Mondá – mondta

The construal patterns of the imperfective and the simple past tense in 19 th century Hungarian diaries




diary, immediacy, imperfective past, past, simple past, temporality, witnessing


There is a characteristic distribution of finite verbs in imperfective and simple past tense in five Hungarian diaries written in the 1830s and 1840s. This division demonstrates the last phase in a historical change: these are almost the last spontaneous and regular occurrences of the Hungarian imperfective past before its extinction still in the 19 th century. The present investigation is focused on the verb mond ‘say, tell’. This verb is construed in the corpus almost exclusively in the imperfective past tense, usually as the main (matrix) clause, with a reconstrued quotation by the act of saying in a subordinate clause, with the hogy ‘that’ conjunction. This highly subjectivized use of mond ‘say, tell’ in the entries of the diaries perspectivizes the linguistic activity of a participant with epistemic immediacy. The quoting act is evoked from a participatory, witnessing perspective by the diary writer. This simulative perspective profiles the narrated quoting as an ongoing continuous process through the imperfective past, while the simple past tense expresses events completed prior to the processing time. This type of construal shows the close and dynamic relation between the diary’s communicative situation and the evoked quoting situation, in contrast with other activities described often in the simple past tense in the diaries.