A Synchronic and Diachronic Examination

Sargis R. Avetyan

An attempt is made to show that typological evidence (namely, the patterns
of the historical development of old presents) confirms H. Acharyan’s hypothesis
that the formations with the particle կու (կը), which are commonly used with
future meaning in Eastern Armenian, originally served functions of a standard
present. Unforunately, researchers, with a few exceptions, have not paid due
attention to H. Acharyan’s above remark. The existence of the present with the
particle կու (կը) in Eastern Armenian either has been attributed to the influence
from neighbouring dialects pertaining to the Կը branch, or has just been stated as a
fact without any explanation. However, it is no accident that the old present formed
with the particle կու (կը) does not typically express progressive meaning and is
only used as a habitual and/or historical present in the Colloquial Eastern Armenian
and a number of Armenian dialects, where the standard present (progressive in
origin) involves a participle.

It is well established cross-linguistically that when a new progressive
aspect form arises and becomes obligatory, the old present is often restricted to
habitual (as well as historical present) and future meanings. Later the progressive
may also be extended to the habitual use and become obligatory there too. When
that happens, the old present becomes confined to the future meaning. On the other
hand, the historical present meaning found in old presents is readily explained as an
archaism that has been preserved in certain narrative genres. Particularly, folklore
genres are generally conservative in this respect, so it is here that old presents tend
to appear as narrative tenses even after the new formation (the new present) has
ousted the old present tense from its central functions.

Therefore, the above typological evidence sheds new light on the historical
relationship between the present tense forms involving the participle -ում and the
formations with the particle կու (կը) as well as on their synchronic functional
distribution in Eastern Armenian (the so-called Ում branch). To put it another way,
the habitual and historical present meanings of the formations with the particle կու
(կը) in Eastern Armenian should be regarded as residual uses preserved from an
erstwhile standard present. Besides, the examination of various written records of
the 17th-18th centuries suggests that the functional-semantic replacement of the old
present involving the particle կու (կը) by the new present tense involving the
participle -ում has taken place at different rates in different territorial varieties of
Eastern Armenian.