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Kartvelian languages such Georgian have a very complex agglutinative verb structure.

Georgian is very well studied but there's not a lot of self-study books or online sites that go really in depth. I do have several self-study books but they don't seem to cover everything, or some things are particularly hard to find.

I came across a verb "ატარებს" (atarebs) / "ტარება" (tareba), "to carry" which has an initial "a" in one of the citation forms (third person singular present indicative) but not in the other citation form (verbal noun).

But the form I encountered, "ეტარებინა" (etarebina) has an initial "ე".

There are several kinds of prefixes that I am aware of but I can't figure out what this is. It's not a preverb since that is a closed class. Georgian has a complex relationship between a concept called "version" and another of "polypersonal verbs". I understand that these are single vowel prefixes and I've seen "ე" mentioned but not thoroughly treated.

But Georgian is also famous for having many irregular verbs and lots of suppletion, and there could well be some other categories of the verb that I haven't even become aware of yet.

In my quest I discovered on Wiktionary that "ეტარებინა" is the third person singular pluperfect, but this doesn't help me to understand at all the process that led to the initial vowel changing!

Can anybody explain what is happening in this verb form?

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I don't know enough to work out whether this is actually the answer to your question, but Hewitt says (Georgian: A Learner's Grammar, p. 135):

For prefixal intransitives an indirect object may only be expressed in one way, namely by changing the prefix ი- to ე-, in front of which the relevant object agreement affix is placed.

I can't make out whether the verb in question can come in this category or not.

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  • I'll see if I can figure out its category too. But this looks like a good start, thanks. – hippietrail May 31 '13 at 9:18
  • I've been chasing this down and I'm almost positive it's version but I still can't find the specifics of this verb or the ე- versioner. – hippietrail Jun 1 '13 at 9:40
  • I'm sure it is version: the ი- it replaces is the subjective version. For an example, I quote from the same section in Hewitt: გვ-ე-წერ-ებ-ა it is being written for/on/to us. – Colin Fine Jun 3 '13 at 16:52
  • I'm starting to think this slot in the verb template has two functions. It's often called a "pre-radical vowel" rather than a "versioner". This name, with things I've read in various papers I've found on the web make me think the vowel is sometimes part of the verb paradigm and in those cases called a "screeve marker". In these conditions it imparts no information about the beneficiary of the action as it would were it acting as a versioner. So many morphemes in Georgian have overloaded functions! Apparently sometimes version is even lexicalized resulting in an unrelated arbitrary meaning! – hippietrail Jun 3 '13 at 17:06
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    Oh! I may just have found the most important paper on this topic by pure chance while writing my previous comment: Constructional Morphology: The Georgian Version by Olga I Gurevich – hippietrail Jun 3 '13 at 17:10
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There's a pretty good, concise summary of version vowels (referred to as "preradical vowels" in Aronson's terminology) in Lesson 13 of Aronson, Georgian: A Reading Grammar. I'm assuming you already have a copy (if you don't, it is available to download for free from the Duke University website), so I won't paraphrase what is mentioned there.

As for ეტარებინა, it is indeed the 3 p.s. pluperfect of ატარებს. It is formed regularly. So for the I and III conjugations, you basically use the aorist, with inversion. The subject is marked with the OBJECT prefixes plus ე and the object is marked with the normal aorist screeve endings for the SUBJECT, with an intrusive ვ for third person subjects with first person objects.

So, for example, ვნახავ (fut) > ვნახე (aor) > მენახა (ppf - note the inversion: it looks like there should be a 3 p.s. subject, but the ე version vowel shows us that it's pluperfect, so the ending is reinterpreted as a 3 p.s. OBJECT); გნახავ (fut) > გნახე (aor) > მენახე (ppf - again, look at the screeve ending - this is what happens with non-3 p. OBJECTS); ნახავს (fut) > ნახა (aor) > ენახა (ppf); მნახავს (fut) > მნახა (aor) > ვენახე (ppf - here is an example of the "intrusive ვ" - it has to appear because otherwise ენახე would be ambiguous).

The only slight complication with ეტარებინა is the -ინ-, but this is infixed in the pluperfect of (all???) denominal verbs in ა-...-ებ.

I've tried to be as brief as possible without sacrificing clarity. I hope I have succeeded!

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