Coptic Language - Grammar - Verbs - Tense/aspect/mood Inflection

Tense/aspect/mood Inflection

Coptic has a very large number of distinct tense/aspect/mood categories, expressed by particles which are either before the verb or before the subject. The future I /na/ is a preverbal particle, and follows the subject (Reintges 2010:210):

Pə-tʲoeis na-krine ən-nə-laos
def:m:sg-lord fut-judge prep-def:pl-people
'The lord will judge the nations.'

In contrast, the perfective /a/ is a pre-subject particle:

A te-f-soːne de ol ən-ne-f-keːs
perf def:f:sg-3msg-sister part carry.abs prep-def:pl-3msg-bone
'His sister carried his bones.'

There is some variation in the labels for the tense/aspect/mood categories. The chart below shows the labels from Reintges (2004), Lambdin (1983), Plumley (1948). (Where they agree, only one label is shown.) Each form lists the morphology found with a non-pronominal subject and a 3rd person singular masculine pronominal subject('he'):

Tense name (Reintges) Tense name (Lambdin) Tense name (Plumley) Nominal subject 3rd masc sg pronominal subject
First Present Present I ø NP f-
Second Present ere NP ef-
Relative of First Present etere NP etəf-
Circumstantial ere NP ef-
Preterite Present Imperfect Imperfect nere NP nef-
Preterite Past nea NP neaf-
Future I NP na- fna-
Future II ere NP na- efna-
Future III ere NP efe-
Negative Future III Negative Future III ənne NP ənnef-
Imperf. of Future Future Imperfect nere NP na- nefna-
Perfect I a NP af-
Negative Perfect I əmpe NP əmpef-
Perfect II ənta NP əntaf-
Habitual I ʃare NP ʃaf-
Habitual II eʃare NP eʃaf-
Negative Habitual mere NP mef-
Jussive Injunctive Optative mare NP maref-
Conditional erʃan NP efʃan-
Conjunctive ənte NP nəf-
Inferential Future Conjunctive of Result Future IV tare NP taref-
Temporal əntere NP ənteref-
Terminative "Until" "Unfulfilled action" ʃante NP ʃantəf-
"Not yet" "Unfulfilled action" əmpate NP əmpatəf-

An approximate range of use for most of the tense/aspect/mood categories is shown in the following table:

Tense name (Lambdin) Approximate range of use
Present I Present time in narrative (predicate focus)
Relative of Present I Non-subject relative clause in present tense
Circumstantial Background clauses; relative clauses with indefinite heads
Imperfect Action in progress in the past
Future I Simple future tense (predicate focus)
Future II Simple future tense (adverbial focus)
Future III Future tense conveyed as necessary, inevitable, or obligatory
Perfect I Primary narrative tense (predicate focus)
Negative Perfect I Negative of Perfect I
Perfect II Primary narrative tense (adverbial focus); relative clause form of Perfect I
Habitual Characteristic or habitual action
Negative Habitual Negative of Habitual
Injunctive Imperative for 1st and 3rd persons ('let me', 'let him', etc.)
Conditional Protasis (if-clause) of a conditional (if-then) statement
Conjunctive Event shares the TAM of a preceding initial verb
Future Conjunctive of Result Used in clauses that express a resultant action
Temporal Past action in a subordinate temporal clause ("when NP V-ed, ...")

Read more about this topic:  Coptic Language, Grammar, Verbs

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