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November 13, 2007


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This is coooooooool.




There's only one verb of being in Armenian?

Also, I think that's a Serbian form. In Russian, it would be ya yesm', except that the present tense for 'to be' isn't used like that. They just omit it.

And just to be ridiculously pedantic, the English paradigm for 'to be' is a mash-up of two unrelated verbs and several variant forms, and the present tense is completely unrelated to the stem of the infinitive.


The crazy kids now use yest' for an emphatic version of Russian 'to be' with all persons. However, yesm' was de rigueur back when ya was az. To make a pompous philosophical assertion in third-person plural some people will also use the Church Slavonic sut'. I was a tall lad before I realized that it wasn't the same word as sut' meaning "gist", so you can imagine how many pompous philosophical solecisms I had under my belt by then.

Jussi Jalonen

The translation of Russian "я caм" (ya sam) would be roughly, "I myself" or "I alone". I don't know whether Douglas picked that up accidentally from Serbo-Croatian or from somewhere else, since I'm not fluent in South Slavic languages.

In Polish, the "to be"-verb is absolutely, positively never omitted, but the personal pronouns are very often left out. Obviously, because the conjugation reveals the person already; and in the past tense, it reveals also the gender of the person.

The Armenian 3rd person seems to be similar to the Finnish.

By the way, Douglas, I'm sure that your wife already pointed out that one mistake. The German polite 2nd person ("Sie") is _not_ the same as the 2nd person plural ("ihr"). Apparently there's a stack of books written of how the polite "Sie" emerged, but I'm not sure if there's any consensus on the topic.


J. J.


Ha! I didn't even notice that point, about the second-person plural being the polite form. That's incorrect for both German *and* Spanish; second person plural being "ihr" and "vosotros" in those languages respectively. "Sie" and "Usted" are both grammatically third person, with Spanish using "Usted/Ustedes" in both singular and plural third person for polite language.

Fascinatingly, German *did* once use "Ihr" (second person plural) as the polite form for singular people, and ... I'm thinking Uruguayans (or somebody down there) does the same in modern-day Spanish, but I'm not sure about that last point.

And finally, the other language-geek point I wanted to make was that not only Basque uses a "k" for plural; Hungarian does, too, and "menk enk" sounds just a teeny bit like "mi vagyunk". OK, I did say "teeny."

I agree, however, that "nrank" is just downright eerie in its weirdness.


A Puerto Rican note on "vosotros" -- they don't use it here. I mean they really, really don't use it here; we were asking one friend of ours about how to conjugate and she literally had never even heard of second person plural or the word "vosotros".

Dennis Brennan

I can has string-cheese?


Don't some Swiss still use ihr for polite singular? Not to forget the use of er for 'impolite' address. Langsam, Woyzeck, langsam... Wenn ich sag: Er, so mein ich Ihn, Ihn.


Keep in mind that there are two versions of the verb "to be." The Western Armenian word is "elal" while the Eastern Armenia word is "linel." The present tense of both is for the most part is the same. However, the future tense is completely different, with each dialect using the root to conjugate. In other words, "I am being" is "linum em" and "I will be" is linelu em."

It was hard at first for me to get used to conjugating "linel" since I am first and foremost a Western Armenian speaker. It's a good thing that you don't have to deal with the differing nuances of the language. But keep at it. Armenian is a beautiful language, unlike any other in the world.

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