In English, a verb takes on a different form when it is used with different subjects and in different tenses. For example, you would use the word “talk” when saying “I talk to him”, but you would add an -s to the word, and make it “talks”, when saying “he talks to me”. Similarly, when the talking took place in the past, the word “talk” becomes “talked” for all subjects (“I talked to him”, “they talked to me”, etc.). On the other hand, when the talking will not take place until the future, the phrase “will talk” is used for all subjects (“I will talk to him”, “he will talk to me”).
These different forms that a verb can take are called “conjugations”, and when you change a verb into its proper form for the sentence it is in, you are “conjugating the verb.”
The English verb “talk” is fairly regular, but English has plenty of irregular verbs. Consider how, rather than becoming “speaked”, the verb “speak” becomes “spoke” in the past tense.
The English speaker will find some good news and some bad news when it comes to Talossan verb conjugation. The bad news is that where English has a great many different subject/tense combinations in which the same form of a verb is used (“I talk”, you talk”, “we talk”, “they talk”), this is not true in Talossan. In most cases, a Talossan verb will take on a different form for each subject/tense. For example, here are the different present-tense conjugations of the verb parlarh (= to talk):
- éu parléu (= I talk)
- tu parlás (= you talk)
- o parla, a parla, ça parla (= he talks, she talks, it talks)
- noi parlent, os parlent, as parlent, ça parlent (= we talk, they talk)
- voi parletz (= y’all talk)
As you can see, while English would use the same form (“talk”) for all of the subjects “I”, “you”, “we”, “y’all”, and “they”, in Talossan this is not the case. The “we” and “they” subjects share the same conjugated form (parlent) but each of the other subjects has its own individual form.
This should not be too scary. Although the English verb “talk” is very regular in English, but English speakers are quite used to verbs that conjugate into different forms for different subjects and tenses. In fact, some of the most-used verbs in English are the most irregular. Consider how “I am”, “you are”, and “he is” are the present-tense conjugations for the verb “to be”. Consider further how this same verb, in the past-tense, also takes irregular (and differing) forms for various subjects (“I was”, “you were”, “he was”).
The English speaker will need to get used to conjugating each verb to match the subject for which it is being used, and the tense (present, past, future) that it needs to convey. That (the fact that a Talossan verb’s ending changes for tense and person more than does a regular verb in English) that’s the bad news.
The good news, though, is twofold. First, the rules that determine how to form the various conjugations for regular verbs are quite easy to learn. Second, Talossan does not have nearly as many irregular verbs as English does. Sure, it has some, and yes, some of these are among the most important and most-used verbs in Talossan, but in the end, there are not very many irregular verbs.
As in other languages, in addition to tense (past, present, future), and subject (I, you, he, etc.), Talossan verbs and verb phrases can be inflected in different moods, aspects, and voices. The casual speaker of a language likely does not think about such things, but a quick overview of what these terms mean can be useful.
The “mood” of a verb (also called its “mode”) refers to how the speaker feels about the factuality of the verb. That is, a verb has a different mood if the person (a) knows the statement to be true or (b) wonders if it is true or (c) is ordering that it become true. Just like English (and like other Romance languages), Talossan verbs can be used in one of four moods, and these are:
- The Infinitive Mood. In the infinitive mood, the form of the verb is one that does not in any way imply anything about the action of the verb. (For example, in English, both the infinitive form “to see” and the past participle form “seen” are useless without context, and could mean many things — “I love to see that”, “I wish to see that”, “I forbid you to see that”, “the movie was seen”, “if only the movie were seen”, etc.).
- The Indicative Mood. This is the “usual” mood, and the one that implies that the speaker knows (or at least believes that he or she knows) that the statement is true. In the indicative mood, a verb can appear in any of the three time-related tenses — past, present, and future.
For example, in English, the sentences “I said it”, “I say (or am saying) it”, and “I will say it” are all indicative mood statements (the first in the past tense, the second in the present tense, and the third in the future tense — but all in the indicative mood). (The Talossan equivalent sentences are éu en parleveu, éu en parléu, and éu en parlarhéu.)
- The Subjunctive Mood. English speakers often have trouble with this mood, because even though it is used in English, the casual speaker does not realise it. The subjunctive mood is used to indicate that the speaker is not sure whether the action of the verb is or will be factual.
In English, the subjunctive mood shows up with verbs that appear in phrases that have words such as “if” and “might” and “may”. Consider the English phrase “I wish I were thin.” Note that many English speakers might say “I wish I was thin”, but this is improper. The form “was” is for the past tense, as in “a year ago, I was thin”, and the form “were” is proper to use with the subject “I” in this wishful, unsure, maybe someday kind of phrasing. Thus, “were” is a subjunctive mood conjugation (of the verb “to be”) here.
In Talossan, the subjunctive mood is used in the same places as in English, it is just that English speakers often need to stop and think, “hey wait — this is subjunctive, isn’t it?” before realising to use the Talossan subjunctive mood conjugations. A “feel” for when the subjunctive should be used is an important thing for a new student of Talossan to learn.
In the past (and in fact, in R. Ben Madison’s texts on the language), the subjunctive mood conjugations are called “the conditional tense”. This is not exactly incorrect, as the Talossan subjunctive is also used in the same places where (for example) the Spanish conditional tense would be found. We will discuss the subjunctive mood in more detail later, but for now, know that if your sentence indicates a wish, or an “if”, or has any kind of “maybe” qualities, consider the subjunctive mood for the verbal action of the sentence. For example, the subjunctive mood is used in esperéu àd estadréu stiglh (= I wish I were [would be] thin). The first verb (esperéu = I wish) is a positive statement of fact, and is in the indicative mood, but the second (estadréu = I were [would/could be]) is an unfulfilled wish, and so this verb is in the subjunctive mood.
- The Imperative Mood. The imperative mood is the verb mood used when a verbal action is being commanded. For example, the English command “Tell me!” is in the imperative mood. The equivalent Talossan statement is ¡Na-me!
In English, the phrases “I am eating fish” and “I eat fish” have definite different meanings, although undeniably they are both in the present tense, and both indicate facts (indicative mood). The difference here is that the two sentences each have a different grammatical aspect. The first of these is in the progressive aspect, as it indicates an ongoing (fish-eating) action or activity. The second example is in the imperfective aspect, and it indicates a habit or custom (of fish-eating) that is currently being followed.
In Talossan, the simple indicative present tense is used for the progressive aspect. That is, menxhéu del pesc indicates an ongoing act of fish-eating. [Remember the caution against using the present particple — English’s “-ing” ending, and Talossan’s “-ind” ending — in this progressive (ongoing action) way in Talossan.] To indicate “I eat fish” (as a custom or habit), Talossan casts the phrase into the imperfective aspect: éu sint à menxharh del pesc (= I eat fish; literally, I am to eat fish).
This extends to other tenses (time-senses) as well. That is, menxheveu del pesc (= I ate fish) indicates a particular past incident of fish-eating, while éu füt à menxharh del pesc means a past (formerly-observed) custom of eating fish, as in the English “I used to eat fish”.
Notice that menxheveu del pesc could indicate a past progressive sense, as in “I was (engaged in) eating fish when he arrived” or a completed action, as in “I ate fish for breakfast yesterday”. This minor distinction is a case where, if one or the other sense is important to convey, additional context must be supplied to accompany the verb phrase.
Another aspect in English and other languages is the “perfect” aspect. This is seen in the phrases “I have eaten fish” and “She has eaten fish”. Notice that here (as with the imperfective aspect, touched on above) the verb is a two-verb combination, including a conjugated form of the verb “to have” and the past participle form of the verb “to eat”. This is exactly how this same aspect is formed in Talossan — éu téu menxhat del pesc and a tent menxhat del pesc are the Talossan phrases equivalent to the English phrases just given.
In addition to the simple aspect (menxheveu del pesc = I ate [some] fish), which also expresses the progressive aspect (= I was eating [some] fish), and the perfect aspect (tignhoveu menxhat del pesc = I had eaten fish), and the imperfect aspect (esteveu à menxharh del pesc = I used to eat fish), Talossan has two other aspects. These are the manitive aspect (“I am just about to eat fish”) and the retrospective aspect (“I just ate fish”). In Talossan, these phrases would be éu viens à menxharh del pesc and éu viens da menxharh del pesc, respectively, using conjugations of the verb viénarh with either à or da to indicate the aspect.
Aspects can combine. For example, the combination of the perfect aspect and the prospective aspect is called (no surprise here) the perfect prospective aspect. This is seen in an example such as téu venescu à menxharh del pesc (= I have been just about to eat fish).
In addition to mood, tense, and aspect, a verb has a grammatical “voice” (also known as a diathesis). The voice of a verb describes the relationship between the action of the verb and its subject. Essentially, when the subject of a sentence is also the agent (or “doer”) of the verb, then the verb is said to be in “active” voice. When the doer of the verb is the object of the sentence, rather than the subject, then the verb is in “passive” voice.
This isn’t as complicates as it sounds. Consider “the man ate the fish”. This is an active voice sentence. The equivalent passive voice sentence is “the fish was eaten by the man”. Notice the two different forms of the verb “to eat” — “ate” and “was eaten (by)”.
The passive voice is indicated in Talossan just as is done in English, with a form of the verb “to be” followed by a past participle verb conjugation. For example, el cióvec menxheveu el pesc (= the man ate the fish) is active, while el pesc esteva menxhat par el cióvec (= the fish was eaten by the man) is passive.
Just as the active voice can combine with various aspects, so can the passive voice. Consider el pesc veneva àð estarh menxhat (= the fish was just about to be eaten), which is a prospective aspect, passive voice phrasing.