Volume 31, No.1 - Spring 1985
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1985 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


The Pennsylvania State University

The half-participle is a specific Lithuanian and Latvian innovation according to Ambrazas, 1979, 69. Used only appositionally it has only nominative forms. Examples are Lith. nom. sg. masc. i-da-mas, fem. ei-da-mà, nom. pi. masc. ei-da-mì, fem. i-da-mos 'going.' It is commonly thought that the -m- element derives from the present passive participle and that the -da- element derives from the present stem suffix *-dho- found in such verbs as Lith. vérdamas 'cooking' (as opposed to the infinitive vìrti 'to cook'). From such forms the suffix -dama- was extracted which was generalized to other verbs. Although the -d- suffix is not productive in contemporary Lithuanian, it is possible that at an earlier time it was present in other verbs, cf. Lith. pūti 'to rot, to decay' beside Gk. púthō 'to cause to rot.' Otrębski, 1956, 272, on the basis of OCS ido 'I go,' jado 'I travel' has proposed that at one time there existed for Lithuanian iti  'to go,' jóti 'to ride' a 1st sg. pres. *eidō and *jādō from which the half-participles idamas and jódamas were derived. Ambrazas, 1979, 69, objects, however, that the appearance and the loss of such forms as *eidō beside the well retained old athematics like eimì 'I go,' and the later forms with the suffix -n-, cf. contemporary einù 'I go,' is hardly thinkable. In 1942, 205-206, Stang considered the -d- a hiatus filler, although he himself realized some of the difficulties and thought that in the distant past of the Baltic languages there may have been a special verbal flexional element -d-. The appearance of the -d- was explained by Bech, 1971, 40-41, as having its origin in the reduplicating present tense of verbs like déti 'to put,' dúoti 'to give,' 1st sg. pres. dedù, dúodu. Ambrazas, 1979, 69, writes that notwithstanding the fact that the present passive participle dúodamas 'being given' is homonymous with the half-participle there is no tendency to confuse the two forms cf. (pres. psv. prt.) dúodamas imk 'bing given (something) take' and (half-prt.) dúodamas vìsą turtą išdalýsi 'giving, you will divide up all the wealth.' Hofmann, 1970, 204, suggested that the -d- of the half-participle is somehow connected with the -d- of the suffix -dav-. He gives several examples from DP which, in his opinion, demonstrate that the usual view according to which the suffix -dav- could denote only a repeated action is wrong, e.g., kimš-davo-s ir verž-davo-s spausdamies 'they pushed and jammed crowding each other' (speaking of the crowd at lake Gennesaret [Luke 5.1]) which is a single action, durative, not a habitual action. One can think of cases where the imperfect denotes the secondary action just like the half-participle, according to Hofmann.

According to Ambrazas, 1979, 69, it is hardly to be doubted that the origin of the -d- in the half-participle is connected with the -d- in suffix *-dav-ā, the causative-iteratives in Lith. -dyti, -dinti, -dinoti, Latv. -dit, -dinât and present forms with a secondary -d-, e.g., Lith. mérdėti 'to be dying,' skéldėti 'to be cracked,' Latv. škindêt 'to ring.' Ambrazas, 1979, 70, suggests that maybe it is unnecessary to push the creation of the half-participles into the distant past of the Baltic languages and to connect it with the disappearance of verbs with the present stem in *-dho-. Taking part in its creation may have been verbs with the secondary present stem in -d- (e.g., Lith. skaũda 'hurts, aches,' mérda 'dies, is dying,' sverda 'staggers, reels,' skélda 'splits, is split') which have a stative meaning tending towards an active use of the *-mo- participles. Such passive participles are occasionally used with a meaning which is close to that of the half-participles, e.g., (Bretkūnas' Hymnal LXXIIII [124]):

Numirre     ir         tas     bagotas     /     Waitodams     irgi     skaudamas 
died          even     that    rich                 moaning         and    aching.

'Even that rich man died moaning and in pain.' Waitodams 'moaning' (for modern vaitódamas) is a half-participle of vaitóti 'to moan,' whereas skáudamas 'aching, in pain' is the nom. sg. masc. present passive participle of skaudéti 'to ache, to be in pain.' One notes the difference in formation of waitodams and skaudamas, but the similarity in usage.

Ambrazas notes, 1979, 70, that although the circumstances of the formation of the half-participle are still not completely clear the relationship to the present passive participle is important from the point of view of historical syntax, since it reinforces the notion that the participle was originally indifferent as to diathesis. Again I would assume an original intransitive active participle in *-m- which began to be interpreted as passive when the new active voice was formed.

According to Ambrazas, 1979, 70, this new participle was used in order to differentiate between various functions of the participle. The newly formed suffix -dama- took on only an appositional function, whereas the attributive and predicative functions retained the old forms. Ambrazas objects to Hofmann's 1970, 204, statement that the Lithuanian and Latvian half-participle is an unusual and impractical innovation.


Ambrazas, V. 1979. Lietuvių kalbos dalyvių istorinė sintaksė. Vilnius, Mokslas.
Bech, G. 1971. Beiträage zur genetischen indogermanischen Verbalmorphologie. Copenhagen.
Hofmann, Erich, 1970. Das Halbpartizip in Daukšas Postille. Pp. 198-205 in Donum Balticum, ed. by Velta Rūke-Dravina. Stockholm, Almqvist and Wiksell.
Otrębski, J. 1956. Gramatyka języka litewskiego. Vol. 3, Warsaw, Państwowe wydawnictwo naukowe.