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If context is needed, please consult this previous question.

So, there's a bunch of verbs related to "持っ" but how can any of them evolve to 持った?

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It's the past tense form of 持つ. 持った = "owned; used to own". I think you should probably go through a lesson of how Japanese verb conjugation works in general. Here's a really good one: japanese.about.com/od/grammarlessons/a/031101a.htm – Ataraxia Jun 18 '14 at 11:56
@Ataraxia This was officially the most ridiculous question I could make! Thanks for pointing out 持つ – Cubo Jun 18 '14 at 12:04
Haha no problem! Are you teaching yourself Japanese? If so it's an understandable mistake. Japanese verb forms are really confusing if you don't have formal instruction on them. – Ataraxia Jun 18 '14 at 12:06
"owned; used to own" is 持っていた, not 持った. – l'électeur Jun 18 '14 at 13:48
@Ataraxia, yes, self-learner. But for time enough for not making such a blunder :) This was actually part of a previous question, I think the general context off that confused me... – Cubo Jun 18 '14 at 14:21
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The past tense ~た attaches to the 連用形 "continuative form" of verbs, which for consonant stem verbs is formed by adding -i- to the stem, and for vowel stem verbs is formed by adding nothing.

For vowel stem verbs, this is fairly simple:

    寝る       ne-ru   →     寝た    ne-ta
    見る       mi-ru   →     見た    mi-ta

For consonant stem verbs, it's more complicated. Depending on which consonant the stem ends with, we find an additional set of sound changes:

    書く      kak-u    →   *書きた   kak-i-ta    →    書いた  ka-i-ta 
    脱ぐ      nug-u    →   *脱ぎた   nug-i-ta    →    脱いだ  nu-i-da 
    話す    hanas-u    →    話した hanas-i-ta
    持つ      mot-u    →   *持ちた   mot-i-ta    →    持った   mot-ta 
    死ぬ      sin-u    →   *死にた   sin-i-ta    →    死んだ   sin-da 
    運ぶ    hakob-u    →   *運びた hakob-i-ta    →    運んだ hakon-da 
    噛む      kam-u    →   *噛みた   kam-i-ta    →    噛んだ   kan-da 
    やる      yar-u    →   *やりた   yar-i-ta    →    やった   yat-ta 
    言う       iw-u    →   *言いた    iw-i-ta    →    言った    it-ta 

Note that /w/ disappears before all vowels except /a/, so iw-u is 言う, iw-anai is 言わない, etc.

Three otherwise regular consonant stem verbs are irregular here:

    行く       ik-u    →   *行きた    ik-i-ta    →    行った    it-ta 
    問う      tow-u    →   *問いた   tow-i-ta    →    問うた   too-ta 
    請う      kow-u    →   *請いた   kow-i-ta    →    請うた   koo-ta

These last two reflect western sound changes, while the regular verbs reflect eastern sound changes.

And our irregular verbs are irregular as usual:

    する       suru    →     した      si-ta
    来る       kuru    →     来た      ki-ta

The same changes apply when adding て, たり, たら, or たって rather than た.

In this answer, the * symbol indicates that a form is considered incorrect in Modern Japanese, and is included only to show you how the forms "evolved" (as you asked).

share|improve this answer
The vowel/consonant stem dichotomy is at first glance a useful one here, but looking at やる being posited as an example of a consonant-stem verb I get the feeling that やる can only be identified as such by working backwards from the past form; otherwise what would distinguish it from 寝る and 見る? – chigusa Jun 20 '14 at 5:24
@chigusa Vowel stem verbs always have i or e as their final vowels, never a. – snailboat Jun 20 '14 at 9:27

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