Georgian/Verbs/Conjugation

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Verbal system[edit]

The Georgian verbal system is extremely complex, especially when compared to those of most Indo-European languages. Rather than using the terms "tense", "aspect", "mood", etc. separately, linguists prefer to use the term "screeve" to distinguish between different time frames and moods of the verbal system. A screeve is a set of six verb forms inflected for person and number.

Verbs are traditionally divided into four classes: transitive verbs, intransitive verbs, verbs with no transitive counterparts (medial verbs) and indirect verbs. There are numerous irregular verbs in Georgian, but they all belong to one of these classes. Each class uses different strategies to build the verb complex, irregular verbs employing somewhat different formations.

See Georgian verb paradigm for an extensive list of verb forms and examples of usage.

Screeves[edit]

There are three series of screeves in Georgian: first, second and third series. The first series has two subseries, which are called the present and the future subseries. The second series is also called the aorist series, and the third series is called the perfective series. There are a total of eleven screeves.

  Indicative Past Subjunctive
Present subseries Present indicative Imperfect Present subjunctive
Future subseries Future Conditional Future subjunctive
Aorist series Aorist Optative
Perfective series Present perfect Pluperfect Perfect subjunctive

The present indicative is used to express an event at the time of speaking ("S/he is verbing"). It is also used to indicate an event that happens habitually ("S/he verbs").

The imperfect screeve is used to express an incomplete or continuous action in the past ("S/he was verbing"). It is also used to indicate a habitual past action, i. e. the meaning of used to ("S/he used to verb").

The present subjunctive screeve is used to express an unlikely event in the present and is usually used as a relative clause ("That s/he be verbing").

The future screeve is used to express an event that will take place in the future ("S/he will verb").

The conditional screeve is used together with if ("S/he would verb or "S/he would have verbed").

The future subjunctive screeve is used to express an unlikely event in the future and is usually used as a dependent clause.

The aorist screeve is used to indicate an action that took place in the past ("S/he verbed"). It is also used in imperatives (Verb!).

The optative screeve has many uses:

  • In negative imperatives ("Do not verb!").
  • In obligations ("S/he must verb").
  • In hypothetical conditions ("If s/he verbed (optative), X would happen (conditional)").
  • In exhortations ("Let's verb").

The perfect screeve is used to indicate an action, which the speaker did not witness ("S/he has verbed").

The pluperfect screeve is used to indicate an action which happened before another event ("S/he had verbed").

The perfect subjunctive screeve is mostly for wishes ("May s/he verb!").

Verb components[edit]

Georgian is an agglutinating language. Agglutination means that affixes each express a single meaning, and they usually do not merge with each other or affect each other phonologically. Each verb screeve is formed by adding a number of prefixes and suffixes to the verb stem. Certain affix categories are limited to certain screeves. In a given screeve, not all possible markers are obligatory. The components of a Georgian verb form occur in the following order:

Georgian verb template
preverb prefixal person marker version marker VERB ROOT passive marker {thematic suffix} causative marker thematic suffix imperfective marker suffixal person marker auxiliary verb plural marker

Preverb[edit]

Preverbs can add either directionality or an arbitrary meaning to the verb. To this extent they resemble the derivational prefixes of Slavic verbs. For example, while mi-vdivar means "I am going", mo-vdivar means "I am coming". Preverbs appear in the future, past and perfective screeves; they are generally absent in the present screeves.

Verb Personality[edit]

One, two or three grammatical persons can be indicated in the Georgian verb. The performer of an action is called the subject or the agent, and affected persons are patients or objects (indirect or direct). The category of number (singular or plural) is also indicated.

Below is the verb personality and transitivity scheme.

Verb personality
Unipersonal Bipersonal Tripersonal
intransitive transitive intransitive transitive
Subject + + + +
Direct Object + +
Indirect Object + +

To indicate subjects and objects the special markers are used, which are listed in the following tables.

  Subject markers
Singular Plural
S1 v- v-...-t
S2 h-/s-/∅- h-/s-/∅-...-t
S3 ∅-...-s/-a/-o ∅-...- en (-nen)/-an/-n/-es
  Object markers
Singular Plural
O1 m- gv-
O2 g- g-...-t
O3 h-/s-/∅ h-/s-/∅...-t

S2 and O3 marker h- evolved from earlier x- which is first attested in 5th century.

The h variant is evidenced for the first time in Tsqisi (წყისი) inscription (616-619 y.y.) and since the 2nd half of 8th century it becomes predominant. From 9th century the h → s transformation is documented before the dental stops (d, ṭ, t) and affricates (ʒ, ċ, c, ǯ, č', č).

In Modern Georgian before the vowels h- marker vanishes.

In general, in Modern Georgian the S2 and O3 h-/s- prefixes have a tendency to fade away.

The oldest S2 x- is preserved with three verbal stems:

  • ar "to be" → xar "you are"
  • ved/vid "to come/go" → mo-x-ved-i "you came", mo-x-vid-odi "you would come"
  • val "to come/go" → mo-x-val "you will come"

Here is presented subject markers' usage example, using the verb root -ts'er, 'to write'.

  Singular Plural Singular (eng) Plural (eng)
First Person v-ts'er v-ts'er-t I am writing We are writing
Second Person ts'er ts'er-t You (sing) are writing You (plu) are writing
Third Person ts'er-s ts'er-en S/he is writing They are writing

In the case of v-ts'er-t, ts'ert, and ts'er-en, the -t and -en are the subject plurality markers.

Here is presented object markers' usage example, using the verb root nd- 'to want':

  Singular Plural Singular (eng) Plural (eng)
First Person m-i-nd-a gv-i-nd-a I want We want
Second Person g-i-nd-a g-i-nd-a-t You (sing) want You (plu) want
Third Person u-nd-a u-nd-a-t S/he wants They want

In the case of g-i-nd-a-t and u-nd-a-t, the -t is the plural marker.

The polypersonalism of Georgian verb allows to express the involvement of action participants in very compact way. For example, while it takes five words to say "I wrote it to them" in English ("I" being the subject, "it" being the direct object, "them" being the indirect object), in Georgian this can be said in one word davuts'ere.

Version marker[edit]

Right after the nominal marker can come a "version" marker. Phonologically, version markers consist of any one of the vowels except for /o/. Version markers are semantically diverse. They can add either an unpredictable lexical meaning to the verb, or a functional meaning including causativity, passive voice, subjective version, objective version and locative version. For example, while v-ts'er means "I write it," v-u-ts'er means "I write it to him/her" (objective version), v-a-ts'er means "I write it on him/her" (locative version), and v-i-ts'er means "I write it (for myself)" (subjective version).

Verb root[edit]

The length of the verb root typically ranges from one to seven phonemes, with the longest root consisting of 15. Some consist of consonants only. The common root of the verbs meaning 'open', 'receive', 'take', and 'take a picture' is -gh-. "Lexical derivation" (or "word formation") is accomplished through the use of preverbs, version markers, and thematic suffixes. Some derivations of -gh- are seen in the sentences mi-v-i-gh-e ts'erili, 'I received the letter' and ga-a-gh-eb k'ars, 'you will open the door' (derivational affixes are bolded).

Passive marker[edit]

In Georgian, two morphological means of converting a transitive verb to an intransitive verb (or to passive voice) are to add -d- to the end of the verb root or to add the version marker -i- (see the discussion of version markers elsewhere in this article). Respective examples: ga-a-ts'itl-e, 'you made him blush' ( -ts'itl- is the root of ts'iteli, 'red') > ga-ts'itl-d-i, 'you blushed'; class 2 verb da-v-bad-eb, 'I give birth to you', > da-v-i-bad-eb-i, 'I am born' (the -i- at the end of the verb is the suffixal nominal marker obligatory with intransitive verbs (see below)).

Thematic suffix[edit]

The language has eight kinds of thematic suffixes (also sometimes known as present-future stem formants). When the suffixal passive marker is absent, one of these suffixes can be placed right after the root of the verb. With these suffixes the verbs gain arbitrary meanings. Thematic suffixes are present in the present and future screeves, but are absent in the past and mostly absent in the perfective screeves. For example, the root of the verb "build" is -shen-. In order to say "I am building", we have to add the thematic suffix -eb- to the end of the root: v-a-shen-eb (v- meaning that the doer is the first person (v- set nominal marker), a is the versioner, shen is the root, and eb is the thematic suffix). To say "he/she is building", we simply add the suffixal nominal marker -s after the thematic suffix: a-shen-eb-s.

Causative marker[edit]

In English, causativity is predominantly expressed syntactically, by the phrase, 'make someone verb', whereas in Georgian it is expressed morphologically. The causative marker obligatorily cooccurs with the version marker -a-. There is no single causative marker in Georgian. To ditransitivize an already transitive verb, one uses in-eb or rarely ev: ch'am, 'you eat' > a-ch'Øm-ev, 'you make him eat', with the syncope of the root.

Imperfective marker[edit]

This marker (-d- for class 1 verbs, -od- for class 2 verbs) are used to build the imperfective, present and future subjunctive and conditional screeves: v-a-shen-eb, 'I am building' > v-a-shen-eb-d-i, 'I was building" (the additional -i- at the end of the verb is the suffixal nominal marker); v-ts'er, 'I am writing' > v-ts'er-d-i, 'I was writing' (as the verb "write" does not have a thematic suffix, the imperfective marker is added right after the verb root).

Suffixal nominal marker[edit]

The transitive verbs (which employ the v- set) use the suffixal nominal marker -s- (as in a-shen-eb-s, ts'er-s) for the third person singular in present and future screeves.  Intransitive verbs, the past and perfective screeves of the transitive and medial verbs, and indirect verbs, employ sets of vowels: in the indicative, i (strong) or e (weak) for the first/second person, o or a for the third person; in the subjunctive, the suffixal nominal marker is the same for all persons, generally e or o or, less frequently, a.  The aorist intransitive form avashene, 'I built', has the structure, a-v-a-shen-Ø-e, characterized by preverb -a- and weak suffixal nominal marker -e-.

Auxiliary verb[edit]

The auxiliary verb is only used in the present indicative and perfective screeves of indirect verbs and in the perfective screeve of transitive verbs when the direct object is first or second person(s) (these are situations, where the m- set is used for the subject of the verb, and, therefore, v- set is used to indicate the direct object). The auxiliary verb is the same verb as to be in present screeve. The verb to be for the first singular two persons are: Me var ("I am") and Shen xar ("You are"). For example, miq'vars means "I love him/her" (the s at the end of the verb indicating that it is the third person whom the speaker loves). In order to say "I love you", the s at the end has to be replaced with xar (as, now, the direct object is the second person): miq'var-xar ("I love you").

Plural marker[edit]

Depending on which set of nominal markers is employed, the appropriate plural suffix is added. It can refer to either subject or object. An example of referring to an object is miq'varxar-t, 'I love you (plural).'

Georgian/TOC