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Article

Marianne Mithun

Distinctions of time are among the most common notions expressed in morphology cross-linguistically. But the inventories of distinctions marked in individual languages are also varied. Some languages have few if any morphological markers pertaining to time, while others have extensive sets. Certain categories do recur pervasively across languages, but even these can vary subtly or even substantially in their uses. And they may be optional or obligatory. The grammar of time is traditionally divided into two domains: tense and aspect. Tense locates situations in time. Tense markers place them along a timeline with respect to some point of reference, a deictic center. The most common reference point is the moment of speech. Many languages have just three tense categories: past for situations before the time of speech, present for those overlapping with the moment of speech, and future for those subsequent to the moment of speech. But many languages have no morphological tense, some have just two categories, and some have many more. In some languages, morphological distinctions correspond fairly closely to identifiable times. There may, for example, be a today (hodiernal) past that contrasts with a yesterday (hesternal) past. In other languages, tense distinctions are more fluid. A recent past might be interpreted as ‘some time earlier today’ for a sentence meaning ‘I ate a banana’, but ‘within the last few months’ for a sentence meaning ‘I returned from Africa’. Languages also vary in the mobility of the deictic center. In some languages tense distinctions are systematically calibrated with respect to the moment of speaking. In others, the deictic center may shift. It may be established by the matrix clause in a complex sentence. Or it may be established by a larger topic of discussion. Tense is most often a verbal category, because verbs generally portray the most dynamic elements of a situation, but a number of languages distinguish tense on nouns as well. Aspect characterizes the internal temporal structure of a situation. There may be different forms of a verb ‘eat’, for example, in sentences meaning ‘I ate lamb chops’, ‘I was eating lamb chops’, and ‘I used to eat lamb chops’, though all are past tense. They may pick out one phase of the situation, with different forms for ‘I began to eat’, ‘I was eating’, and ‘I ate it up’. They may make finer distinctions, with different forms for ‘I took a bite’, ‘I nibbled’, and ‘I kept eating’. Morphological aspect distinctions are usually marked on verbs, but in some languages they can be marked on nominals as well. In some languages, there is a clear separation between the two: tense is expressed in one part of the morphology, and aspect in another. But often a single marker conveys both: a single suffix might mark both past tense and progressive aspect in a sentence meaning ‘I was eating’, for example. A tense distinction may be made only in a particular aspect, and/or a certain aspect distinction marked only in a particular tense. Like other areas of grammar, tense and aspect systems are constantly evolving. The meanings of markers can shift over time, as speakers apply them to new contexts, and as new markers enter the system, taking over some of their functions. Markers can shift for example from aspect to tense, or from derivation to inflection. The gradualness of such developments underlies the cross-linguistic differences we find in tense and aspect categories. There is a rich literature on tense and aspect. As more is learned about the inventories of categories that exist in individual languages and the ways speakers deploy them, theoretical models continue to grow in sophistication.

Article

Verbal periphrases combine two verbal forms that share their arguments. One of the forms, [V2], lexically determines most of the argument structure of the whole construction, whereas the other, [V1], contributes the sort of abstract meaning usually associated with functional categories in the realms of tense, aspect, and modality and is often classified as a (semi-)auxiliary. In most cases, [V2] appears in a fixed nonfinite form (infinitive, gerund, or participle), whereas the inflection on [V1] is variable; the periphrastic pattern may also include a preposition introducing the nonfinite form. Research on verbal periphrases has concentrated on the differences between periphrastic patterns and free patterns of complementation or adjunction involving nonfinite clauses, on the syntactic analysis of those patterns, and on their semantic classification. The renewed interest in the field in recent years has two sources. On the one hand, research on grammaticalization has emphasized the importance of periphrases for our understanding of the way in which exponents for grammatical meanings emerge diachronically from lexical constructions. On the other hand, work in generative syntax (in the so-called cartographic approach) has taken periphrases as evidence for the postulated existence of highly articulated functional layers above a core verb phrase headed by a lexical verb. The bulk of nonpassive verbal periphrases either modify Aktionsart or express viewpoint aspect or relative tense. Research has revealed considerable differences in their inventory and in the status of cognate periphrases across Romance, as well as some parallel or convergent developments.

Article

Louise Esher, Franck Floricic, and Martin Maiden

The term finite morphology corresponds to the morphological expression of person and number and of tense, mood, and aspect in the verb. In Romance languages, these features are typically expressed “synthetically,” that is, in single word forms. These latter generally comprise a ‘root’, usually leftmost in the word, which conveys the lexical meaning of the verb, and material to the right of the root which conveys most of the grammatical meaning. But lexical and grammatical information is also characteristically ‘compressed’, or ‘conflated’ within the word, in that it can be impossible to tease apart exponents of the grammatical meanings or to extricate the expression of lexical meaning from that of grammatical meaning. The range of grammatical meanings encoded in Romance finite verb forms can vary considerably cross-linguistically. At the extremes, there are languages that have three tenses of the subjunctive, and others that have no synthetic future-tense form, and others that have two future-tense forms or no (synthetic) past-tense forms. There can also be extreme mismatches between meanings and the forms that express them: again, at the extremes, meanings may be present without formal expression, or forms may appear which correspond to no coherent meaning. Both for desinences and for patterns of root allomorphy, variation is observed with respect to the features expressed and their morphological exponence. While some categories of Latin finite synthetic verb morphology have been entirely lost, many forms are continued, with or without functional continuity. An innovation of many Romance varieties is the emergence of a new synthetic future and conditional from a periphrasis originally expressing deontic modality.

Article

This article is devoted to the description of perfect tenses in Romance. Perfects can be described as verbal forms which place events in the past with respect to some point of reference, and indicate that the event has some special relevance at the point of reference ; in that, they are opposed to past tenses, which localize an event in the past with respect to the moment of utterance. Romance is an interesting language family with respect to perfect tenses, because it features a set of closely related constructions, descending almost all from the same diachronic source yet differing in interesting ways among each other. Romance also provides us with a lesson in the difficulty of clearly pinning down and stating a single, obvious and generally agreed upon criterion of defining a perfect.

Article

While in phonology Middle Indo-Aryan (MIA) dialects preserved the phonological system of Old Indo-Aryan (OIA) virtually intact, their morphosyntax underwent far-reaching changes, which altered fundamentally the synthetic morphology of earlier Prākrits in the direction of the analytic typology of New Indo-Aryan (NIA). Speaking holistically, the “accusative alignment” of OIA (Vedic Sanskrit) was restructured as an “ergative alignment” in Western IA languages, and it is precisely during the Late MIA period (ca. 5th–12th centuries ce) when we can observe these matters in statu nascendi. There is copious literature on the origin of the ergative construction: passive-to-ergative reanalysis; the ergative hypothesis, i.e., that the passive construction of OIA was already ergative; and a compromise stance that neither the former nor the latter approach is fully adequate. In the spirit of the complementary view of these matters, more attention has to be paid to various pathways in which typological changes operated over different kinds of nominal, pronominal and verbal constituents during the crucial MIA period. (a) We shall start with the restructuring of the nominal case system in terms of the reduction of the number of cases from seven to four. This phonologically motivated process resulted ultimately in the rise of the binary distinction of the “absolutive” versus “oblique” case at the end of the MIA period). (b) The crucial role of animacy in the restructuring of the pronominal system and the rise of the “double-oblique” system in Ardha-Māgadhī and Western Apabhramśa will be explicated. (c) In the verbal system we witness complete remodeling of the aspectual system as a consequence of the loss of earlier synthetic forms expressing the perfective (Aorist) and “retrospective” (Perfect) aspect. Early Prākrits (Pāli) preserved their sigmatic Aorists (and the sigmatic Future) until late MIA centuries, while on the Iranian side the loss of the “sigmatic” aorist was accelerated in Middle Persian by the “weakening” of s > h > Ø. (d) The development and the establishment of “ergative alignment” at the end of the MIA period will be presented as a consequence of the above typological changes: the rise of the “absolutive” vs. “oblique” case system; the loss of the finite morphology of the perfective and retrospective aspect; and the recreation of the aspectual contrast of perfectivity by means of quasinominal (participial) forms. (e) Concurrently with the development toward the analyticity in grammatical aspect, we witness the evolution of lexical aspect (Aktionsart) ushering in the florescence of “serial” verbs in New Indo-Aryan. On the whole, a contingency view of alignment considers the increase in ergativity as a by-product of the restoration of the OIA aspectual triad: Imperfective–Perfective–Perfect (in morphological terms Present–Aorist–Perfect). The NIA Perfective and Perfect are aligned ergatively, while their finite OIA ancestors (Aorist and Perfect) were aligned accusatively. Detailed linguistic analysis of Middle Indo-Aryan texts offers us a unique opportunity for a deeper comprehension of the formative period of the NIA state of affairs.

Article

“Infinitival clauses” are constructions with a clausal status whose predicate is an infinitive. Romance infinitive clauses are mostly dependent clauses and can be divided into the following types: argumental infinitival clauses (such as subject and object clauses, the latter also including indirect interrogatives), predicative infinitival clauses, infinitival adjunct clauses, infinitival relative clauses, and nominalized infinitive clauses (with a determiner). More rarely, they appear as independent (main) clauses (root infinitival clauses) of different types, which usually have a marked character. Whereas infinitival adjunct clauses are generally preceded by prepositions, which can be argued to be outside the infinitival clause proper (i.e., the clause is part of a prepositional phrase), Romance argumental infinitive clauses are often introduced by complementizers that are diachronically derived from prepositions, mostly de/di and a/à. In most Romance languages, the infinitive itself is morphologically marked by an ending containing the morpheme {r} but lacks tense and agreement morphemes. However, some Romance languages have developed an infinitive that can be inflected for subject agreement (which is found in Portuguese, Galician, and Sardinian and also attested in Old Neapolitan). Romance languages share the property of English and other languages to leave the subject of infinitive clauses unexpressed (subject/object control, arbitrary control, and optional control) and also have raising and accusative-and-infinitive constructions. A special property of many Romance languages is the possibility of overtly expressing a nominative subject in infinitival clauses, mostly in postverbal position. The tense of the infinitive clause is usually interpreted as simultaneous or anterior to that of the matrix clause, but some matrix predicates and infinitive constructions trigger a posteriority/future reading. In addition, some Romance infinitive clauses are susceptible to constraints concerning aspect and modality.

Article

Chinese has been known to be a language without grammaticalized tense. However, this statement does not mean that native speakers of Chinese cannot tell the temporal location of a Chinese sentence. In addition to temporal phrases, which often are considered to identify the temporal location of a Chinese sentence, the aspectual value of a sentence, either situation aspect or viewpoint aspect, plays a significant role in this issue. Basically, a telic event receives a past interpretation unless explicitly specified otherwise whereas an atelic event gets a present reading until overridden. In addition, there is a possibility, based on examples where the past has an effect on the whole discourse in Chinese instead of single sentences, that tense is a discourse-level feature in Chinese. On the other hand, Chinese has a rich aspectual system, including four aspect markers: perfective le, experiential guò, durative zhe, and progressive zài. The former two are perfective markers and the latter are imperfective markers. Perfective le interacts with eventualities of different situation types to yield different readings. Going with an accomplishment, perfective le receives a completive reading or terminative reading. Presenting an achievement, perfective le gets a completive reading. Perfective le plus an activity forms an incomplete sentence. Together with a state, perfective le induces an inchoative reading. Most of the theories that explain the diverse readings of perfective le resort to the obvious, differentiating point in the temporal schema of a situation: either the (natural) final endpoint or the initial point. Experiential guò has several semantic properties, including at least one occurrence, a class meaning, discontinuity, compatibility only with recurrable situations, and temporal independence. There are two major accounts for the semantics of experiential guò: the temporal quantification account and the terminability as the sole inherent feature account. For the former, experiential guò is considered a temporal quantifier and all the properties follow from the semantic properties of a quantifier. For the latter, terminability is argued to be the sole inherent semantic property for experiential guò and all the properties are derived from discontinuity. The semantics of the two imperfective makers are less complicated. It is generally accepted that progressive zài presents an unbounded, ongoing event but that durative zhe introduces a resultative state. One possible further semantic distinction between progressive zài and durative zhe is that the former has an instant reading whereas the latter has an interval reading. Moreover, the rhetorical function of durative zhe needs to be considered so that a satisfactory explanation for the V1 zhe V2 construction can be achieved.