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Is there overt morphological marking on the verb dedicated to future tense?


This question aims to capture productive paradigms of overt tense marking. 'Morphological marking on the verb' means that the marker has to form a phonological unit with the verb. The marking of tense can involve affixes, clitics, suppletion, tonal marking and/or reduplication. This feature aims to capture overt marking of future tense on the verb. Lack of other marking is not enough. There are instances where TAM can be expressed by a combination of an affix and an auxiliary or particle. For example, some grammarians state that future tense is expressed by a certain marker on the verbal root and an auxiliary. If this is a productive and obligatory way of expressing future tense then this construction triggers 1 for both this feature (GB084) and the feature on tense auxiliaries (GB121). If not all parts of the discontinuous marking are necessary for expressing future tense, only consider the marking that is obligatory.

Sometimes a language will be described as having a past/non-past distinction. In this case, if there is an overt marker of non-past code the language as 1 for the feature on present tense (GB082), but 0 for this feature (GB084). Future tense needs to be more dedicated to actual future reference, whereas present tense has less strict demands on the scope of its function.

It can be hard to distinguish future tense from different modal categories, after all if something is in the future it has not yet occurred and can be construed as something wished for, planned, intended, etc. For this reason, it is necessary to pay particular attention to sections on mood, especially irrealis, when coding for future tense.

If a language only has future tense under negation, this does not count for this feature. It needs to be present for affirmation as well. The reason for this is that conditions such as 'only under negation' are likely to give rise to quite different analysis by different linguists (hence it is hard to ensure comparability) and might also be overlooked. If we were to treat such marginal cases as triggering 1 we would most likely have to go back to a lot of the cases that were coded as 0 and re-evaluate their coding more thoroughly.


  1. Find the section discussing tense in the grammatical description.
  2. If future tense is not explicitly defined, check the description of the other tenses and moods (if there are any).
  3. Code 1 if future tense can be marked on the verb by an affix or clitic, suppletion, tonal marking or reduplication.
  4. Code 1 if future tense can be marked by a combination of morphology and an auxiliary or particle. In these cases, also code 1 for GB121 on tense auxiliaries and/or GB521 on tense particles.
  5. If future tense is only marked by the absence of other markers, code 0.
  6. If the language is described as having a non-past tense and it is overtly marked, code it as 0 for this feature (GB084) but as 1 for GB082.


Acholi (ISO 639-3: ach, Glottolog: acol1236)

In Acholi, future tense is marked by an infix which derives from the verb 'to come' bino. Acholi is coded as 1 for this feature. Malandra (1952: 78–79) gives the following examples:

past present future
àyecò I tore àyécò I tear ábíyecò I will (shall) tear
àkayò I reaped àkáyò I reap àbíkayò I will (shall) reap

Further reading

Comrie, Bernard. 1985. Tense. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dahl, Östen. 1985. Tense and aspect systems. Oxford: Blackwell.

Dahl, Östen & Viveka Velupillai. 2013. The future tense. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds), The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.


Malandra, Alfred. 1952. A new Acholi grammar. (Eagle language study serie, gle language study series.) Nairobi, Kampala & Dar es Salaam: Eagle Press.

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