you    see.3>3-PST-OBV  
    'S/he (sg) sees him/her'


[edit] Evidentiality

In addition to marking that a verb is past tense the speaker must also state the source of their information, this is known as evidentiality. There are two evidential markers which encode source of information known: the direct (attestive) -pn, the indirect (suppositive) -s('p)n[1]. For a more in depth description see Evidentiality.

[edit] The direct evidential

The direct evidential is the most common suffix used in the past tense and indicates a direct source of evidence. The speaker must participate in the event or witness it in order to use the -p'n correctly.

  1. ulagu      tapusijig  ma'jat-pn-i'g          ji'nm-ug    
    yesterday  two        leave.vta-(3)-past-pl  man-pl      
    'Two men left yesterday ( I saw it)'

Note that the first person participation must involve the conscious participation of the participant. For example if the participant accidently falls asleep and is late for class then s/he may not use the attestive suffix and instead must use the the suppositive evidential. The example below is from Inglis(2002: 49).[2]


Context: You arrive late for class after falling asleep

Teacher: Tami e'g-s'p where were you?

You (Answer 1): nepai-ap I (purposefully) fell asleep

You (Answer 2): nepai-as I (accidentally) fell asleep

[edit] The indirect evidential

The indirect suffix -s'n used to mark that the speaker knows about the verb event either through second hand knowledge, usually by being told about it. It does not refer to the speakers commitment to the truth of the sentence and should not be interpreted as meaning x supposedly did it.

  1. ulagu tapusajig ma'jat-sn-i'g jinum-ug
    yesterday two leave.3-PST-PL man-PL
    'two men left yesterday (so I'm told)'

But -s'n is only used with first and third persons. If either the subject or object is second person, then the deferential evidential -s'p'n is used.

[edit] Allomorph of the indirect evidential

-s'p'n is an allomorph of the indirect evidential used most commonly with the second person subjects and/or objects to indicate that the addressee has access to the source of knowledge by participating in the verb event under discussion.

  1. nestmu'tioq-s'p
    understood.2.PL-PST
    'You (plural)understood'

This allomorph can also be used to refer to the addressee as the potential source of knowledge. Inglis (2002)describes this usage as being similar to an English tag question such as 'isn't that right?'[3]

  1. nemia'-s'p
    see.3>3-PST
    'He saw him, didn't he?'

[edit] Past Tense in Questions

Only the indirect evidential marker can be used in questions. This reflects the lack of information of the speaker and thus solicits confirmation or information from the addressee.

  1. wigtmu-s’p go'gli'gwtjewei gisna nme’jewei
    like.taste.of.2-PST chicken or fish
    'Did you like chicken or fish?'
  1. wigteg-'s go'gli'gwtjewei gisna nme’jewei
    like.taste.of.2-PST chicken or fish
    'Did you like chicken or fish?'

[edit] The Past Tense embedded under verbs of personal experience

The matrix verb can restrict the surfacing of suffixes on the embedded verb. For example, a suppositive suffix cannot be used when embedded under the verb thought when the subject is first person.

  1. teltasi-ap nemia-p’n/*-s'n\\ 
    think.1-PST see.3>3-PST
    'I thought that he saw him'
  1. nutmai-ap nemia-s’n/*-p'n
    think.1-attest.pst see.3>3-sups.past
    I heard (was told) that he saw him

[edit] Negation in the Past

All suffixes can appear under negation in the past <examples>

[edit] Future Tense

The future referse to events that are expected to take place after the discourse time. Note that a key distinction between the future and other tenses is that the future tense refers not to actual events but only to hypothetical situations. The future is expressed using a distinct set of person markers then the past and the present. <> Third person participants in the future have two possible endings depending on the verb.

[edit] Future and Negation

The future suffixes are not used in the negative future. Instead the future is marked using a distinct negative particle. See Negation for further discussion

[edit] References

  1. Little, Carol Rose. 2013. "Evidentiality in Mi'gmaq."
  2. Inglis, Stepahnie H. 2002. "Speaker's Experience: A Study of Mi'kmaq Modality
  3. Inglis, Stepahnie H. 2002. "Speaker's Experience: A Study of Mi'kmaq Modality"
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