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Outidic /ˈaʊtɪdɪk/ - Dr Outis' "Lingua Communis"

Morphology: Verbs

1. Introduction

The use of 'syllabic augments' prefixed to verbs to show tense is reminiscent of 19th century auxlangs such as Scleyer's Volapük and St. de Max's "Bopal"; but whereas their augments denoted not only time, but also aspect and relative tense, Dr Outis's augments are strictly temporal. Unlike most auxlangers of the 19th century and many of those of the 20th century, Dr Outis did not follow the Latin and Romance use of relative tenses such as the 'pluperfect' (the past of the past) or future perfect (the past of the future), but followed the Greek usage where aspect is more important and his verbs distinguish between imperfective and perfective aspect in a way similar to Greek and the Slav languages. His treatment of participles and infinitives is also, perhaps, a bit eccentric when compared with other auxlangers.

2. Finite Verbs: Personal & Impersonal Verbs

2.1 Personal verbs
Like Labbé (but unlike some later auxlang creators, e.g. J.M. Schleyer with his "Volapük", or J. Schipfer and his "Communicationssprache"), Dr Outis decided against personal endings on verbs, opting have subject shown by pronouns or nouns.

The three persons are denoted in Outidic by: em = I; um = thou, you [singular]; ut = he, she, it. They form their plurals in precisely the same way as nouns, i.e. by adding -as, hence: emas = we; umas = ye, you [plural]; utas = they.

All Dr Outis' examples suggest that the 2nd person pronouns were strictly singular and plural; I find no evidence of the use of umas as a "polite singular." Also it may be noticed that Dr Outis did not make any sex or gender distinction in the 3rd person. He observed that "the Turks make no distinction of sex with their on" and felt that this unnecessary in a common language for mankind

The singular em is presumably suggested by Greek ἐμέ /emé/, and the plurals emas and umas are clearly derived from ἡμᾶς /he:mâs/ and ὑμᾶς /hu:mâs/ respectively. Outidic um is a back formation from umas. The etymology of ut ~ utas is less clear; presumably there is some connexion with αὐτός /autós/ and οὗτος /hoûtos/, former being used in the oblique cases and the latter in the nominative case to express the third person pronoun in ancient Greek.


  • em atrekan = I am running
  • utas atrekan = They are running
  • kunas atrekan = the dogs are running

(The initial a- of the verbs denotes the present tense; see subsection 2.3 below)

2.2 Impersonal verbs
These are verbs that have no actual subject; in English it is customary to use it as a dummy subject, e.g. it is raining, it happens that … etc.

In Outidic no such dummy subjects are used, e.g.

  • abrekizan = it is raining (← brek [n] = rain + iz suffix forming verbs from nouns + an suffix showing imperfective aspect - see section 2.2 below)
  • atukan = it happens …

3. Finite Verbs: Tense, Aspect & Mood

3.1 Introduction
Dr Outis was, of course, familiar enough with the concept of mood and the different moods of classical Greek (and, of course, of Latin). But the more recent distinction of tense and aspect was unknown, and he always used "tense" in what Trask draws attention to in a note appended after defining tense as "[t]he grammatical category which correlates most directly with distinctions of time …":
"NOTE: traditional grammar often uses the term 'tense' in a very loose manner that covers not only those of tense but also those of aspect and sometimes even further distinctions" [L.R. Trask, 1993, A Dictionary of Grammatical terms in Linguistics, London & New York, Routledge]
3.2 Aspect
Dr Outis, however, seems to have had some appreciation of what we now call aspect, for we find him writing: "tenses in dependent moods (excepting those in indirect discourse) are chiefly confined to the present and the aorist; they differ not as regards time but rather in that the present expresses an action in its duration, viz., as going on or repeated whereas the aorist expresses simply its occurrence."

In modern parlance this means the 'present' denotes imperfective aspect (which, so to speak, looks inside the "black box" at the internal temporal structure of the situation) and the 'aorist' denotes the perfective aspect (which indicates the view of the situation as a single whole, i.e. does not look inside the "black box"), which is indeed what we find in both ancient and modern Greek.

Dr Outis regarded this dichotomy of 'present' ~ 'aorist' as fundamental and considered that his "Common Language" should also show this distinction. In Greek the 'aorist stem' is often the most basic form and, indeed, it seemed to Dr Outis that 'expressing the occurrence' (i.e. perfectivity) was the basic meaning, and that 'expressing an action in its duration' (i.e. imperfectivity) should be a derived form.

In Outidic imperfectivity is shown by the suffix -an, cf. ancient Greek: imperfective αἰσθαν- [aistʰan] ~ perfective αἰσθ- [aistʰ] to perceive, ἁμαρταν- [harmartan] ~ ἁμαρτ- [hamart] to err, λαμβαω- [lamban] ~ λαβ- [lab] to take, τυγχαν- [tyŋkʰan]~ τυχ- [tykʰ] to happen etc.; so in Outidic we have, for example, lab ~ laban take; tuk ~ tukan to happen; trek ~ trekan run.

Dr Outis considered also the other verb stems of ancient Greek besides the so-called present and aorist stems. These were the future (active and middle; the future passive being formed from the aorist passive stem) and the prefect stems (one active, the other middle and passive). Of the futures, he noted that subjunctives and imperatives never occurred and the 'future optative' was confined to indirect discourse. He, therefore, found it odd that there should even be a future stem and considered that futurity was more properly a time distinction of the indicative (see subsection 3.3 below).

The ancient Greek 'perfect stem' system did have properly developed forms for all the moods. It was, however, seldom used in dependent moods except in indirect discourse; the perfect imperative was almost exclusively confined to 3rd person passive with the meaning "let it be done once and for all." In the indicative, the past perfect or pluperfect indicative was also not exactly common in the ancient language, the aorist indicative often being used where Latin might use its pluperfect. Also he recalled that in some languages, such as Latin and French, the meanings of the simple past (aorist indicative) and the present perfect fell together; also he was aware that differences in use between, e.g. "I saw" and "I have seen" do vary in different varieties of English. Therefore, he decided not have distinct 'perfect tense system' in Outidic.

3.3 Tense (Time distinctions)
Although Dr Outis always used the word "tense" in the sense given in the introduction this Section, he was aware of a distinction between, for example, the use of 'present' to have an aspectual meaning when used of the subjunctive, optative and imperative moods, but a temporal meaning when applied to the indicative. He simply referred to time distinctions and noted that past time was shown in ancient Greek by an augment, either the syllabic augment ἐ- prefixed to verbs beginning with a consonant, or the temporal augment which lengthened the initial vowel or diphthong.

As all Outidic root words for nouns and verbs begin with a consonant and Outidic does not distinguish between long and short vowels, Dr Outis retained only the syllabic augment e- to denote past time in the indicative mood; so, e.g. ut etrek = he/she ran; ut etrekan = he/she was running.

As we saw in 3.2 above, he considered that future was also a time distinction and should be similarly marked. He marked the future indicative with the augment o-, reasoning that "for in as much as future is the opposite of past, even so is o the opposite of e." Quite what he meant by that is not really clear; it may be that he had some intuition of the vocalic triangle and that /e/ and /o/ are mid vowels. It is probable he noticed that in Greek ο ~ ε figure in verbal terminations or that /e/ and /o/ were the only vowels that had separate signs for the long and short variant, i.e. ο (short) ~ ω (long); ε (short) ~ η (long). We find then, e.g. ut otrek = he/she will run; ut otrekan = he/she will be running, he/she will run [often, repeatedly].

He wondered if present time should then be similarly marked; after considering the matter, he came to think that temporal marking was proper to the indicative mood in Outidic; the unaugmented form he considered to be more suited to the dependent moods where, as we saw in 2.2 above, "tenses" differed "not as regards time" but in aspect. He therefore marked present indicative with a-, but while he was happy with atrekan, he wondered what the "present aorist" (i.e. perfective) might mean. It seemed to him the 'present aorist' was appropriate as a "historic present", i.e. the present used in telling past events, e.g. "In comes Joe and says …..", and in habitual situations where, if they were in the past, we would just use a past aorist, e.g. "Whenever we meet them, they smile and say 'Hello' to us ..".

It is interesting that two centuries later Schleyer also used the idea of temporal prefixes or augments in his Volapük, and we find them also in some other related 19th century auxlangs. But there are two important differences between Dr Outis' use of them and those of Schleyer and others two centuries later:

  1. Dr Outis simply used three augments with purely temporal meaning (i.e. past, present, future), whereas, including the optional a- for the present, Schleyer used six which denoted a mix of time, aspect and relative tense
  2. Dr Outis followed ancient practice and prefixed them only to the indicative mood; Schleyer and company prefixed them not only to the indicative but to other moods, e.g. subjunctive, optative, imperative, jussive etc., and even to non-finite forms such as infinitive and participles!
3.4 Mood
We have seen in the subsection above that Dr Outis distinguished between the indicative mood, which is marked by a time augment, and dependent moods. The ancient language had three such: subjunctive, optative and imperative. He considered that the optative came to be used less and less in the ancient language, and he saw no reason to retain it. He reflected that many languages expressed the ancient 3rd person imperative with the subjunctive mood and that even Greek used the subjunctive for the 1st person "let us …." He came to consider a "Common language" would need no more than one dependent mood for which he retained the name subjunctive. This was marked, as we saw above, by have no time prefix.

This did duty also as an imperative, e.g. trek! run!, trekan! get running!


4. Finite Verbs: Voice

4.1 Introduction
The texts books generally state that ancient Greek had three voices: active, middle, passive. In fact the distinction between middle and passive was fuzzy; in the imperfective and perfect aspects (present stem & perfect stem systems) the two voices were not distinguished and and has just a medio-passive voice. Only the aorist and future aspects properly distinguished all three voices.

All the examples of verbs above have been active and this is the basic form of the verb in Outidic.

4.2 Middle & Medio-passive
By 'medio-passive' I do not mean the same as the 'mediopassive' of English "in which an intrinsically transitive verb is construed intransitively with a patient as subject and receives passive interpretation: This fabric washes easily, My new book is selling well" [R.L. Trask, op. cit.], but those forms which in Greek served as both middle and passive voice.

The Middle voice has a reflexive meaning, either a direct reflexive, in which the subject is represented as acting on herself/himself, or an indirect reflexive, where the subject is in someway concerned with the situation. Indeed, in its usage it resembles very much the reflexive forms in the modern Romance language, and Dr Outis was clearly very aware of that. He was also aware that in those languages reflexive forms often have a passive meaning, e.g. French: la mason se vend = the house is for sale; Italian: si dice que … = it is said that … . Dr Outis was rather taken by this and kept a middle voice in Outidic, marked by the suffix -es. This appears to have been abstracted from the Greek middle infinitive ending -εσθαι [estʰai] (see subsection 5.3 below), but is also reminiscent of the Romance 3rd person reflexive: Italian si; Portuguese, Spanish, French, Romanian: se; Catalan es.

So we find, for example:

Verb rootActiveMiddle
em anipan kun
I am washing the dog
em anipanes
I am washing
em anipan keiras-ut
I am washing his hands
em anipanes keiras
I am washing my hands
ut apoilan dom
he is selling the house
dom apoilanes
the house is for sale
um eleg to …
you said that …
eleges to …
it was said that …
4.3 Passive
Bernard Comrie has drawn attention to the particular relation between perfect aspect, which indicates a continuing present relevance of a past situation1, and the passive voice: "The perfect relates a past action to a present state, i.e. can express a present state as being the result of some past action. The older forms of the passive in many languages are likewise stative. When an action involving an agent and an object takes place, the resultant change in state is usually more apparent in the object than in the agent, as in the enemy has destroyed the city" [B. Comrie, 1976, Aspect, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press].

Dr Outis does not express things quite that way, but he did realize that the were situations in which, for example, one might wish to say that a house is now sold (i.e. has been sold); dom epoiles does not say that, it merely says that the house was sold; it tells us nothing about the present state of the house - indeed, the house may no longer exist. So Dr Outis thought it useful to have a "verbal adjective" to describe the state of something on which a past action or event has taken place, i.e. poilot (having been) sold. Thus dom ain poilot is unambiguously the house is sold, the house has been sold.

  1. Once must not, of course, confuse perfective and perfect. The former, as we have seen, contrasts with imperfective. Unlike perfective and imperfective, the perfect expresses a relation between two time-points: the existing state and the prior situation. For that reason many linguists have doubted whether the perfect should be considered as an aspect at all.
  2. The verbal adjective poilot is, in effect, a perfect passive participle (see Section 5 below) and can be used with the copular verb (to be) to form periphrastic perfect passive tenses. Dr Outis, however, never refers to such tenses and it is, perhaps, noteworthy that the suffix -ot is derived from the ending -τος [tos] of ancient verbal adjectives such as κριτός [kri:tós] decided (← κρίνω [krí:nɔ:], stem κρι- [kri:) and τακτός [taktós] (← τάσσω /tássō/, stem τακ- [tak]) and not from any ancient participle endings (the perfect passive participles of the two verbs quoted were: κεκριμένος [kekri:ménos] and τεταγμένος [tetaŋménos] respectively).

5. Non-finite Verbs

5.1 Introduction
Ancient Greek had two sets of non-finite verb forms: participles and infinitives. Indeed the language had one of each for all 'verb stems' (i.e. aspects) in all voice distinctions. This gave the ancient language a rich system of both infinitives and participles, most of which have disappeared from modern Greek. Whether Dr Outis knew much about colloquial Greek of his time, i.e. the 17th century, is not certain; he appears to make no reference to it.
5.2 Participle
What he did notice, however, is that ancient Greek often used participles where other languages used relative clauses, e.g.
The dative plural participle οὖσιν (being) agrees with the other dative plurals
= they proclaimed to those of the Arcadians who were their allies

On reflecting on the various uses of participles in the ancient language, he realized they formed verb phrases which either functioned as adjectives, as in the example above, or as adverbs showing time, cause, manner, attendant circumstance etc., i.e. as Trask defined participle: "Any non-finite verb forms which can act as the heads of verb phrases functioning as adjectival or adverbial modifiers" [R.L. Trask, op. cit.].

He reasoned that those functioning as adjectival modifiers would be better expressed by relative clauses in his "Common Language", and that those functioning as adverbial modifiers were better expressed either by subordinate clauses (of time, cause, condition etc.) or by a preposition followed by the verbal noun or infinitive. He decided, therefore, to have no participles in Outidic other than the perfect (passive) verbal adjective in -ot (see subsection 4.3 above and subsection 5.3 below).

This contrasts remarkably with the the better known auxlangs of the late 19th century, Volapük and Esperanto, each of which, like many other of their contemporary rivals, had a whole battery of participles; however, Labbé's 17th century "Lingua Universalis" had only two participles (one active and one passive), Faiguet's "Langue Nouvelle" of the 18th century had only one active participle, and Dormoy's "Balta", a "perfectionnement du Volapük", had only a single passive participle.

5.3 Verbal Adjective
We saw in subsection 4.3 above that Outidic has a verbal adjective which expresses perfect aspect. In the case of transitive verbs, this is always passive in meaning, e.g. dom ain poilot the house is sold, the house has been sold. It appears that Dr Outis also allowed intransitive verbs to have such a form; in this, of course, the verbal adjective retains an active meaning; thus from the verb tanai to die we find the adjective tanot dead, e.g. ner ain tanot the man is dead.

Although these forms are normally used adjectively, we do find a few instances where Dr Outis used them as substantives, e.g. tanotas the dead, those who are dead. Also we find from the verb krisai to anoint the noun Krisot Christ, the Anointed one.

(NOTE: it is only the verbal adjective we find used substabtivally. Other adjectives have to have an appropriate suffix to make them substantives.)

5.4 Infinitive
On the other hand, Dr Outis did retain infinitives. He liked the way that the Greeks had used the infinitive in different case forms, marked by the article, and after prepositions. He found this very neat and, although Outidic has no articles nor, as we shall see, noun cases, he thought the use of the infinitive after prepositions was useful. He, therefore, retained the infinitive, giving it the termination -ai.

Thus an Outidic verb, may have four infinitive forms if it is transitive (but only the two active ones if it is intransitive), as in the table below. Included in the table for comparison are the actual Greek forms. It should, however, be born in mind that although the infinitives of the verb to take do relate to some extent with the ancient Greeks forms, there will, more often than not, not be such close correspondences.

 ActiveMiddle (medio-passive)
to take
(λαβεῖν - labeîn)
to take (for) oneself, to be taken
λαβέσθα - labéstʰai)
to take, to be taking
(λαμβάνειν - lambánein)
to take (for) oneself, to be taken,
to be taking (for) oneself, to be being taken

(λαμβάνεσθαι - lambanestʰai)

One can also, of course, have a more specifically perfect passive infinitive: inai labot to be taken, to have been taken, see subsection 4.3 above.

The four synthetic infinitives of Outidic are fewer than the ten of Labbé's auxlang and of the twelve of Volapük two centuries later; but, admittedly, they are rather more than Esperanto's one. However, it may be noted that with the one analytic one, i.e. the perfect passive infinitive, Outidic has a total of five infinitive forms, which is a little fewer than Esperanto's seven (one synthetic and six formed from esti and a participle).


6. The Verb "to be"

We have seen two examples of this verb above, ain is in subsection 3.3 and inai to be in subsection 4.3, from when one may see that the stem of the verb is in. Although the verb is unlike all others in Outidic in that the stem does not begin with a consonant, the verb is perfectly regular but, of course, has no aspectual marking, i.e. it just has one form for each indicative tense and the subjunctive, see table in Appendix 1 below.

In the examples given above in subsections 3.3 and 4.3, the verb is used as a copula. But, just as in Greek and Latin, so in Outidic, the verb "to be" can be used at the beginning (or as neat the beginning as possible) of a clause with the meaning of "there to be", e.g. ein kun ne dom there was a dog in the house

For origin of the in and its derived forms, cf. Greek: ἦν ên = I was, he/she/it was; εἶναι eînai = to be.

Rather oddly, Labbé's Latin-based auxlang had en- as the stem of the verb "to be"; in the Pater Noster given on the Introduction page we find the present tense eno (Outidic ain) and the jussive enu (Outidic in).


Appendix 1: Summary of Outidic Verb

 "to be" "to take"
ActiveMiddle (medio-passive)
present indicativeainalabalabanalabesalabanes
past indicativeeinelabelabanelabeselabanes
future indicativeoinolabolabanolabesolabanes
-Perfect passive participle:      labot

Appendix 2: Vocabulary

NOTE: verbs are shown with the perfective active infinitive ending; this distinguishes verb roots from nominal roots in vocabularies

em = I (plural: emas = we)legai = to say
brek = rain [noun]nipai = to wash [transitive]
brekizai = to rainne = in
dom = housepoilai = to sell
inai = to betanai = to die
keir = handtrekai = to run
krisai = to anointtukai = to happen
kun = dogum = you [singular] (plural: umas = you)
labai = to takeut = he, she, it (plural: utas = they)
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