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Markers of futurity and aspect in West Greenlandic

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Markers of futurity and aspect in West Greenlandic

Unlike European languages tense in the West Greenlandic (WG) language is not marked in the inflection, but it is marked by derivational affixes (henceforth affixes).
The West Greenlandic language belongs to Inuit-languages, (Iñupiaq (Alaska), Inuktitut (Canada) and West Greenlandic) and is a polysynthetic language. The temporal system is based on future-non-future opposition as in Inuktitut (Canada), which means that all future time reference must be marked, the present time reference is unmarked and past time reference can be marked if necessary. The Alaskan Iñupiaq has an opposition between past, present and future. In Inuktitut and West Greenlandic tense is marked by optional derivational affixes. In Inuktitut the tense affixes have developed a complicated remoteness system (future and past) (Swift, 2004). In West Greenlandic the future tense affixes have a distinction between vague and inevitable future, and the past time affixes have developed different perfect meanings, while in Iñupiaq (Alaska), the future is marked by optional affixes, the past is marked in the inflection, and present is unmarked as in Inuktitut and West Greenlandic (Trondhjem, 2007).
In the WG language there are about 400-500 affixes, these are applied recursively i.e. stem + (affix) + inflection. The affixes are divided into two groups according to the scope of the function: 1.The verbal modifying affixes are placed near the stem, and the scope includes what is to the left of the affix within the verb. 2. The sentential affixes are placed near the inflection, and the scope includes the whole sentence. Some of the affixes have more than one meaning, and therefore the same affix can indicate both the verbal modifying and the sentential function.
There are about 40-50 aspectual affixes, divided into ‘inner’ phasal aspect and ‘outer’ phasal aspect and about five future tense affixes in WG (Fortescue 1980/Kristoffersen 1991). Many of these affixes belong to more than one semantic category, which means that almost all tense affixes are polysemous, and the meaning of these affixes can change according to the place they have in the word. The order of the affixes are; stem + inner phasal aspect + outer phasal aspect + tense + modality + inflection. The tense affixes are –ssa ‘future/should’, -niar ‘intended/inevitable future’, -jumaar ‘vague future’, -ssamaar ‘planed future’, -ler ‘be about to/near future’. The meanings of these affixes are partly determined by the telicity of the verbal stem. i.e. arpa+ler+poq (run+start/begin+IND:3sg) ‘he starts running’, isi+ler+poq (enter+about.to+IND.3sg) ‘he is about to enter’. When the same affix occurs more than once, the meaning of this affix depends on the place in the word, i.e. atualilerpoq (atuar-ler-ler-poq – go.to. school-begin-about.to-IND.3SG) ‘she is going to start school soon’, the first –ler is ‘inner’ phasal aspect ‘begin’ and the last –ler is ‘outer’ phasal aspect ‘about.to’.
The default future tense marker seems to be –ssa ‘future/should’, which also can have a modal meaning, ‘should have/be’. In the modal meaning it is placed after the tense marker. The tense affix – niar ‘intended/inevitable future’ is the most polysemous tense affix, as it belongs to at least five different semantic categories. In some situations –niar ‘intend/enevitable future’ and –ssa future, ‘shall’ have overlapping meanings, and it is not clear, when to choose the right affix. It also seems that there are dialectal differences, where ¬–niar might be the default future marker in North West Greenlandic.
The sources of the future tense affixes are different, -ssa –‘intension/be about to’, -ler –‘begin to’, -niar – ‘try to’, and two compound affixes –jumaar and -ssamaar coming from wish+’repetition’ and a future thing +’continuity’ respectively. The lexical sources of these affixes can’t be traced in WG, because the language has been polysynthetic for so long time. But it seems that the meanings of the affixes have developed from more concrete aspectual meanings to more abstract tense meanings (Fortescue 1996). In this process the affixes extend their scope from verbal modifying affixes to sentence modifying affixes, and they all keep the earlier meanings also and become polysemous i.e. past (-sima, perfective¿perfect¿ preterite) and future (-ler, begin¿ be about to¿ near future). This contemporary study shows the differentiations of the different meanings of the tense affixes in appropriate contexts. It also shows the latest renewal, where –ler ‘begin, be about’ also has included the new meaning ‘near future’ in specific contexts.
Fortescue, M. (1980). "Affix Ordering in West Greenlandic Derivational Processes." International
Journal of American Linguistics 46: 259-278.
Fortescue, M. (1984b). West Greenlandic. London, Croon Hellm.
Fortescue, M. (1996). Tense, mood and aspect grammaticalization in West Greenlandic an Chukchi.La dynamique dans la langue et la culture inuit. N. T. M. Terrien. Paris, Peeters: 151-175.
Kristoffersen, L. (1991). Verbal Derivation and Inflection in a Functional Grammar of West
Greenlandic. Institut for Eskimologi. København, Københavns Universitet.
Swift, M. D. (2004). Time in Child Inuktitut. A Developmental Study of an Eskimo-Aleut
Language. Berlin/New York, Mouton de Gruyter.
Trondhjem, Naja (2007) Markering af tid med særlig fokus på fortid. Ph.D-thesis. Departement of Cross Cultural and Regional Studien, Eskimology and Arctic Studies, University of Copenhagen.

Markers of futurity and aspect in West Greenlandic

Unlike European languages tense in the West Greenlandic (WG) language is not marked in the inflection, but it is marked by derivational affixes (henceforth affixes).
The West Greenlandic language belongs to Inuit-languages, (Iñupiaq (Alaska), Inuktitut (Canada) and West Greenlandic) and is a polysynthetic language. The temporal system is based on future-non-future opposition as in Inuktitut (Canada), which means that all future time reference must be marked, the present time reference is unmarked and past time reference can be marked if necessary. The Alaskan Iñupiaq has an opposition between past, present and future. In Inuktitut and West Greenlandic tense is marked by optional derivational affixes. In Inuktitut the tense affixes have developed a complicated remoteness system (future and past) (Swift, 2004). In West Greenlandic the future tense affixes have a distinction between vague and inevitable future, and the past time affixes have developed different perfect meanings, while in Iñupiaq (Alaska), the future is marked by optional affixes, the past is marked in the inflection, and present is unmarked as in Inuktitut and West Greenlandic (Trondhjem, 2007).
In the WG language there are about 400-500 affixes, these are applied recursively i.e. stem + (affix) + inflection. The affixes are divided into two groups according to the scope of the function: 1.The verbal modifying affixes are placed near the stem, and the scope includes what is to the left of the affix within the verb. 2. The sentential affixes are placed near the inflection, and the scope includes the whole sentence. Some of the affixes have more than one meaning, and therefore the same affix can indicate both the verbal modifying and the sentential function.
There are about 40-50 aspectual affixes, divided into ‘inner’ phasal aspect and ‘outer’ phasal aspect and about five future tense affixes in WG (Fortescue 1980/Kristoffersen 1991). Many of these affixes belong to more than one semantic category, which means that almost all tense affixes are polysemous, and the meaning of these affixes can change according to the place they have in the word. The order of the affixes are; stem + inner phasal aspect + outer phasal aspect + tense + modality + inflection. The tense affixes are –ssa ‘future/should’, -niar ‘intended/inevitable future’, -jumaar ‘vague future’, -ssamaar ‘planed future’, -ler ‘be about to/near future’. The meanings of these affixes are partly determined by the telicity of the verbal stem. i.e. arpa+ler+poq (run+start/begin+IND:3sg) ‘he starts running’, isi+ler+poq (enter+about.to+IND.3sg) ‘he is about to enter’. When the same affix occurs more than once, the meaning of this affix depends on the place in the word, i.e. atualilerpoq (atuar-ler-ler-poq – go.to. school-begin-about.to-IND.3SG) ‘she is going to start school soon’, the first –ler is ‘inner’ phasal aspect ‘begin’ and the last –ler is ‘outer’ phasal aspect ‘about.to’.
The default future tense marker seems to be –ssa ‘future/should’, which also can have a modal meaning, ‘should have/be’. In the modal meaning it is placed after the tense marker. The tense affix – niar ‘intended/inevitable future’ is the most polysemous tense affix, as it belongs to at least five different semantic categories. In some situations –niar ‘intend/enevitable future’ and –ssa future, ‘shall’ have overlapping meanings, and it is not clear, when to choose the right affix. It also seems that there are dialectal differences, where ¬–niar might be the default future marker in North West Greenlandic.
The sources of the future tense affixes are different, -ssa –‘intension/be about to’, -ler –‘begin to’, -niar – ‘try to’, and two compound affixes –jumaar and -ssamaar coming from wish+’repetition’ and a future thing +’continuity’ respectively. The lexical sources of these affixes can’t be traced in WG, because the language has been polysynthetic for so long time. But it seems that the meanings of the affixes have developed from more concrete aspectual meanings to more abstract tense meanings (Fortescue 1996). In this process the affixes extend their scope from verbal modifying affixes to sentence modifying affixes, and they all keep the earlier meanings also and become polysemous i.e. past (-sima, perfective¿perfect¿ preterite) and future (-ler, begin¿ be about to¿ near future). This contemporary study shows the differentiations of the different meanings of the tense affixes in appropriate contexts. It also shows the latest renewal, where –ler ‘begin, be about’ also has included the new meaning ‘near future’ in specific contexts.
Fortescue, M. (1980). "Affix Ordering in West Greenlandic Derivational Processes." International
Journal of American Linguistics 46: 259-278.
Fortescue, M. (1984b). West Greenlandic. London, Croon Hellm.
Fortescue, M. (1996). Tense, mood and aspect grammaticalization in West Greenlandic an Chukchi.La dynamique dans la langue et la culture inuit. N. T. M. Terrien. Paris, Peeters: 151-175.
Kristoffersen, L. (1991). Verbal Derivation and Inflection in a Functional Grammar of West
Greenlandic. Institut for Eskimologi. København, Københavns Universitet.
Swift, M. D. (2004). Time in Child Inuktitut. A Developmental Study of an Eskimo-Aleut
Language. Berlin/New York, Mouton de Gruyter.
Trondhjem, Naja (2007) Markering af tid med særlig fokus på fortid. Ph.D-thesis. Departement of Cross Cultural and Regional Studien, Eskimology and Arctic Studies, University of Copenhagen.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFuture Times, Future Tenses
EditorsPhilippe De Brabanter, Mikhail Kissine, Saghie Sharifzadeh
Number of pages24
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date26 Jun 2014
Pages114-137
Chapter6
ISBN (Print)9780199679157
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2014
SeriesOxford Studies of Time in Language and Thought
Volume2

ID: 37579796