The Spem conlang
The Spem conlang: the tense system
- 'ɑn' and 'im' are the past and future tense words. They go at the beginning of the sentence except for one special case which I'll get to.
- The present tense is progressive by default. "mi vɪrɪθ" means "I am running". If you want to communciate that you run in general, but aren't necessarily running now, use the 'el' tense modifier: "el mi vɪrɪθ".
This also works with the past and future:
"el ɑn mi vɪrɪθ" = "I used to run".
"el im mi vɪrɪθ" = "I will get into running". A bit of a bad example, but the difference from "im mi vɪrɪθ" is that instead of just saying you plan to run, you're communicating that you're going to make it a regular thing.
I call el the "vague tense" modifier.
- 'ɪr' is the "close tense" modifier. "ɪr ɑn mi vɪrɪθ" means "I just ran", and "ɪr im mi vɪrɪθ" means "I'm about to run".
- 'ɑŋ' is the "have done" tense, implying compared to the normal past that the action is still in effect.
- When you use ɑn or im to go into the past or the future, you *stay* in the past or future until you use *eŋ* to return to the present.
"ɑn mi vɪrɪθ, to ɪl tel verɪθ av mi, kyo mi gu vɪrɪθ. eŋ el mi teku." = "I ran / was running, then they told me the truth, so I stopped running. Now(adays) I walk."
I believe this saves more speed than it loses, but it's also for aesthetic reasons: it'd be ugly to have every sentence start with "ɑn" when telling a story.
If it helps you can think of it like this: "The following sequence of events happened: I run, then he tells me the truth, so I stop running." And you might notice that in English we sometimes do a similar thing when telling a story, especially when it's supposed to be amusing.
This doesn't happen if you place a tense modifier before the verb instead of at the beginning of the sentence:
"mi ɑn zu A. kɑ ŋi zu B?" = "I did A. Are you doing B?"
If it were "ɑn mi zu A. kɑ ŋi zu B?", it would mean, "I did A. did you do B?"
- When using an explicit time-specifying expression, you don't need any tense modifiers. "I run yesterday" is quite clear and there's no need to add a syllable to move it to the past.
- You can double-use `ɑn` and `im` to get the "had happened" or (not very useful) "will be going to happen" tenses.
"ɑn mi ɑn humi kim jen lɪmɵl, kyo nu kei yɪm." = "I had already drunk all the water, so I didn't have any."
You can also do like this: "im ɑn mi humi jen lɪmɵl" - "I will have drunk the water". You're allowed to combine the tense modifiers in any way that makes sense.
- This should go without saying, but just incase, "is going to" should be translated the same way as "will".
- You can communicate "ago" and "in" with ɑn and im. "5 days ago" = "ɑn lu ro djɪn" literally "in the past by 5 days".
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