The past participle in Sicilian

A few notes.

(I wrote this up while I was disconnected. I see from my stats that someone was just here searching for “Sicilian verbs”.)

Bonner (2001:123) lists the following uses for the past participle in Sicilian (there are a couple more, but they’re not immediately relevant)

Use #1: Functions as an adjective with a past meaning.
Use #2: Introduces a subordinate clause. In this case, the relative pronoun is not expressed.
Use #3: Introduces a dependent clause in the past. The gerund of aviri may be used in conjunction with the past participle. However, the gerund is used only for the present situation.

Use #1 should’ve stopped at “adjective”. Although, in their guise as stative verbs, adjectives in Chinese can have a past tense, this is not formally true of Sicilian. For example, A putia è chusa “The shop is closed” merely describes the state of the shop in present time I wonder what Bonner would say about “The shop was fascinating” where a present participle with an adjectival function is being used with a verb in the past tense. 

Use #2 would be confusing for beginners because there’s no overt reason why the relative pronoun should be mentioned except as a means of translating such clauses into natural English. For the grammar of Sicilian, the statement is irrelevant. An example is

A putia chiusa nna l’estati grapi di novu nna l’autunnu. “The shop (which was) closed in the summer will open again in autumn.”

Yet I don’t get the impression that this function is actually any different from Use #1, except here the participle is functioning attributively rather than as a predicate. 

Use #3 is also confusing. Bonner says that “the gerund is only used for the present situation”. It’s not clear exactly what this means exactly unless it’s some reference to the present tense which, even then, makes no sense from the examples. For instance

Avennu vistu l’omu, u picciottu si vutau e si misi a curriri. “Having seen the man, the boy turned and started to run.”

Bonner notes that Vistu l’omu, u picciottu si vutau e si misi a curriri. “is OK too”. Unfortunately, there’s no further explanation. From being used with the “present situation”, the gerund now seems optional. The resulting gerundless construction seems a lot like the ablative absolute in Latin. The Indo-Aryan languages also have a similar construction (e.g. Pali taya pañham puttham “She asked the question”). It’s beyond my slender knowledge of syntax to describe what’s happening formally, but the the direct object of the passive, which would end up functioning as the subject in English, remains in a post-verbal position. 

English has no equivalent, since we can only say “Seen by the boy, the man…” The boy may be the agent of the past participle, but in English he can no longer function as the subject of the main clause. Avennu vistu l’omu… is, on the other hand, active and equivalent to the English “Having seen the man…”


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