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Summary Details

Query:   Summary of responses to query on Manitoba Ukrainian Future Tense
Author:  Stephan Hardy
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Syntax

Summary:   Summary of responses to query on Manitoban Ukrainian Future Tense

by Stephan Hardy,
Department of French, Italian and Spanish
University of Manitoba, Canada

Thank you to Donald REINDL, Ardis ESCHENBERG, Torsten LEUSCHNER, Mario
Carsten PEUST, Daniel VILLA, Tilman BERGER, John KOONST, Donald COOPER,
Rouslan KHVOCHEVSKY (merci!) and Marika WHALEY. I'm grateful to those who
wrote several messages and to those who took the time to check specific
references. My apologies to anyone I've missed by inadvertance.

A very special thanks to Dr. Gila GOMESHI from the Linguistics department
of the University of Manitoba for reviewing my work and encouraging my

I will be referring to the phenomenon as MUFT (Manitoba
Ukrainian Future Tense).

Here is a sample of MUFT with "picatu" (imp. of "to write"):

I (male) wrote. Ja picau. Ja budu picatu. Ja budu picab.
I (female) wrote. Ja picala. " Ja budu picala.
We wrote. Mu picalu. Mu budymo picatu. Mu budumo picalu.


Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 10:42:15 -0400 (EDT)

Subject: Ukrainian Future Tense

Dear All,

In standard Ukrainian, the future is formed with an auxiliary verb
bearing number and gender agreement followed by the infinitive form of
the main verb. I have recently come in contact with a dialect of
standard Ukrainian (spoken in rural Manitoba, Canada) which is divergent
in its formation of the future tense: it features the same auxiliary,
but the main verb appears in the *past-tense form*; this means not only
that it uses the past-tense stem, but it bears * number and gender

Is this phenomenon common to other slavic languages? Is it common to a
language that would have been in contact with Ukraine in the 19th
>century? Yiddish has been suggested as possible contact language.

I'm not a linguist; however, even if my question is of personal
interest, I will be happy to provide a summary of the answers provided.
Write to me directly at
Thanks for your interest. Stephan Hardy.


A. Clarifications about the name or nature of the phenomenon

1. auxiliary + l - participle
a) "The verb does not appear in past-tense form; it is an
l-participle. (...) and it is common even for Slavists to mistakenly refer
to the participle as the "past tense"."" (Donald Reindl)
b) "historically called l-participle because it was originally
something like the -ed/-en participles in English... the forms with -l
were adjectival, and had gender/number marking. (Anon.) ; "historically
just a participle (i.e. an adjective formed from a verb), and one which
originally did not convey a specific tense. It is only in the last several
hundred years that it has become associated primarily with past tenses..."
(Marika Whaley)

2. "The future you heard in Manitoba ... consists of the auxiliary verb
(to be) (with person, number and gender agreement" followed by what looks
like a past-tense (with number & gender agreement but NO PERSON agreement"
(E. Burstynsky)

B. The standard form of the future tense in Ukrainian

1. a compound future (called "analytic future" by E. Burstynsky): formed
with a future auxiliary form the verb "byti" plus infinitive (D. Reindl)

2. synthetic future: formed with auxiliary of main verb plus a future
ending (D. Reindl) that applies to perfective and imperfective verbs (E.

3. "The auxiliary form also carries PERSON AGREEMENT" (E. Burstynsky)

C. Other tenses in standard Ukrainian

1. The "use" (in standard Ukrainian) "of the l-participle (without
auxilliary) for past tense, as in Russian, is anomalous in Slavic
languages in general. The compound past is usually formed with a present
auxilliary form the verb 'byti' (or its corresponding forms in various
languages) plus the l-participle. (D. Reindl)

D. Similar future-tense phenomena in other languages

1. Slovene or Slovenian (?)
a) formed with a future auxilliary from the verb "byti" plus an
l-participle and applies to both perfective and imperfective verbs. (D.
Reindl) (T. Berger) (W. Browne)
b) "the deviant way to form future in Ukrainian is standard in
Slovenian" (Mario Fadda)
c) aux + l-participle of MUFT "is the only way to form the future
in Slovenian." (C.Gribble)
d) "In Slovenian, both the past and future tenses are formed with
the main verb with the (-l) suffix, plus a form of the auxiliary verb "to
be". The past tense has what looks like the "present" of 'be' , while the
future has the future tense of 'be'... The (-l) marking could be described
as expressing "not present time" , rather than as a past-tense marker per
se" (J. Stemberger)

2. Kajkavian Croatian a) formed with a future auxilliary from the verb
"byti" and an l-participle. (D. Reindl)

3. Russian - formed with a future auxilliary from the verb "byti" plus
an infinitive; this compound form only applies to imperfective verbs. (D.

4. Czech - formed with a future auxilliary from the verb "byti" plus
either an infinitive or an l-participle. (Donald Reindl)

5. standard Serbo-Croatian
a)from a verb meaning "to want" plus an infinitive ; this compound
form applies to perfective and imperfective verbs (D. Reindl)
b) Man. Ukr. F.T. " is a second future in Serbo-Croatian" (C.
c) "the usage is preserved in.... Croatian usage... with the sense
of ordinary future" (D. Cooper)

6. Macedonian - formed from a verb meaning "to want" plus either an
infinitive or an l-participle (D. Reindl)

7. Polish
a) "primarily forms future using conjugated `to be`+ past tense of
main verb (which shows gender) (although the infinitive is also possible,
it is less frequent)." (A. Eschenberg)
b) "This" (standard Ukrainian i.e. auxilliary + infinitive) is the
situtation in SUBstandard Polish. (...) This" (Manitoban Ukrainian) is the
situation in standard Polish. In other words... Manitoba Ukrainian is
close to standard Polish, whereas standard Ukrainian is close to
substandard Polish." (T. Leuschner)
c) Auxiliary + l-participle future is "an alternate in Polish, I
believe" (C.Gribble) (B. Comrie)
d) "literary Polish knows a similar construction" (T. Berger) (G.
Toops) (F. Gladney)

8. Yiddish
a) "has Germanic future marking (with 'zollen' and infinitive) and
is in any case much more likely to have borrowed from Slavic than vice
versa. Indeed it often has, and from Hebrew too." (T. Leuschner)

E. Origine of the phenomenon

1. Contact

a) "I am almost 100% positive that such a construction would be
due to contact with Polish... Polish has had a strong impact on Ukrainian
as their borders have shifted back and forth (similar to Russian influence
the north/west)." (A. Eschenberg)
b) "The future you described is common in Polish. There was very
much polish influence on ukrainian, so this is not a very astonishing
observation" (C. Peust)
c) " I've written a book on the development of futurity in
Spanish, and I'm wondering if there are parallels in the paths of
grammaticization that the two languages are following. Some research
suggests that contact situations speed up processes of grammaticization in
a language, and I wonder if that could be the case in the Ukrainian
dialect you mention." (D. Villa)

2. Common descent
a) "since the future form in question is a basically Slavic
construction, there is no need to look for contact language influence" (D.
b) "it seems more plausible to assume that their" (Polish and
Ukrainian in general) "typological proximity and mutual intelligibility
are motivated by common descent rather than contact. (T. Leuschner)
c) "The future tense you describe was one of the futures in most
Slavic languages at one time: the future tense was a rather late
innovation in Slavic, and there was some variation in how it was formed. A
number of languages show 2 or three different future tenses, and at least
one language retained two future tenses..." (Anonymous)
d) "the l-participle occurs rarely in Old Church Slavonic in the
sense of a future perfect or futurum exactum; 'Andr Vaillant Manuel du
vieux slave' calls it an anterior future.... Probably it was a Common
Slavic perphrastic usage...Nikolaj Durnovo (...) treats Russion together
wiht Ukrainian and Belorussian. He notes... that the usage was found in
Old Russian... Basically I would consider two hypothesis: 1. the form ...
is an evolution of an Old Russian (...) 2. the form you observe reflects
Polish influence." (D. Cooper)

3. Self-engendered

"What I wonder is whether your Canadian dialect of Ukrainian might not
have substituted a conditional construction for the future... (The Slavic
pasts) were originally or potentially construed with 'to be', which
carried the personal inflection. It's my understanding that historically
there were inflected and aorist pasts in Slavic, and that these have been
ousted by the periphrastic participial construction, originally a perfect.
In the same fashion the perfect is ousting the imperfect and simple past
in French. Anyway, to proceed with my hypothesis, by analogy with the
Romance case, a conditional formation would involve a past of the future.
I'd expect the past to be on an auxiliary, but perhaps under Salvic
morphological patterning, it would somehow involve substituting the
participial past for the infinitive." (J. Koonst).

F. Phenomenon is / is not a distinct feature of Manitoba dialect

1. " are quite right that it" (auxilliary + l-participle for the
future) "deviates form the standard compound (bydu nesti) and sythetic
(nestimu) futures." (D. Reindl)

2. "It has often been observed that emigres are linguistically
conservative. I wouldn't be surprised if the construction that you came
across in Manitoba is the older one, also preserved in standard Polish
(which at times is VERY conservative). Standard Ukrainian would in this
scenario have developed more along with spoken Polish, leaving out on a
limb, as it were, expatriate communities like the one you mentionned in
your message..." (T. Leuschner)

3. "I, in fact, use both future tenses. My mother was born in Manitoba
while my father was born in what is now Western Ukraine and came to Canada
in the twenties. He also used this dialect form of the future which is not
part of the literary language." (Ed Burstynsky)

4. "It seems that in Polish, at least" (which shares MUFT phenomenon),
"what we are seeing is not actually the past-tense form of the main verb,
but a participle which has gone out of use. This is evidenced by the fact
that in Polish you can also still say Ja bylabym czytala. (I would have
read it.) As a participle, it must agree in number and gender (usually)
with the main verb. So what you are seeing is not actually a double tense,
but perhaps the remainder of an older compound tense.... It is interesting
that this still exists in Canada." (Mike Moss)

5. My translation from the French: " The phenomenon in question is
characteristic of rural patois in Western Ukraine (in Galicia, notably)...
(this) dialectal variant presents then a grammatical redundancy in
relation to the standard language, a phenomenon that is encountered in
many languages, in French notably. Therefore, the phenomenon you have
noticed in Manitoban speech has a good historical explanation, given that
the emigration of Ukrainians to Canada took place mostly from the Western
Regions. Outside the sphere of influence of standard Ukrainian, this
variant has easily survived to the present day." (R. Khvochevsky)

6. "Many dialects in modern-day Western Ukraine have the same possibility
available to them - so you may not need to look to Yiddish as the source
for these forms, but only to neighboring Polish. (Marika Whaley)

LL Issue: 10.1911
Date Posted: 11-Dec-1999
Original Query: Read original query


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