Translation:The books are lost
Consistency problems again - sometimes it requires the have been construction, sometimes it forbids it. If it can be either or, both should be accepted for all sentences. I spend way more time trying to second guess what this wants for the English translation than I do actually learning the Swahili.
Hmm, that sounds more like an unmentioned person lost them ... so you'd probably use the passive causative form vimepotezwa for that
-potea = to get lost, to go missing -poteza = to lose (ie. to cause to go missing) -potezwa = to be lost (ie. to be caused to go missing)
Oh, just thought about it again and yeah, I think you're right. My first interpretation of your sentence wasn't the one you meant. I guess you meant that as in "have been in the state of being 'lost'" so, I guess that's right. -potea means to enter that state, not to be in that state, so that's why the perfect is used to indicate being in the state, but if that state was entered into in the past, then as well as being in that state now, the books have been in the state of "lost" since they entered it.
Does that make any sense? I haven't slept for a long time.
I must confess, I couldn't follow this explanation.
My understanding (from the lessons, as I remember them at least) is that the "-me-" infix refers to the recent past, as opposed to "-li-" which refers to more distance past. The distinction is not clarified nor is there mention about continued state, etc. (again, such as I remember).
As someone who also entered "The books have been lost" using the formulaic "have been" to mean the more subtle "The books have been RECENTLY lost," I ask: What is the correct interpretation?
I don't think I fully understand the distinction of these two past tenses.
In general, I believe you are correct about the distinction between "-me-" and "-li-." In Swahili, there is no adjective equivalent to the English word "lost." There is no one-to-one translation of "The books are lost." So instead, they use "The books have been lost (vimepotea)" to express the same meaning.