Converbs: Subordinate, coordinate, past, antecedent.
One of the unique features of Chuvash grammar is the use of a grammatical form which we shall call converbs. These are formations which are like verbs, because they derive from verb stems, but do not refer to any person, number or tense. They serve to denote that the action referred to stands in a certain relationship to the action of the main or finite verb. Thus, they function like English gerunds or present participles. The thought is held in abeyance by use of a converb until the concluding verb. Hence, we may call them verb forms of a suspensory nature denoting secondary action coordinate to or complementary to the main action. They may not end a statement. In English, we would say “He went downtown, bought a suit, drank some coffee and returned home.“ In Chuvash, this idea would be rendered approximately as “Having gone downtown, bought a suit and having drunk some coffee, he returned home.“
The subordinate converb in -a/-e denotes an action completely subordinated to the main action. It is frequently best translated into English by a form in -ing. Sometimes the form is reduplicated to show continuation.
vula-vula reading and reading
Examples of usage are the following.
ulmisem şĕrelle usăna its apples were (lit. "lay‘) hanging and hanging
usăna larnă towards the ground (hanging way down to the ground
epĕ kunĕpe ulma şije I shall go about eating
şije şürĕp and eating apples all the day
starik vara pit hujhăra the old man then began crying greatly
pirĕn Ivan pichchĕ jurla our brother John continued to sing on and on
shyra puşlană began searching
chup tăva puşlană began kissing
The coordinate converb is of extremely frequent occurrence in Chuvash; in fact, it may be found in nearly every Chuvash sentence. It denotes the first of two (or more) actions of equal value. Some of the more common combinations have become stylized into equivalents of single verbs, rather like English phrases such as “Go and get them,“ “he went and did it,“ “they sat and told us about it,“ instead of simply “Bring them, he did it, they told us about it.“
The ending of this form is -sa/-se.
vulasa larat reading he sits = he sits reading, he sits and reads
un patne pyrsa kalană going to him, he said; he went up to him and said
hăvarsa larnă he climbed up and sat (‘climbing up he sat‘)
shyva vyrtsa păhnă he lay and watched the water, he lay watching the water
esĕ ulma tatsa il te you pick and take an apple
şak teksta şyrsa ilĕr take and write this text
tultah hujhărsa larnă he sat outside and wept
ku hăvăn upăshku sana this is your own husband who
kilse chup tăvat comes and kisses you
In the case of stems ending in ş or sh‚ there is assimilation to that phoneme, thus, vĕşse [vĕşşe] ‘flying.‘ For the subordinate and the coordinate converb, the negative employs the suffix -masăr/ -mesĕr, which is identical in formation with the verbal noun in -ma plus the privative morpheme -săr.
vaskamasăr without, the fact of not hurrying, while not hurrying
Some of the fixed combinations of verbs employing the coordinate converb in company with another verb are the following.
The student may collect many more examples by himself.
kĕrse kaj- to go in, enter (to go entering)
tuhsa kaj- to go out, leave (to go emerging)
ilse kil- to take and come, to bring
pyrsa kala- to go and say, to tell
tărsa jul- to remain standing, to remain, stop
ilse pyr- to bring hither, to go taking
husa jar- to send and dispatch = to send
In some Chuvash dialects, this form may function as a finite tense, viz.‚ epĕ şyrsa - I have written. No examples occur in our material.
The past gerund has the form -san/-sen or -sassăn/-sĕssen. It is used when there is a time difference between the two actions involved, so that the general pattern of translation into English is “when... happened, then so and so happened,“ or “after doing so and so, another thing occurred.“ With stems in /ş/ and /sh/, there is assimilation to that consonant phoneme. Take care not to confuse this morpheme with the purposive case -shăn ‘for‘
vulasan having read, after reading (then something else happened)
kalamasan when he didn‘t say
kahal kajnăne kursassăn when they saw Lazybones coming, they
ĕş hushan văl itlemen when she ordered him to work, he did not obey
sakăr şula şiltsen after he had arrived at the age of eight
hire tuhsan lashine kalană when he came out onto the field, he said to the horse
şüle Tură patne kajsan when we go towards God on high, it will be better
avantarah pulĕ (it would be better if we went to God on high)
ansan sana tytaşşĕ when you descend, they will seize you
şavna iltsen when they heard that, they…
tesen when you say > “if“
manran pulashu yjtas tesen “when you say there is to be the asking of help
from me“ = if you ask me for help
This form may also be reduplicated.
süresen süresen pĕr they rode and rode (for a long time) and came to an oak
juman patne şitnĕ
purănsan purănsan vutti after they lived that way a very long time, their
pĕtnĕ firewood ran out
purănsan purănsan Tură after he had lived there a long time, God said
kĕrüshne kalană to his son-in-law:
This converb has the general meaning of “before,“ and employs the ending -ichchen. Note that vowel stern verbs employ their stem alternant without vowel before this morpheme. It also has the meanings of “rather than, instead of.“
vula- > vulichchen before reading, until reading
kilichchen until he comes, until the arrival, before he comes
epĕ kilichchen until I came
namăslanichchen rather than becoming ashamed
şynsem pĕlichchen before people learn of it
The Chuvash grammarians consider still other forms to be gerunds (as they usually call them), but most of these are of relatively infrequent occurrence. Some of them are –masseren “every time that ...‚“ -năranpa “from the time that ‚“ and -uşăn or -atshăn “while.“
There is an infinitive-like form in -măshkan/-mĕshken, which is rather similar to the nomen concretum in -ma.