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Original scientific article

Kristina Štrkalj Despot, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; Institut za hrvatski jezik i jezikoslovlje


This paper provides a detailed analysis of the meaning and usage of the present tense in the corpus of Croatian medieval poetry. The corpus consists of all versions of medieval Croatian poems and dramatic verse written in the Old Croatian language from the middle of the 14th century to the first half of the 16th century. The mentioned corpus is the first component of the corpus for the Old Croatian Dictionary, a project being conducted at the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics. A list of all attested present tense forms was created, and their usage in the mentioned corpus was thoroughly analyzed. As part of this research, basic semantic groups were established. Attention was paid both to the present tense in its prototypical, absolute usage (where the process expressed by an imperfective verb precisely coincides with the time of speaking), as well as to its relative usage. Time transposition and modal usage have also been identified. Time transposition is the usage of present tense forms to describe actions, events and conditions that occurred in the future or past, and not in the present. The usage of the present tense in such cases creates an illusion of the present, which serves a stylistic function – therefore, this is not the meaning of the present tense, but rather conversational implicature. In the analyzed corpus, only the transposition in the past is attested (historical present). The modal use of present tense forms is very frequent in subordinated adverbial clauses of purpose (instead of the potential), as well as in negative questions. The comparison of the present tense syntax in Old Croatian poetry and the present tense syntax in the Croatian standard language revealed that they are very similar. However, there exist some differences. The biggest difference in the usage and meaning of present tense forms in Old Croatian corpus (čakavian basis) compared to the standard Croatian language (štokavian basis), is the extremely frequent use of perfective present tense forms which serve the meaning and function of future tense, in all types of clauses. The use of perfective present tense forms instead of future tense forms was common to the syntax of many Indo–European and all Slavic languages (and especially frequent in the Old Church Slavonic language), and in many of those languages is still alive. However, in the štokavian dialect, that meaning was completely abandoned. Morphological analysis revealed that the present tense forms in the analyzed corpus follow universal Croatian morphological system, with some exceptions: in the first person singular still coexist older ending –(j)u and later continuation –m; ending –t in the third person singular and plural, and the ending –ši in the second person singular are still present as the result of Old Church Slavonic influence. In addition, some sporadic cases of ’aberrations’ are listed: forms živeš, primeš in the 2nd person singular; prime in the 3rd person singular and primu in the 3rd person plural; tutzu in the 3rd person plural.


Old Croatian language; present tense; syntax; medieval Croatian poetry and drama

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