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LPT Symbol Am I to infer that you doubt me?

Have we had a mis-understanding...?
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Ben mislere muslara pek kulak vermem; I don't pay much heed to gossip
(I don't much give my ear to mises and muses).

An Unusual Verb Form
Difficult to use; hard to avoid
Comparing 'mis' uses -- a chart
Truisms of mis
Spelling variations
When 'mis' is definite, not doubtful

Turkish has an unusual verb form that is hard to give a name to. It denotes an uncertainty about the truth of the sentence that it appears in, for example, I heard he was good in bed.

You can identify it by the presence of the three character suffix mis (and its variations...). Unfortunately, mis also appears in other circumstances, so it's not a unique identifier.

Some linguists have called it a "dubitative" tense, others an "inferential" tense, and the travel writer Mary Lee Settle has referred to it as "a verb tense for rumor and innuendo"! Well, they may all be right...

Let's illustrate it and then discuss it. Compare the following sentences...

The TurkishThe EnglishThe comments...
1) Geliyor.She is coming.You (the speaker) know it first hand...
2) Geldi.She came.You know it first hand...
3) Gelmisti.She had come.You know it first hand...
4) Geliyormus.I heard that she is coming.Was your source any good? Who told you?
5) Gelmis.Reportedly, she has come.Reportedly, huh? That sounds pretty official. I guess I should believe you...
6) Gelmismis.She had supposedly come.Are you being sarcastic with me? What you say sounds like a baseless rumor...

In sentences 1, 2, and 3, either the mis is not present at all or it is present -- but doesn't convey uncertainty. In those sentences, their isn't an inkling of doubt, inference, or rumor. In each case the speaker speaks from first hand, factual knowledge.

But in sentences at 4, 5, and 6, the mis form is present and does denote uncertainty -- and more. In those sentences, doubt begins to creep in, inferences are being made, and rumors are cropping up...

Click following for an example of
a full verb conjugation featuring
the -mis- verbal suffix.

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The mis suffix form is one of the most difficult to use correctly in Turkish, but it is used so much -- that it's hard to avoid. Are there any general rules to help understand the correct usage of this form? Well, yes, there are a few -- but they are better described as "truisms" than rules... For example:

Truisms of mis
1) The mis suffix is not always used to express doubt -- sometimes it just infers something. For example, a sentence which begins...
John mutlu imis
John is said to be pleased...
could continue...
(a) and he should be -- since he won the National Lottery!
(b) but I think he's hiding his real feelings.

Thus, depending on the "direction" the sentence takes after the use of imis, there is an expression of doubt -- only in case (b). In case (a), there is an expression of inference...

2) The mis (when used to convey doubt or inference) always refers to actions which are outside of the first-hand experience of the speaker -- that is, they are reported, alleged, or inferred.

3) There are cases in which the use of mis has nothing to do with either inference or doubt. [For example, mis can simply mean had as in...

SaygIlarInI arzetmek için, umumhaneye gitmisti;
He had gone to the brothel to pay his respects.
No doubt about it!

Do these truisms help much? Well, they helped us so we've passed them on...

BTW, since we couldn't think of a better name on our own, we decided to join those who call this 'thing' the Dubitative Tense. Our decision probably won't satisfy anyone -- least of all, us. But we had to give it a name so we could pick it up, glare at it, and work with it -- while we try to figure out how it works. We needed to call it something, so...we did.

The Turks call it the Belirsiz Tense -- the Indefinite or Indistinct Tense. We think that's pretty good too...and maybe, after all is said and done, we'll adopt that one. Decisions, decisions... (Ahm tard...All this hard thinkin' about real BIG subjects is takin' it's toll!)

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You know... this mis business needs more mulling over... (So there will be more dubitative [say it 5 times fast] thoughts to come!)

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Spelling variations of mis
Used in accordance with the rule of vowel harmony, the forms of mis are: mis itself, mIs, s, and mus.

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