Perfect and perfective aspects in passive voice in German and English

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Chigch, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. Chigch Senior Member

    Nagoya, Japan
    Mongolian
    Moderator note: Split from this thread.


    This is exactly what I have thought. However, the passive can also be a present perfect ("noun that/which has/have been done"), besides the present and past tense.
    But my guess is that
    "The car stolen was mine" can only correspond to the past passive "The car that was stolen was mine", because no adverbs and no more context is there; only the past auxiliary "was" (the italicized one before "mine") leads us to predict that the hidden tense of the participle "stolen" is also a past one.

    I am, however, not sure whether sentences like "The car stolen is mine" are technically correct and whether it can mean "The car that was stolen is mine" or "The car that is stolen is mine". I know the latter sentence (or interpretation) is a bit awkward without an adverb like "always".

    I don't know whether my guess goes together with native speakers', however.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 26, 2014
  2. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Deutsch
    I'd say it's perfective in any case, so The car stolen is mine stands for The car that has been stolen is mine whereas The car stolen was mine stands for The car that had been stolen was mine.

    This doesn't affect the possibility for eventive that has been stolen to be replaced with stative that is stolen and for eventive that had been stolen to be replaced with stative ​that was stolen.
     
  3. Dan2

    Dan2 Senior Member

    US
    US English
    I think that technically "The car stolen is mine" is fine, and can have either of the two meanings you suggest, depending on context. Note that an overly simple sentence devoid of context, like "I go", can be so vague as to be difficult to interpret, but "I go" is unquestionably grammatical. Likewise I think the only thing "wrong" with "The car stolen is mine" is that it forces the reader to supply appropriate context. (I guess that's what you mean by "awkward".)
    It's not clear to me how broad a range of cases your "in any case" is meant to cover. Certainly if you allow me to add context, what you say is false. For ex., "The car stolen yesterday is/was mine" can be interpreted only as "The car that was stolen ..."; a perfective interpretation is impossible. But even without further context, "The car stolen was mine" seems to me to favor a simple-past passive interpretation.

    Furthermore, not only is an understood passive not limited to a perfective or pluperfect interpretation, as you suggest, but it seems not to be limited to a past interpretation at all. If you're not convinced by my "The car stolen is always mine", consider:
    When water is frozen, the ice produced always has volume greater than that of the unfrozen water
    Here the only natural interpretation of "the ice produced" is "the ice that is produced".
    I'm sorry, I don't understand this comment, in particular "possibility to be replaced"; "replaced" in what sense? (If this is relevant, note that all of the passives I've been considering correspond to the German werden passive.)
     
  4. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Deutsch
    The past tense is one way in which perfectiveness can be expressed in a relative clause in relation to the main clause.

    In any case, the car stolen is "short" for the car having been stolen (perfectiveness). It is not short for the car being stolen (concurrence).

    Pursuant to the grammatical rules of the British variant, having been stolen + just/recently/lately etc. may be rendered as a relative clause in the present perfect tense: that has just/recently/lately been stolen. Americans, as far as I know, tend to use the past tense here in order to express the perfectiveness of the relative clause in relation to the main clause.

    Pursuant to grammar rules on both shores of the Atlantic, having been stolen yesterday/five days ago/last weekend/on 3 January 2014 may be rendered as a relative clause in the past tense: that was stolen yesterday/five days ago/last weekend/on 3 January 2014. The past tense is used here to express the perfectiveness of the relative clause in relation to the main clause.




    the ice produced is short for the ice having been produced. Without having been produced, ice is in no position to have any, let alone greater, volume. So the ice produced may be rendered as the ice that has been produced or, depending on context, as the ice that was produced yesterday (see above re past tense, with certain temporal adverbials, conveying the perfectiveness of the relative clause in relation to the main clause).

    The eventive the ice that has been produced may be replaced with the stative the ice that is produced (see what I wrote in #17 re eventive vs stative).

    The eventive passive voice is of course possible for a sequence of events:
    The ice that is produced (then, i.e. once produced) has volume greater than that of the unfrozen water.
    This may well be a natural interpretation of the ice produced, implying a sequence of events in which the greater volume comes after the production of ice, but it's not a grammatical analysis of the ice produced.

    I believe the expression past participle is itself indicative of the perfectiveness ("pastness") it expresses. It is clearly different from the present participle, which expresses concurrence. The only exception is the eventive passive voice, where the past participle has got nothing perfective about it. It is perfective, though, in the stative passive voice.

    And the past participle is perfective when used attributively, which this post is about.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  5. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Has been stolen is perfect not perfective. Those are completely different aspects which German does not distinguish but English distinguishes very scrupulously. Perfective is was stolen.

    I agree with Dan that you seem to confuse the stative vs. eventive distinction of German passive voices with the aspect distinction between present and present perfect in English.

    I would even say that has been produced has more of a stative connotation than is produced (=wird produziert not ist produziert as Dan remarked).
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  6. Schimmelreiter

    Schimmelreiter Senior Member

    Deutsch
    Bernd, my point is that the attributive past participle does not convey concurrence. Is or isn't this true?


    I used perfective in the sense of vorzeitig (cf. participium perfecti).
    I used concurrent in the sense of gleichzeitig.

    Of the difference there is between perfect and perfective, I am well aware (provided my use of perfective is admissible :confused:).

    He came recently is perfective. Are you saying He has come recently is not?


    PS
    Please advise, unless my use of perfective and concurrent is admissible, as to what, in English grammar, the notions of vorzeitig and gleichzeitig are called.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  7. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    I am surprised that you classify "was stolen" as having a perfective aspect per definition, as Simple Past in English (and the Scandinavian languages) is normally aspect neutral. In most cases it is impossible to decide if an action expressed in Simple Past was of a durative/repetitive character or a single, completed action. In the sentence "they ate well at the hotel" both interpretations are possible. It is usually the context, or som additional words in the sentence that give us the clue. Sometimes the verb itself suggests a typically perfective or imperfective action (for example break vs sleep), but the tense itself does not say us anything about the aspect.
     
  8. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Not completely aspect neutral because you have the opposition was stolen and was being stolen. But that doesn't matter. I didn't mean to say that was stolen was always perfective but that if you want to express perfective meaning, you use simple past and not present perfect. This does not preclude that the simple past might also be applicable to other aspects.
     
  9. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    My point, and if I understood to correctly also Dan's, is that the English ppl. has an aspect connotation (=perfect) but no tense connotation. In my mind you are mislead by your instincts as a German speaker by jumping straight to the question of contemporaneity (Gleichzeitigkeit), anteriority (Vorzeitigkeit) and posteriority (Nachzeitigkeit) because German does not separate aspects from tenses. In English there is a conceptual separation between the two although of course there is some degree of interdependence.
     
  10. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    Does it mean that English Present Perfect has an imperfective aspect?
     
  11. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    English has no imperfective aspect. It has two orthogonal aspect distinctions progressive vs. non-progressive (the latter includes habitual and perfective) and perfect vs. non-perfect.

    Languages with imperfective contrast progressive and habitual on ones side with perfective on the other side.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2014
  12. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    Would the following sentence be correct in English? While the cruel beating adult is laughing, the poor beaten boy is crying aloud. If it is correct, then it seems to me that 'beaten' means 'being beaten' (concurrent in SR's language) and not 'that was beaten' (perfective according to SR's terms). Languages like Ancient Greek possessed a passive present participle, modern languages must sometimes use past participle for this function, if my example is correct.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  13. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I understand simply "beaten" neither as "being beather" nor as "that was beaten" but as "that has been beaten". So, it is not perfective but perfect.

    BTW: The sentence sounds odd because of the porgressive in the second clause (the poor beaten boy is crying aloud), but that is a different matter.
     
  14. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    Actually, in my example I tried to describe two contemporary actions (one active: beating, one passive: being beaten): the poor boy does not cry after he was beaten, but while he is being beaten (er heult nicht nachdem er geschlagen wurde, sondern waehrend er geschlagen wird). My point is that in some cases, the English (and possibly also the German) past participle does convey ''concurrence'' - according to SR's definition, but contrary to his opinion.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  15. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I agree with Dan's opinion in #3 that the past participle, contrary to what its name suggests, does not have an unambiguous tempus connotation. The only unambiguous characteristics of the adjectival use (i.e. when not part of a periphrastic verb form) are 1) passive voice and 2) perfect aspect, i.e. 1) the referent of the attributed noun is the patient of the action and 2) the property described by the adjective is the state the patient is in as a result of the action (which may have been completed or may be ongoing) and not the event of being subjected to the action itself.
     
  16. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    @ berndf
    > ...the action which may have been completed or may be ongoing <
    To me, if the action is ongoing, there is no perfect(ive) aspect in that participle. It just takes the place and the function of a (in modern western languages non-existing) present passive participle. Ancient-Greek example: philoùmenos = that is being loved.
     
  17. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I would prefer, if you didn't use perfect(ive). The similarity of the terms perfect and perfective is most unfortunate but the these aspects are really very different and mixing they creates an unmanagable confusion.

    What the perfect aspect describes is the state of having been beaten and not the action of being beaten, irrespective of point in time. The only context where it loses its perfect aspect is in the passive voice where the aspect is determined by the form of the auxiliary verb (the boy is/is being/has been beaten).
     
  18. Kevin Beach

    Kevin Beach Senior Member

    Regardless of the various analyses in subsequent posts, I can't help feeling that the passage quote in the OP contains a misplaced adjectival participle. It should be "stolen car", not "car stolen".

    In that case, it can just as easily be "The stolen car is mine" or "The stolen car was mine", because "stolen" could refer to a theft either in the past or in the present. However, if the speaker was talking of previous ownership, then he/she would say "The Stolen car had been mine".
     
  19. Dan2

    Dan2 Senior Member

    US
    US English
    An editor concerned with "style" might call stolen "misplaced" in this sentence, and I would agree with you if your claim were simply that "car stolen" is less common or less expected than "stolen car". However I find the sentence fully grammatical; what's under discussion here is how to interpret "stolen", given this word order (whether or not you feel the word order is optimal). You may find less to object to in this construction if we substitute other words:
    The solution offered (by the the opposition) was widely criticized. (Even without the "by" phrase, I prefer "solution offered" to "offered solution".)
    When water is frozen, the ice produced is ... (Repeated from post 3; I wouldn't say "produced ice" here.)

    In any case, this is not a typical WRF "what is the best way to phrase this?" discussion! :)

    I also wanted to say that I find bearded man's "beaten" sentence in post 12 difficult to interpret for reasons unrelated to the issues under discussion here. If I understand properly what he wishes to investigate, I'd suggest considering the word "affected" in the alternative sentence,
    While legislators postpone discussing possible modifications to the existing law, affected citizens are suffering.
     
  20. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    is it really possible to separate the concept of "Perfect-ness" and "perfective-ness" so strictly as you do? Isn't the action described by the means of a Perfect tense also perfective in most cases?
     
  21. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I won't see how. "He finished" describes an atomic event in time (it occurred and then is was over), i.e. perfective, while "He has finished" describes an event as having lasting consequences, i.e. perfect.
     
  22. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    From the point of view of classification used in the Slavic languages both belong to the same class of perfectiveness, and their meaning is the same. Any lasting consequences are yet to be seen in future.
     
  23. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    To my knowledge, modern Slavic languages have no perfect aspect.
     
  24. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    Perfect aspect and perfective aspect can be marked independently of each other which suggests that they should be strictly separated. If the perfect aspect in English is translated to perfective aspect in Slavic languages, it only means that Slavic languages are unable to express the meaning of the perfect aspect within their tense/aspect systems.
     
  25. jasio Senior Member

    Meaning expressing current consequences of past actions?

    What about: "Czy już zjadłeś obiad?" ('Have you eaten dinner yet?')? In fact it's not a question about eating as such, it's a question if you're still hungry or free to do something. Grammatically, past tense of perfective verb is used, but semantically it's perfect, if I understand correctly your opinion.
     
  26. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    But "The Romans ate flat bread" does not.
    Both verbs are grammatically the same. The logically inferred perfective meaning of "he finished" has nothing to do with the tense.
    At the same time both "He finished the work with the car yesterday" and "He has finished the work with the car" mean that the car is ready, and that there is no more work to do.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
  27. bearded man

    bearded man Senior Member

    Milan
    Italian
    Having read the discussion about perfective and perfect aspects, I would now like to go back to my example in #12. From my point of view, if it is true that the participle 'beaten' in it is equivalent to 'being beaten' (a past participle having the function of a present passive participle), then the discussion on whether the aspect is perfect or perfective is meaningless, and that is why I wrote perfect(ive). My intention was by no means to increase confusion, but rather to show that both perfect and perfective refer to the past, and I see no reason to see a 'perfect/perfective aspect' in an action that is taking place in the present.
     
  28. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    There is no grammatical marking that this is what what you meant. It can only be deduced pragmatically. That is the difference to languages with perfect aspect marking, as Myšlenka explained.
     
  29. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    In the same way there is no grammatical marking of perfectiveness in English Simple Past, see post #26.
     
  30. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    What are you trying to demonstrate with this example?
     
  31. Chigch Senior Member

    Nagoya, Japan
    Mongolian
    I understand this to be illustrating that tense is irrelevant with perfectiveness in English.
    Note that both sentences can convey perfectiveness or completeness of the action, regardless of the tense, the present perfect and the simple past.
     
  32. Chigch Senior Member

    Nagoya, Japan
    Mongolian
    Or, you can understand like this: Perfectiveness in English (and probably in other languages as well) has to do more with the lexical properties of verbs than with the grammatical things, say, tense.

    I finished/have finished my job. vs. I love/respect Marry.

    In the former sentence, there is an endpoint with the action, hence perfective, whereas in the latter there is no endpoint, hence imperfective.

     
  33. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    It refers to the text above: "The logically inferred perfective meaning of "he finished" has nothing to do with the tense."
    The same applies to the verb in sentence in present perfect.
    Perfectiveness is logically inferred in English, not expressed by grammatical means. It is partly inferred from the lexical meaning, and partly from the context.
    This is in contrast to imperfectiveness which is coupled to the grammatical form of the "continuous tense".
     
  34. jasio Senior Member

    Well... it depends, on what did you (and myšlenka) exactly mean when writing "express". ;)

    I've heard than in Eskimo languages there are dozens words meaning various types of snow and ice. I cannot express their meaning, primarily because I'm not able to distinguish among them and secondly, I do not have words or phrases precise enough neither in Polish nor any other language I speak. On the other hand, they have quite a bunch of words for seals, which allow them to name a pray including sex, age, weight etc. I cannot express it either, but if I were a naval biologist, I would probably be able to do so - I would just need to use more than one word, that's all.

    Returning to the original perfect/perfective aspect: if we want to express a perfect aspect, we use perfective verbs. We can express it, although perhaps we cannot differentiate between perfective+perfect and perfective-perfect using grammatical tools only. To judge it, a minimal pair would be handy, so that we could think, how to express the difference in a Slavic language.

    BTW, is perfect a subset of perfective, or is it something entirely separate? I'm apparently missing something, and my thinking seems to be bound by my mother tongue, so I would be grateful for examples.
     
  35. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    From Wikipedia: "The perfect is a verb form found in certain languages. The exact meaning of the term differs depending on which language is being described, but in principle the perfect is used to indicate that an action or circumstance occurred earlier than the present time (or other time under consideration), often focusing attention on the resulting state rather than on the occurrence itself. "

    "The perfective aspect (abbreviated PFV), sometimes called the aoristic aspect,[1] is a grammatical aspect used to describe a situation viewed as a simple whole—a unit without internal structure.
    The perfective aspect is equivalent to the aspectual component of past perfective forms variously called "aorist", "preterite", and "simple past". Although the essence of the perfective is an event seen as a whole, most languages which have a perfective use it for various similar semantic roles, such as momentary events and the onsets or completions of events, all of which are single points in time and thus have no internal structure. Other languages instead have separate momentane, inchoative, or cessative aspects for those roles, with or without a general perfective.
    The perfective aspect is distinguished from the imperfective aspect, which presents an event as having internal structure (such as ongoing or habitual actions), and from the prospective aspect, which describes impending action.
    Aspects such as the perfective should not be confused with tense; perfective aspect can apply to events situated in the past, present, or future."

    "English has neither a simple perfective nor imperfective aspect; see imperfective and perfective for some basic English equivalents of this distinction."
     
  36. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Yes, I accept, there is no verb form in English marked for perfectiveness; nor is there any form marked form imperfectiveness: The continuous form expresses progressiveness, not imperfectiveness.

    On the other hand, there are verb forms strictly marked form perfectness and the mere non-usage of the grammaticalized aspects in English (perfectness and progressiveness) make the unmarked, simple, verb forms “lean” towards one of the complementary aspects: Present tense towards the habitual aspect (he lies=he is a habitual liar in contrast to he is lying=he is currently lying) and the simple past towards the perfective aspect. But I accept, this tendency can easily be offset by context.

    In German (to return to the topic of the thread), aspect marking has gone a different route: In colloquial language and most non-literary registers of standard language the perfect verb form has de-facto replaced the simple past except for a very limited number of verbs (haben, sein, werden, modals and maybe a hand full of others). As a consequence, German perfect verb forms have lost their perfect meaning and the present perfect expresses pastness and the past perfect expresses anteriority in the past (i.e. tense and not aspect). In most registers of the language, grammatical aspect marking has therefore disappeared altogether (except some periphrastic continuous forms like Ich bin dabei, meine Koffer zu packen). As a consequence of the rareness of the simple past, it has assumed a very strong perfective meaning in the registers where it is still used for other that the few mentioned verbs: If you say er beendete gestern die Arbeit an dem Wagen instead of er hat die Arbeit an dem Wagen beendet it is clear that the statement is about the action of him finishing his work (packing up his tools, washing his hands, etc) and not a about the any posterior state of the car not being worked on.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2014
  37. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    It seems that we agree on that.

    Can't an action be progressive and imperfective at the same time?
    Progressiveness is actually one of the features of the imperfective aspect. I can't see how these two can be in conflict.


    How do you explain that both 1. and 3. can be true?

    Actually the classification of an action expressed by means of a Simple past in English depends on the lexical meaning itself, context, use of additional qualifiers and syntax of the sentence. The Slavic verbs are very clearly marked lexically as perfective or imperfective. The Germanic verbs are also marked, but not so clearly, and there are many verbs aspect neutral.
    Examples:
    "He understood everything what the teacher said" can be both perfective and imperfective.
    "He understood everything what the teacher had said" is rather perfective, but can be also understood in an imperfective way.
    "He understood everything what the teacher was saying" is imperfective
    "He suddenly understood everything what the teacher had said" is perfective.

    "He killed the wolf yesterday" is clearly perfective
    "He killed wolves as a pastime when he was young" is imperfective.
     
  38. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    A car can be red and loud at the same time. This doesn't mean that red and loud mean the same.
    Habitual is another feature of imperfective but is in explicit opposition to continuous (see my example above) which expresses progressiveness in English.
    Where is the problem.:confused: 1. is about perfectiveness and 3. about perfectness.

    Two things:
    1) You see, imperfective is totally alien to Germanic language event as concept, let alone as grammatical category. He understand notions like progressive and habitual but not imperfective. The correct usage of the French imperfect is e.g. still a major problem for me despite all my studies in grammar theory.

    2) The sentence "He killed wolves as a pastime when he was young" is possible but unusual. You would prefer a form that is marked to habitualness here: "He used to kill wolves as a pastime when he was young". Hence, the simple past "leans" towards a perfective interpretation.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2014
  39. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    If you look at what I wrote, I said that the Slavic languages cannot express the perfect aspect within their tense/aspect systems. It is in other words not an inherent part of the Slavic system, but that does not mean that Slavic speakers are unable to express the general meaning in some way or the other.

    They are different aspects and not sub-aspects of each other. The perfect has a flavour of anteriority so it is in some sense the past of a temporal reference point. The perfective on the other hand is not anchored in time the same way. Check out Spanish if you want to see a language which distinguishes both perfect/non-perfect and perfective/imperfective.
     
  40. Chigch Senior Member

    Nagoya, Japan
    Mongolian
    Did you mean that the reference time is the past, not the present?
     
  41. myšlenka Senior Member

    Norwegian
    The time of reference for the perfect aspect can be the past, the present or the future. Maybe some languages uses an even more fine-grained system, but the point is that the perfect marks anteriority to this time of reference.
     
  42. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Careful. The perfect aspect as such does not mark anteriority. It is an aspect not a tense. In German, the perfect verb forms morphed into a tense expressing anteriority. But this is not true for English. If we want to analyse the difference in usage between German and English, as we are trying to to in this thread, we should respect the conceptual difference between aspect and tense.
     
  43. Chigch Senior Member

    Nagoya, Japan
    Mongolian
    I am not sure if I understand what you mean by this.
    I guess you wanted to say that the event time (the time at which the action/event happens) is anterior to/precedes the reference time, didn't you?

    Anyway, the perfect aspect in English expresses state, not time (though it is related with time); it is a matter of aspect, not a matter of tense, as said in the previous post.


     

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