Verbs and tenses
Our knowledge of Oscan verbs is fairly limited. In the table below, you can see that there are lots of gaps. Because most of our evidence comes from legal, official, dedicatory and funerary inscriptions, there are only a few common verbs. The vast majority of verbs appear in the third person (he/she/it does or they do), and in a limited range of tenses (mostly present and perfect). Imperatives (that expresses a command – ‘Go!’ or ‘He must go!’) are also fairly common. A few longer texts give us a more exciting range of forms.
First of all, it can help to be aware of the underlying pattern (but if this doesn’t help you, just ignore it). We can divide verb endings into Primary (used in the present, future and future perfect) and Secondary (used in the imperfect, perfect and all tenses of the subjunctive).
- Present – ‘he does’
- Future – ‘he will do’
- Future perfect – ‘he will have done’ (usually found in legal language)
- Imperfect – ‘he did, he was doing’
- Perfect – ‘he did, he has done’
- Subjunctive – these verbs are used in certain types of subordinate clauses, sometimes with the meaning ‘may’, ‘might’ or ‘should’. If you’ve learned about subjunctives in Latin, the Oscan ones have extremely similar functions. If you’ve not met subjunctives before, don’t worry – there aren’t many Oscan texts complex enough to use them, and they will generally make sense in context.
Here is the basic pattern of endings (based on Oscan, Umbrian and related languages – not all of these forms are attested in Oscan):
Oscan also has both active (‘he makes’) and passive (‘he was made’) verbs.
This all sounds like a lot, but many of the forms are not attested in Oscan. You will soon start to recognise the most common verb endings.
Things to watch out for:
- almost all of the the attested verb forms are third person (singular or plural).
- perfect verbs are often marked with -tt- between the stem and the ending (just as they are often marked with -v-, -u- or -s- in Latin).
- present passives tend to end in -r.
- the perfect passive verbs are made up of a perfect participle + part of the verb ‘to be’, just like in Latin – but in Oscan these are usually written as one word.
In the table below, you can see some forms we actually have attested:
Here are those verbs, roughly alphabetically, with their meanings:
- aflakus (2nd singular future perfect)
decide on, announce
- angetuzet (3rd plural future perfect)
- dadíkatted (3rd singular perfect)
- deded (3rd singular perfect)
- dadad (3rd singular present subjunctive)
- dadid (3rd singular perfect subjunctive)
- didest (3rd singular future)
- deicans (3rd plural present subjunctive)
- dicust (3rd singular future perfect)
swear (an oath)
- deiuaid (3rd singular present subjunctive)
- deiuast (3rd singular future)
give (a gift)
- duunated (3rd singular perfect)
- faamat (3rd singular present)
do, make, act
- fakiiad (3rd singular present subjunctive)
- fefacid (3rd singular perfect subjunctive)
- fefacust (3rd singular future perfect)
- fifikus (2nd singular future perfect)
- hafiest (3rd singular future)
- hipid (3rd singular perfect subjunctive)
- heriiad (3rd singular present subjunctive)
- herríns (3rd plural imperfect subjunctive)
- herest (3rd singular future)
feed oneself (?)
- karanter (3rd plural present passive)
come together, agree
- kúmbened (3rd singular perfect)
conduct a census
- censazet (3rd plural future)
- comparascuster (3rd singular future perfect passive)
- manafum (1st singular perfect)
- aamanaffed (this has the prefix aa-) (3rd singular perfect)
- patensíns (3rd plural imperfect subjunctive)
put up, erect
- prúffed (3rd singular perfect)
- prúftúset (3rd plural perfect passive)
- prúfatted (3rd singular perfect)
be able, can
- pútíad (3rd singular present subjunctive)
- pútíans (3rd plural present subjunctive)
- sakarater (3rd singular present passive)
- sakahíter (3rd singular present passive subjunctive)
- sakrafír (3rd singular perfect passive subjunctive)
- scriftas set (3rd plural perfect passive)
- staít (3rd singular present)
- stahínt (3rd plural preset)
- staflatasset (3rd plural perfect passive)
separate (with a boundary)
- teremnatust (3rd singular perfect passive)
- tríbarakattíns (3rd plural perfect subjunctive)
- tríbarakattuset (3rd plural future perfect)
- úpsed (3rd singular perfect)
This is quite a lot of vocabulary all in one go – sorry about that! It’s really only possible to show all the forms we have using a range of verbs.
Write these sentences in the Oscan alphabet, and then translate. Highlight after the sentence to reveal the answer.
- Maras Kluvatiis aasam prúfatted. Maras Kluvattis approved the altar.
- patir pavmentúm deívaí dadíkatted. The father dedicated the pavement to the goddess.
- meddíss víass tríbarakattíns eítiuvad Gavieis Statiieis. The meddikes built the roads with the money of Gavis Statiis.
- futír herest húrtúm. The daughter will want the garden.
Some other important verb forms are the imperative, the infinitive and the gerund/gerundive.
- Imperative – ‘Do!’ or ‘He must do!’
- Infinitive – ‘to do’
- Gerund/gerundive – ‘the doing’
Most of the imperatives in Oscan are of the type called the ‘future imperative’ in Latin or the ‘third person imperative’ in Greek. This is basically a type of imperative that expresses something like ‘if this situation comes up, the person involved must do X’. This is usually used in laws – e.g. ‘if someone has been taken to court, he must swear an oath (but this is currently hypothetical)’.
- deiuatud ‘he must swear’ (3rd singular)
- censamur ‘he must be audited in a census’ (3rd singular passive)
- líkítud ‘it is allowed’ (3rd singular)
- actud ‘he must act, he should do it’ (3rd singular)
- factud ‘he must do’ (3rd singular)
- censaum ‘to conduct a census’
- moltaum ‘to fine’
- deíkum ‘to say’
These are verbal nouns and adjectives roughly equivalent to ‘the doing’. In Oscan, they normally occur in phrases like ‘Maras paid for the erecting of this structure’, where ‘the structure’ is a noun in the accusative and ‘the erecting’ is a gerundive agreeing with it. They are marked with -nn- between the root and the ending.
- úpsannam ‘putting up, erecting’ (feminine singular)
Translate these sentences. Highlight after the sentence to reveal the answer.
Hints: svai or suae means ‘if ‘.
- suae meddis moltaum herest, licitud. If the meddix wants to fine, it is allowed.
- svai niir deíkum pútíad, aktud. If the man can speak, he must act.
- Gavis Steniis úpsannam aasam dadíkatted. Gavis Steniis dedicated the building of the altar.
The verb ‘to be’
An important verb in any language – Oscan is no exception.
If you want more detail on verb forms, here’s a link to the relevant section of Buck.
This mosaic inscription might be a bit tough to read from the picture – but can you translate its inscription?
min(is) . heíi(s) . pak(ieís) . m(eddís) v(?) . íním . m(?) X(?) . ekík . pavmentúm . úpsannúm . dedens
Hightlight to reveal translation and notes:
Minis Heíis, son of Pakis, meddix v(?) and m(?) 10(?) gave the building of this pavement.
- íním is the Oscan for ‘and’
- ekík is the Oscan for ‘this’
- v and m X are abbreviations we don’t understand – perhaps the m X are ten magistrates?
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