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2.3 : Degaspregos's Verb Morphology

2.3.1 : Preliminaries

All human languages, whatever they might be, however exotic their structure, share certain features in common. Human languages all have something, however that might be arranged or designed, which expresses the dynamic nature of human societies, namely verbs.

And they are kinda odd things, verbs. They never quite behave like anything else in language. For instance, verbs are always inherently abstract, by the very nature that they always (qua being verbs) embody the actions or status of nouns. Always. And it is probably one of the distinguishing features of the human race that we use such complex structures as verbs. I don't know too many squirrels that walk around talking to their little squirrely friends about what they might have been about to be doing last Tuesday -- they just don't. We do. And it is that fact that verbs carry so much of the understanding of human languages that makes them so vitally important.

So, you might be asking, what does this have to do with Degaspregos? Well, of course, Degaspregos has verbs. But the different thing is that verbs with Degaspregos are designed with certain intents in mind, and not subject to the haphazard winds of centuries of linguistic change like natural languages.

First off, like some highly regular natural languages like Quechua or some artificial languages like Esperanto, Degaspregos's verbs are always regular. Always. They just simply follow certain rules which are neither complex nor aggravatingly abstract. They are pretty down-to-earth, in fact. Degaspregos's verbs follow regular patterns in both tense (past, present, future) and aspect (perfect, progressive, etc.).

Okay, now for some actual verb formation!

2.3.2 : Tenses

Tense formation is very simple in Degaspregos. Each tense form takes a tense-differentiating vowel (-i-, -a-, -e-) plus the tense suffix (-t), all of which have reflexes from various Proto-Indo-European antecedents (especially Latin).

[Note to Esperantolingvistoj (I don't think "Esperantophile" fits the meaning): the seeming similarity to the Esperanto verb paradigm is neither copied nor entirely accidental.

The verb structures were based on actual Indo-European verb formation rules and on the various conjugations to be found in it, as stated earlier, especially in Latin. Dr. Zamenhof's paradigms I believe were created in a similar way: he observed common vowels used in IE langs for the verb, and then gave to those vowels the job of differentiating the tenses themselves, rather than just differentiating the different conjugations.

GV1: Tenses.

    Pattern      verb root  +  tense combination
          E.g.          weid        +  at            

    Past       -it      weid  +  it   =   weidit   "saw"             
    Present    -at      weid  +  at   =   weidat   "see(s)"
    Future     -et      weid  +  et   =   weidet   "will see"

Note one very important fact: you don't see any marking for person here. There's nothing here (like in lotsa European languages) which makes you essentially to have to learn six different endings for one tense. That's that. The pronoun (or noun) does that work in Degaspregos because nouns are nouns and verbs are verbs and "never the twain shall meet".

2.3.3 : "Far" and "Near" Time

In addition to this, there is what may be called a near-far tense distinction in Degaspregos. What this amounts to is this: an action can be specified for how close to the present moment it is, by (optional) use of one of two suffixes. Note that of course this must inherently apply to only past or future situations.

We have a limited example of this in English, though most would probably not realize it. At least in my dialect, I make a near-far tense distinction between, e.g., "about to go" and "going to go", both of which would be otherwise identical in meaning (being the prospective aspect). "About to go" has a connotation of immediacy, as if one were "about to go" out the door, but then the phone rang. "Going to go" (for me) is more distant in meaning, and applies more generally to the further future.

Thus, the following chart:

     -ers-    far time 
     -epr-   near time 
   Past      weid + ers + it  =  weidersit   "saw a long time ago"
             weid + epr + it  =  weideprit   "recently saw"
   Future    weid + ers + et  =  weiderset   "will see quite some 
                                               time from now"
             weid + epr + et  =  weidepret   "will soon see"

Another important bit o' info is that these tense don't operate exactly like tenses in most European languages. The main difference lies in their being essentially all aorist in nature -- that is, the action which they are portraying is all said to begin and then end very quickly afterward. Other meanings are conveyed in a different fashion, by aspectual suffixes (in the following section).

2.3.4 : Aspect

Aspect is a little more abstract concept than tenses. Aspect is kinda a more generalized version of tense, in that it often portrays some sort of temporal meaning. But the difference is in the way the action takes places -- is it ongoing? is it habitual? is it perpetual even? These kinds of meanings are shown by suffixes which indicate various meanings above and beyond those of tense. They are used always alongside tense, because aspect (in Degaspregos) has little meaning without a more concrete temporal setting.

But probably more important than all this is the fact that Degaspregos's aspectual system is nowhere near as chaotic as English's, though both have extremely powerful abilities with respect to aspect. In English, one has the rather messy situation where every aspect uses different helping verbs used in very different ways to indicate that aspect, and on top of that are often very confusingly mixed to indicate a combination of aspects (as in the sentence above about the squirrels).

Well, logic and organization being the guiding forces behind Degaspregos, one simply chooses a verb suffix and places it before the tense ending. Very simple.

Degaspregos has several different aspect forms (so far). It of course has the typical perfect aspect (in English, "I have played" versus the regular "I played"), and the progressive forms, which English so adores. This aspect in particular operates somewhat differently than

GV2: Aspect formation

  Aorist       --      weid + -- + at   "I see"
  Imperfect    -ub-    weid + ub + at   "I see [and my seeing has not been 
  Perfect      -ib-    weid + ib + at   "(I) have seen"          
  Progressive  -ab-    weid + ab + at   "(I) am seeing"
  Prospective  -eb-    weid + eb + at   "(I) am about to see"
  Habitual     -ob-    weid + ob + at   "(I) [usually] see"

As stated earlier, the aspectual forms of the verbs take the tense endings as well, and these create all the various possible forms derivative of this.

Another very important fact here is that aspectual forms in Degaspregos (much like in Basque's case system) may be built upon one another, in a similar way to when English uses forms such as "I have been seeing", which is both perfect and progressive. That same phrase in Degaspregos would turn out as "Meos widibabat" in which the element most integral to the phrase (here, the perfect) is placed most closely to the root.

2.3.5 : Mode

The concept of verbal mode (sometimes called mood, which fits it well metaphorically) is something which is quite different fromt the concepts mentioned above. Mode is essentially the way the speaker is viewing how the action was committed, and thus is in a sense an implicit analysis of the situation going on. Modal systems vary very greatly from language to language, some having a whole slew of verb inflections and affixations, while others simply make do (as we in English do) with simple auxilliary verbs, which in a way are almost like adverbs. But whatever the way the language indicates modal properties, they still all do it.

As you've probably figured out if you've read this far, Degaspregos tends in most respects to be an agglutinating language, where prefixes and suffixes carry a great deal of syntactic meaning. And just as different tenses and aspects inflect the verb to show their meaning, so it is with mode.

And also just as aspect is suffixed to the root before tense, mode is suffixed before aspect. An example will help illustrate this (from the above about the squirrels):

"I might have been about to be collecting acorns last Tuesday, had not some malicious human tried to kill me" "Meos gwelomi sameleribebit, ne tanakwonitagi meom irosasea dusawelantas"

GV3: Modes and Mode formation rules Suffixation rule: [root + derivational affixes] + [voice] + [mode] + [aspect] + [tense]
Modes Affix Meaning
Infinitive -ein end suffix; pure unattached Platonic conception of the action
Indicative (-ir-) factual statement of events (no affix unless it is felt to be needed)
Subjunctive -er- hypothetical consideration of possible events
Conditional -on- action conditional upon another fact
Optative -ur- wish or desire
Imperative -oi- expressing commands
Exhortative -ois- expressing exhortations to act ("C'mon, you just *gotta* come!")
Jussive -ert- the subject is morally right in performing the action
Advissive -isk- indicates obligation or proper action
Permissive -opl- indicates permission to act
Potential -ekst- indicates potential or possible courses of action
Experiential -ain- action from another's point of view (such as indirect discourse)
Necessitative -enk- indicates that the action needs to be done (close to but not exactly the same as the advissive)

2.3.6 : Voice

Verb voice is something which represents in a way who is doing the action of the sentence. It draws attention to certain aspects of what one is trying to say, and leads to greater precision in speech. Voice comes in three forms in Degaspregos: the active and passive, which one finds in very many of the world's languages, and then one which is perhaps unknown to many out there: the mediopassive (or more simply, the middle).

The active voice is essentially the voice where the person who's causing the action (i.e., the one who actively pursues the action) is identified as the subject syntactically of the sentence. For example, in the sentence "The man sees the dog", it is the man who is actively causing the action, by viewing the dog. He acts upon the dog in this way, so this sentence would use an active voice verb. Though Degaspregos does have an affix (-ir-) which denotes this form of the verb, it can be (and most often is) left out as it is used so often.

The passive voice (denoted by -es-) is pretty much the opposite of this: the one who is being acted upon moves to the position of subject in the sentence to highlight its importance. Passive voice is often used to indicate an object when the speaker either does not know or does not wish to reveal the identity of the actor. Another important fact about the passive in general is that it is usually less emotionally impacting than is the active. Observe:

GV4: Unemotional Impact of the Passive Voice

   The man loved his children.
   His children were loved (by him).

Note well that when one changes from active to passive, the subject is not just flipped to the position after the verb; no, it is more complicated. This is because the active sentence's subject still remains the agent of action, and therefore must be indicated as such. For this, Degaspregos uses an agentive* case, whose function is to indicate such syntactic relationships. As for the middle, it's kinda like a combination of the two. The middle represents relationships where the subject acts in such a manner that the results of his action will redound back onto himself. Observe the behavior of the following English sentence:

    The man built a house.
Do you see the ambiguity involved here? The sentence could mean either "The man built the house (for someone else)" or perhaps "The man built the house (for himself)". There could be either of these two possible sentences. What the middle does here is provide a means to disambiguate two such possible meanings. In Degaspregos, these would be:
    Wiros domomatoi demakwit.    }
                             }---------- "The man built the house."
    Wiros domomatoi demakwasit.  }
Thus, a full chart would look something like this:

GV5: Verb Voice

   Active:        He built the house (for someone else)  Wiros domomatoi demakwit
   Middle:        He built the house (for himself)       Wiros domomatoi demakwasit
   Passive:       The house was built (by the man).      Domosatoi (wirores) demesit

In addition to this, the active form could even have the conotation that building houses is one's normal occupation; the middle might indicate that the man is building the house for some special purpose, just for himself.

2.3.7 : Transitivity

Transitivity means essentially that that particular verb can take an object, that it can carry out the action on something, rather than just doing the action. For instance, in English the verb to sleep is intransitive, because you can't say "He slept something"; you just can't, it doesn't make sense for that meaning, because sleeping refers to an activity that you do and specifically does not include what might happen to something else.

On the other hand, transitive verbs like to kill (which is just about as transitive as you get) insist on taking objects. In fact, our language is littered with verb doublets like to die : to kill where the only differnce between the two is that one is intransitive, and one is transitive, respectively.

So how does Degaspregos deal with this? Well, all verb roots are assumed to be intransitive (taking no ending) ab ovo. Any time you do need a transitive form (which will be often), all one does is add the transitive suffix -kw-. Now, almost always, this suffix will also require a secondary, suffix -a-,* whose purpose is simply to provide a vowel between the final consonant of the root and this prefix's consonant (-kw-).

*(Now, some might be asking "Why complicate things? Why not just the suffix?" Well, the answer is that because of Degaspregos's phonology*, which disallows consonant clustering outside the roots and affixes (that is, if a boundary between an affix and a root were two consonants, then one would need to insert the vowel in between), the -a- must come before the suffix, which is in reality a verbal root itself ("kw-" : to make, cause).

For many languages, to have a transitive verb means that it must indicate the object. For example, anyone who learned a European language other than English in school probably has figured out that many of the verbs used require reflexive forms where English normally does without without them. For example, in Latin, you must se exercere (I believe this is the word), "excercise yourself". You can't just "exercise", you have to do it to something, because these verbs are transitive, while English's is intransitive. This can be a frustrating process, because you never know exactly which verb will do this just by looking at it: you have to memorize which will, and which won't.

But because Degaspregos does explicitly mark verbs for transitivity, none of this is needed: if the rather obvious transitive marker is there, you know that you have to indicate an object, if only this be a reflexive pronoun. (Sometimes it may seem strange or contrary to your own linguistic habits, but that's because they're your language's habits, not some universal axiom).

2.3.8 : Something about Participles

Participles are verbs, and they are not verbs. Participles, in a sense, could be considered to be verbs which are disguising themselves as other parts of speech, most often adjectives or nouns.

But just because they are taking on the qualities of nouns does not mean that they have entirely lost their "verbiness". For one, participles in many languages are formed in part based on tense or aspect (for Degaspregos, it is the latter case). In addition to this, the concept of voice can be layered over the aspectualized forms, as is the case in many European languages (e.g., English, German, Latin, etc.)

Degaspregos handles this fairly simply. To indicate the pariticipial function, there are three sets of voice endings (to match the three voices of the language), for each of which are three aspects (Progressive, Pefect, and Prospective):

    Active (-nt-)
       Progressive  -ant-   domomatoi deigakwantas  "building the house"*      
       Perfect      -int-   domomatoi deigakwintas  "having built the house"*
       Prospective  -ent-   domomatoi deigakwentas  "about to build the house"*

    Middle (-men-)
       Progressive  -amen-  domomatoi deigakwamenas "building the house"^
       Perfect      -imen-  domomatoi deigakwimenas "having built the house"^
       Prospective  -emen-  domomatoi deigakwemenas "about to build the house"^

    Passive (-wes-)
       Progressive  -awes-  domosatoi deigakwawesas "the house being built"
       Perfect      -iwes-  domosatoi deigakwiwesas "the house having been built"
       Prospective  -ewes-  domosatoi deigakwewesas "the house about to be built"

* : Each of these forms represents an action which does not reciprocate back upon the actor. In such conditions, "for others, or as part of one's job" ought to be assumed.

^ : With these forms, on the other hand, the action redounds back to the actor, so that the man building the house will gain something by it (e.g., he may be building the house in which he himself will be living).

Perhaps you also noticed that these participles (which act, syntactically, as anything but verbs) still indicate the transitivity of the verb. This, quite easily to be seen, is because to change the transitivity of the verb would be to change the semantic meaning of the word (in addition to the syntactic usage it has). So when you participialize verbs, they must carry the same properties.

If you really like verb forms, look at this.


"Cogito, ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero."