I am looking at a set of ballistic verbs like nak, phenk 'throw' in a minor Indo Aryan language spoken in Dravidian vicinity, where one verb of the set is reduced to light verb with perfective meaning, occurring often in narratives now. The other verb phenk in the set has successfully replaced nak and occurs in almost every other context, which I am assuming is an effort towards regularization given that neighbouring Dakkani Urdu has only phenk for the verb 'throw'. My question then is, why the grammaticalized perfective aspect marker nak is drifting towards narrative style only? Of course, past tense is used for story-telling but is it just that? Are there other languages where such verbs have completely shifted their use in a specific domain? How do I explain it?

  • maybe both words are related. I don't know enough about the language to care and look it up, but one case or somesuch replacing would be notably different from two disparate items vying for the competition.
    – vectory
    Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 16:42

1 Answer 1


Some languages have a special tense used only or mostly for telling stories, like the Turkish -mış/-miş/-muş/-müş Reported a.k.a. Inferential Past tense (they say ...). Perhaps it's such kind of tense that is arising in the minor Indo Aryan language you are looking at. When a language has two (or more) means to express the same grammatical feature, that state of things cannot last long, either one of them disappears or each of the two acquires a distinct meaning.

  • This includes English, (morphologically coincides with present tense): "so there I am, just waiting for the bus, and he comes up to me and asks..." for telling stories Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 18:21
  • @OmarL - The English present tense is not even approximately specialized that much as the Turkish -mış or the OP's nak teses.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 18:26
  • 1
    Having a tense or form specialised for narration isn’t too unusual, but having a verb meaning ‘throw’ which is specialised for narration seems somewhat more niche. How often does ‘throw’ even get used in a specifically narrative context (apart, perhaps, from by sport commentators)? Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 22:31
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - I can imagine such usage, since in Ukrainian and Russian (which both have reflexive verbs) the verb to throw oneself apart from its literary meaning (“Anna Karenina threw herself under a train”) there's a construction “to throw oneself to do something” which means “to start doing something quickly/hastily” with the idea of hurling a thing into the air being apparently absent: Когда пришли гости, он бросился убирать со стола. — “When the guests arrived, he rushed to clear the table.”
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 23:03
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - But the idea of speed present in “throw” is retained. I can well imagine the OP's language having a similar meaning shift when the “hurling” component got lost and the “onset of action” component transformed into the idea of perfective.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 23:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.