Tid: Torsdag 26 maj 2016, kl. 15:00-17:00
Plats: C307, Södra huset, Frescati

Postseminarium följer direkt efter seminariet i institutionens pentry.

Modern Ethiosemitic languages primarily mark verbs for viewpoint aspect but also developed a secondary tense system to distinguish between past and non-past situations in main clauses. This paper deals with the possible origin and further grammaticalization of this tense system based on comparative data from Gǝʿǝz, Amharic and Muher.

Tense as a grammatical category started to emerge as optional feature in Gǝʿǝz. Initially, it occurred in clauses with an imperfective main verb or a copula. Later tense-marked elements facilitated the emergence of new periphrastic constructions, which are commonly found in main clauses, whereas subordinate verbs usually express only viewpoint aspect but not tense.

The emergence of tense is accompanied by the grammaticalization of two distinct copula predicates, viz. the atemporal linker copula ‘be’ and the existential auxiliary ‘exist’, which have a past auxiliary as common tense-marked counterpart. Past reference is optional in Gǝʿǝz, but became obligatory in Amharic and Muher, in which the perfective conjugation of the root √ h-l-w ‘exist’ grammaticalized as existential auxiliary. The original atemporal copula and existential predicates acquired non-past as a secondary semantic feature when tense marking was conventionalized to an obligatory part of main clause predicates.

The overt past auxiliary interfered with the semantics of the copula and existential auxiliary so that their occurrence was limited to non-past situations. Consequently, a zero morpheme for non-past emerged that eventually became an inherent component of the copula and the existential auxiliary. The past auxiliary also occurs with imperfective verbs to mark situations that are not longer extant at the moment of utterance. As with copula predicates, the obligatory marking of the past imperfective interfered with the semantics of plain imperfective verbs in main clauses, which consequently were limited to non-past situations. Plain subordinate imperfective verbs, however, remain atemporal, i.e. they may refer to past or non-past situations. In Amharic, the zero non-past morpheme is replaced by an overt tense marker, viz. the existential auxiliary, which initially marked the continuous.

The most common phasal aspect in Ethiosemitic is the perfect, which basically marks that an anterior situation is of relevance for a subsequent state. This category is formed from perfective verbs or converbs marked for tense. As with copulas and imperfective verbs, the perfect was initially marked only for past tense, probably to clearly denote a past inchoative-stative situation, as the perfective aspect of these verbs has predominantly a present reading.

Finally, overt past marking entered the irrealis domain in which it substituted opaque synthetic verb forms by transparent analytic constructions. When the past auxiliary became part of predicates denoting hypothetical situations, it generalized to a marker of non-actuality denoting situations that are not immediately experienceable or persistent at the moment of utterance.

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Desalegn Hagos Asfawwesen, Henrik Liljegren och Ljuba Veselinova