LANGUAGE: Did you hear that Turkish has two past tenses?

Turkish Language

Catie and I are currently trying to learn Turkish.

Yesterday in my class we learned that Turkish actually has two versions of past-tense. For those of you who may not remember from English class in high school, past-tense refers to those things which have already happened, which happened in the past.

Turkish has two versions of the past tense:

  1. The first version is for the things that happened in the past for which you have direct knowledge.
  2. The second version is for things  that happened in the past for which you have indirect knowledge.

If I went with you to the mall yesterday, I would use the first version. If someone else told me that you went to the mall yesterday, I would use the second version. Turkish literally has built into it’s grammar a tense for rumors.

This got me thinking if other languages have a similar distinction. It turns out that not only are there other languages that have two versions, there are some that have three, four, and even five versions of past-tense. It’s called Evidentiality. The most interesting one, according to Wikipedia, is Fasu which as:

  • visual sensory
  • nonvisual sensory
  • inferential
  • reported
  • heard from known source
  • direct participation

This blew my mind! To have different verb tenses for something you personally saw happen versus something you personally heard happen versus something you inferred happened versus something someone told you happened… etc … I’m glad I don’t have to learn Fasu.

Languages can be very interesting.

Turkish Language