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LINGUIST List 20.598

Thu Feb 26 2009

Qs: Past/perfect to Imminent Future

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        1.    Eleanor Coghill, Past/perfect to Imminent Future

Message 1: Past/perfect to Imminent Future
Date: 25-Feb-2009
From: Eleanor Coghill <ejc22cam.ac.uk>
Subject: Past/perfect to Imminent Future
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In a dialect of Neo-Aramaic (the dialect of Telkepe) there is a verb form
expressing the imminent future which derives from a perfect/past tense.
This form is only available for the verb ‘to go’:

zil-ən l-šūqɒ.
go.IMM.FUT-I to-market
‘I’m going to the market’, ‘I’m just off to the market’ (said before departure)

Note that this form is also used as an auxiliary verb for prospective aspect:
zil-ən ʾaxlən.
‘I’m going to eat.’

Judging from historical and comparative dialectal evidence,
zil-ən originally meant ‘I have gone/I went’. This form was used for
intransitive verbs, but was lost when the paradigm for transitive verbs
spread to intransitive verbs. This verb is now all that remains of the old
intransitive paradigm.

In some languages it is possible to use a past tense or perfect to express
the imminent future, e.g. Russian ja pošel ‘I left’, said when one is about
to leave. The difference here is that the past meaning is no longer available.

Do readers know of any other cases like this, where a perfect or past tense
has taken on imminent future meaning then lost the past function
altogether? Also are there parallels to the restriction to the verb ‘to go’?

I’ll post a summary of any responses.


Eleanor Coghill
University of Cambridge

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics

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