Aspect (perfective, imperfective verb)

virgilio

Senior Member
English UK
Outsider,
Thank you for your reply. Re:"I see nothing generic about the protasis you've got there. I'd even say that, from a semantic point of view, that's one of the clearest forms of subjunctive."
It is, of course, subjunctive - as you rightly say - (how could it be otherwise in that setting?) - aorist subjunctive - and thereby also generic, just as its 'educated' equivalent is also generic:
If I were (the man) to say that, you would...etc"

Virgilio
 
  • Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Not a very traditional point of view. Why do you say that?

    I say that because the English progressive/continuous is a part of each tense; in German, we call them Zeitform (= tense form). It's simply a form of the tense that has, as far as I know, no grammatical name. Correct me if I'm wrong here. Aspects are treated differently in the Slavic languages and Greek than the English progressive vs. normal tenses. Wikipedia has some examples, which are not easy to understand, though.

    If you like to elaborate upon this interesting topic, I'd advise you to open a new thread in the OL forum (if there hasn't been any yet), in which people should explain what they understand by the English progressive tenses and if they would compare it to the imperfective aspect in the Slavic languages. To me, the difference is clear: The English progressive form describes a duration, whereas the imperfective aspect in Greek and the Slavic languages indicate that an action has not stopped yet.

    The English I have been learning English for 5 years would be expressed as Učím se angličtinu 5 let in Czech, in which the present imperfective is used. In English, it is the present perfect progressive. They are similar, but it's not an aspect.
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Whodunit,
    Oh dear! I knew I shouldn't have asked! You say"it's actually very easy to understand the term aspect, once you've learned English as a second language."
    But I learned it as a first language and I still don't see what it's supposed to mean.
    You write that "I was writing a letter" is 'imperfective'. So too, then, presumable is "I am writing a letter" and "I shall be writing a letter"

    As an example of the 'perfective' you choose the preterite "I wrote a letter".
    But what about the 'perfect' tenses themselves? Surely they must be 'perfective' - if only because of their name!
    "I have written a letter" "I had written a letter" "I shall have written a letter"
    You say that in German there are no 'aspects'. But German uses perfect tenses too.
    "Ich habe einen Brief geschrieben" "Ich hatte einen Brief geschrieben" "Ich werde einen Brief geschrieben haben".

    Or do you mean that these 'aspects' apply only to what used to be called "continuous" tenses, involving the verb "to be" (or one of its 'sisters') and a participle:
    I am writing a letter
    Sto scrivendo una lettera
    Estoy escribiendo una carta
    Estou escrevendo uma carta (please correct, if they are wrong!)

    But if that is so, then German too has 'aspects'.
    z.B.
    Der Brief wird geschrieben.
    Since "werden" (to become/to get (intransitive)) is a 'sister' verb of "to be", just as "estar" and "stare" are, why would this German sentence not be evidence of an 'aspect', whatever that means.

    Perhaps I should try learning my native language as a second language for so far I can't make head or tail of this term 'aspect'. Perhaps I'm not actually missing very much.
    Thanks, anyway, Whodunit, for trying to explain it to me. Sorry I'm so simple-minded. I think I got that way from reading a lot of Plato in my formative years.
    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Whodunit,
    Oh dear! I knew I shouldn't have asked! You say"it's actually very easy to understand the term aspect, once you've learned English as a second language."
    But I learned it as a first language and I still don't see what it's supposed to mean.
    You write that "I was writing a letter" is 'imperfective'. So too, then, presumable is "I am writing a letter" and "I shall be writing a letter"

    Everything correct so far. :)

    As an example of the 'perfective' you choose the preterite "I wrote a letter".
    But what about the 'perfect' tenses themselves? Surely they must be 'perfective' - if only because of their name!
    "I have written a letter" "I had written a letter" "I shall have written a letter"
    You say that in German there are no 'aspects'. But German uses perfect tenses too.
    "Ich habe einen Brief geschrieben" "Ich hatte einen Brief geschrieben" "Ich werde einen Brief geschrieben haben".

    No, that's exactly why I said that there are no aspects in English, but you could find them, if you wanted to. The continuous tenses (I'm writing/I have been writing/I'm going to be writing) are comparable to the imperfective aspect, but the English perfect does not compare to the perfective aspect. "I have just eaten" is fine in British English, but would sound formal (?) in American English, whereas Americans would prefer "I just ate", as far as I know. The problem here is that just actually implies a perfective state (I finished eating, so I'm doing something else right now), so the British sentence would be redundant, but grammatically more logical. The same happens in the Slavic languages: I just ate/I have just eaten wouldn't need the adverb just to express the idea of having finished it some minutes ago.

    The perfect tense does not necessarily correspond to the perfective aspect. Regard this as a fact. :)

    By the way, the German Ich habe einen Brief geschrieben corresponds to English I wrote a letter, so the German Perfekt is a quite confusing term for learning, since we almost use it like the English past. Our Präteritum is used for the modals (and some irregular ones like laufen, wissen), auxiliaries, and in historical texts. It often sounds outdated with normal verbs.

    Or do you mean that these 'aspects' apply only to what used to be called "continuous" tenses, involving the verb "to be" (or one of its 'sisters') and a participle:
    I am writing a letter
    Sto scrivendo una lettera
    Estoy escribiendo una carta
    Estou escrevendo uma carta (please correct, if they are wrong!)

    Yes, that comes close to the aspects. The English gerund by to be is comparable to the Czech imperfective Píšu dopis.

    But if that is so, then German too has 'aspects'.
    z.B.
    Der Brief wird geschrieben.
    Since "werden" (to become/to get (intransitive)) is a 'sister' verb of "to be", just as "estar" and "stare" are, why would this German sentence not be evidence of an 'aspect', whatever that means.

    You're bringing up a very good point here. What you use there is called Vorgangspassiv in German (dynamic passive) that implies that something is about to be done. The Zustandspassiv (stative passive) [Der Brief ist geschrieben] is used for completed passive actions. The latter emphasizes the result, the former the on-going action. This is a very good example for the German use of aspects, but I'm afraid this is only possible in the passive voice.

    Perhaps I should try learning my native language as a second language for so far I can't make head or tail of this term 'aspect'.

    I have never heard aspect used in connection to English, unless I showed some interest in the Slavic languages, when the Slavic aspect was compared to the English continuous. You have never learned how difficult it is for foreigners to use the correct tense in English, because English tenses can be really tricky, and I often feel uncomfortable with them (as Outsider mentioned in one of his posts). You feel when an action is progressive or continuous, but we have (had) to learn it. :)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Progressive/continuous is not too hard for me, because Portuguese also has this aspect (or whatever you choose to call it). There are some differences; English doesn't always use it the way we would, but that's just a refinement. The basic feel for it is there.

    We also have (what I would call) an aspect for completed actions (I had spoken, I will have spoken, to have spoken, etc.), so the English perfect tenses are not a problem in general. However, the present perfect is a special beast. I don't think it always requires that the action we speak of be finished by the present moment. More importantly, you often use the past simple to speak of actions completed before the present, rather than the present perfect.

    The real problem is with the "basic" past tenses, if you will:

    English: past simple and present perfect;
    Portuguese: imperfeito (imperfect), pretérito (preterite), pretérito composto (present perfect)

    In these, tense is often conflated with aspect in complicated ways, or special aspectual distinctions are made which we don't bother with in other tenses.

    I imagine that the same is true to some extent with Latin. Very roughly, the perfectum is the equivalent of the present perfect, and the imperfect is the equivalent of the past simple (not the past continuous, in general). But the truth is that each language draws the line between the two in different ways. I'm starting to think that this may vary too much with language to be systematized.
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Whodunit,
    You write:"You're bringing up a very good point here. What you use there is called Vorgangspassiv in German (dynamic passive) that implies that something is about to be done. The Zustandspassiv (stative passive) [Der Brief ist geschrieben] is used for completed passive actions. The latter emphasizes the result, the former the on-going action. This is a very good example for the German use of aspects, but I'm afraid this is only possible in the passive voice.
    OK so how about :"Der Brief ist geschrieben worden" (perhaps that could be called something like Vergangenheitspassiv) but, whatever it's called, if the presence of "to be" "sein" "estar" "stare" makes it an 'aspect', how can you say that German does not have 'aspects'.
    Moreover, your earlier comment "English has no aspects, but they can technically be found in English, if one really wants to." really makes my head spin. You can find almost anything in anything "if you really want to".
    I'm beginning to think that my classics teachers were wise men, for they - as I now realise - knew that many details - about which, as has been said above, many pages could no doubt be written - are better being simply absorbed by the student's unconscious mind and integrated unconsciously into his or her understanding of the whole quantum of events which are a foreign language.
    It is possible to understand something - and perhaps in some cases understand it better - without writing it down.
    I remember reading somewhere in a story by Erich Kästner (Als ich ein kleiner Junge war):
    "Nicht alles was Kinder erleben eignet sich dafür, das Kinder es hören."

    I think something similar might be said with regard to syntax: Vielleicht so was wie:
    "Nicht alles was die Menschen verstehen eignet sich dafür, das die Menschen es schriftlich herabsetzen"

    The act of writing can crystallize one's thoughts, it is true, but writing down or repeatedly reading what can be memorised or otherwise left to the unconscious mind can impoverish the imagination. Ask any concert musician.

    Still bewildered but less troubled by it.
    Thanks again, folks!
    Virgilio
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    ireney,
    I thought I was bewildered, like modus.irrealis, before but what you write above makes my head spin:
    "Present Perfect is obviously imperfect and is formed by present of have + infinitive of the Aorist (much like the English really)
    May I try to enumerate the problems:
    (1) Do you see no semantic oddity in "Present Perfect is obviously imperfect"
    (2) English does not in point of fact form its Present perfect tense with the present tense of "to have" + the infinitive of the aorist but rather with the present tense of "to have" + a past participle.
    παραδειγματος χαριν - We have written a letter.
    (3) Since modern Greek does not (except possibly in its καθαρεύουσα form) use infinitives (a fact which surely must make νά just about the most used word in any language), it is difficult to see what you mean.
    π.χ.
    Εχω γράψει ένα γράμμα.

    Even in ancient Greek - which did use infinitives widely - the future infinitive of γράφειν was γράψειν and the aorist infinitive was γράψαι.
    Do you really mean that in the sentence above γράψει is some kind of modern Greek infinitive?

    I'm completely non-plussed. The more I read about these 'aspects', the less I seem to understand.

    H-E-E-E-L-L-P-P-P!
    Σας παρακαλώ να μου βοηθησετε.

    Virgilio
     

    tom_in_bahia

    Senior Member
    South Florida/Phoenix-Tucson/the Adirondacks. Native of North American English
    Would the difference between "to eat" and "to eat up" be one of aspect?

    I see the difference as minute in the present continuous, but if we put it into the past, I see a definite distinction:

    He ate the pizza. vs. He ate up the pizza.
    In the first example I can see ambiguity. I didn't necessarily eat all the pizza. However, in the second example it's clear that the pizza is no more.
     

    tom_in_bahia

    Senior Member
    South Florida/Phoenix-Tucson/the Adirondacks. Native of North American English
    That's true. I think that, unlike Slavic languages, in English we may use a phrasal composition to get acrossed a more specific meaning of aspect. But that would be the end of the guideline, because "up" paired with other verbs would bring out either a different nuance of that verb, or an entirely different meaning:

    put up - raise, construct
    get up - awake
    live up - enjoy, rejoice
    speak up - embellish
    change up - emphatic for change
    drink up - similar to eat up
    make up - create, pretend
    read up (on) - discover through reading*
    etc....

    *Read up makes another interesting distinction:
    I've read Shakespeare . (I have read his work, but not necessarily thoroughly.)
    I've read up on my Shakespeare. (I believe that I have more thoroughly read and understood his work.)
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    Would the difference between "to eat" and "to eat up" be one of aspect?

    I see the difference as minute in the present continuous, but if we put it into the past, I see a definite distinction:

    He ate the pizza. vs. He ate up the pizza.
    In the first example I can see ambiguity. I didn't necessarily eat all the pizza. However, in the second example it's clear that the pizza is no more.
    I'm not quite sure which language you have in mind. If Slavic ones, then no, "upping" a verb doesn't imply anything about aspects. "To eat up" can mean both aspects. In Czech:
    perfective - dojíst
    Dojedl jsem ten koláč. - I ate up the cake.
    imperfective - dojídat
    Dojídal jsem ten koláč. - I was eating up the cake (when something else happened.)
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Jana337,
    I am not acquainted with the language involved in your quotation:
    " perfective - dojíst
    Dojedl jsem ten koláč. - I ate up the cake.
    imperfective - dojídat
    Dojídal jsem ten koláč. - I was eating up the cake (when something else happened."
    but in Greek or Latin or Italian or French the second would be expressed by an imperfect tense of the verb involved, whereas the first would be expressed by a Present Perfect/Aorist or Passato Remoto or Passé Simple - the function of these latter tenses being often take over by the Present Perfect tense.
    Is there therefore any advantage for students of these western European languages in learning extra abstract terms like "imperfective aspect" and "perfective aspect"?
    All students (worthy of the name) of Latin, for example, are aware of the differences between 'simple' tenses and 'perfect' tenses of verbs. Could you please explain how understanding a concept like "aspects" of verbs adds anything to such a student's understanding of language?
    After several requests for this information, I am still at a loss to understand. In my formative years I read a lot of Plato, Demosthenes, Cicero, Virgil and Ovid and so my understanding is not geared to long abstract phraseology.
    I would be very grateful, therefore, if you would kindly explain to me - as to a moderately intelligent child - how aspects are different from tense groups.
    Thank you.
    Virgilio
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    but in Greek or Latin or Italian or French the second would be expressed by an imperfect tense of the verb involved, whereas the first would be expressed by a Present Perfect/Aorist or Passato Remoto or Passé Simple - the function of these latter tenses being often take over by the Present Perfect tense.
    "To eat" and "to eat up" mean different things, right? You might have to use different verbs altogether.

    But I also wonder if "I was eating up" would be accepted by native speakers in English, or if the concept of "eating up" excludes a continuous perspective of the action...
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    Ciao Virgilio, :)

    In my example with "eat up", Slavic aspects nicely overlap with some Romance past tenses (I addresed this in #9). This is not always the case, however. There's more to it (examples mainly in #8).

    Anyway, here's a simple argument against the (implicit) claim that aspects are a way to obfuscate the fact that Slavic languages actually have many tenses:
    Ha scritto/scrisse and scriveva have the same infinitive, scrivere. In Czech, napsal and psal have different infinitives: napsat and psát.
    Can we agree that if they were different tenses of the same verb, they would share an infinitive?
    Is there therefore any advantage for students of these western European languages in learning extra abstract terms like "imperfective aspect" and "perfective aspect"?
    Yes, I am afraid. :)
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    But I also wonder if "I was eating up" would be accepted by native speakers in English, or if the concept of "eating up" excludes a continuous perspective of the action...
    OK, a good point. "It was eating up a lot of my time" is definitely OK but I concede that it might sound weird with food. In that case, take my translation as rather literal, please. :)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Can we agree that if they were different tenses of the same verb, they would share an infinitive?
    What if verbs have more than one infinitive in the language in question? :)
    (Latin infinitives had several forms.)
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    What if verbs have more than one infinitive in the language in question? :)
    (Latin infinitives had several forms.)
    Oh boy. :)

    OK, I was talking specifically about Slavic languages. In those I know something of, multiple infinitives do not exist. I remain convinced that tense and aspect are two independent concepts. If you tweak a definition or two (I do know that you are playing devil's advocate here) you can perhaps define aspects out of existence but I think something important would be lost. And learners wouldn't benefit from it for sure. :)
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Jana337,
    Thank you for your reply. Outsider has raised the objection which I was going to raise. You wrote:
    "Anyway, here's a simple argument against the (implicit) claim that aspects are a way to obfuscate the fact that Slavic languages actually have many tenses:
    Ha scritto/scrisse and scriveva have the same infinitive, scrivere. In Czech, napsal and psal have different infinitives: napsat and psát.
    Can we agree that if they were different tenses of the same verb, they would share an infinitive?

    I don't see how we could so agree, for while the infinitive of "scriveva" is "scrivere" the infinitive of "ha scritto" is "avere". As for "scrisse", modern Italian no longer uses the aorist infinitive of older Italian ("scripsisse") but plainly it cannot be substituted either by "scrivere" or by "avere". Latin uses for all regular transitive verbs 3 distinct true infinitives and three paraphrased on "esse" while ancient Greek used no fewer than 10 true infinitives for each regular transitive verb.

    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    In those I know something of, multiple infinitives do not exist.

    I think that's comparable to the English I want to have heard it. In Latin, to have heard would have its own infinitive. :)

    I remain convinced that tense and aspect are two independent concepts.

    I know that, but how would you describe an aspect to people who only speak languages that have no aspects? Somehow I understood the matter quite easily, but I can see that it may lead to confusion.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I don't see how we could so agree, for while the infinitive of "scriveva" is "scrivere" the infinitive of "ha scritto" is "avere".
    That's like saying that the infinitive of "I had spoken" is "to have".

    Latin uses for all regular transitive verbs 3 distinct true infinitives and three paraphrased on "esse" while ancient Greek used no fewer than 10 true infinitives for each regular transitive verb.
    But I believe many of those distinct forms were inflections for case, gender and number, weren't they?
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    I don't see how we could so agree, for while the infinitive of "scriveva" is "scrivere" the infinitive of "ha scritto" is "avere".

    I think Jana explained it as briefly as possible. For those who know what aspects are, Jana's explanation is quite clear, but I can see that it might still be confusing. Virgilio, you should read the entire thread (I did, so I'm not a bit more familiar with the aspects than before), and see if you still have many a question.

    By the way, you should know that Jana was not referring to the predicatein ha scritto, but to the root verb, which is definitely scrivere, like scribere is the root for scripsi. It's just that Latin didn't have auxiliary verbs as such (gerunds and the like are to be excluded here, and even then scriptum est would have scribere as the root, wouldn't it?).
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Outsider,
    Re:" But I also wonder if "I was eating up" would be accepted by native speakers in English, or if the concept of "eating up" excludes a continuous perspective of the action..."

    Nothing wrong with "I was eating up" in English. I'm afraid I don't see what you were driving at with the difference between "to eat" and "to eat up". The second is the first modified by an adverb. I'm with you so far. Where do we go from there?
    One thing I have learned from this thread: whatever else "aspects" may be, they are certainly very difficult indeed to explain - or, of course, an alternative is that I am very dim-witted - or, of course, both.

    Thanks for trying.
    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Jana337,
    You wrote:"I remain convinced that tense and aspect are two independent concepts. If you tweak a definition or two, you can perhaps define aspects out of existence but I think something important would be lost. And learners wouldn't benefit from it for sure"

    I feel sure that you must be right about something important being lost by 'aspects' being defined out of existence and I really would like to know in what way they - whatever they are - are distinct from the distinction between the "simple tense group" (you could re-name it the "imperfect tense group" without altering anything about it) and the "perfect tense group".
    If I'm wrong, someone please tell me where! Just keep the words short, please. I'm a simple-thinking person. For example, the first thing that gives me a headache about "perfective" and "imperfective" is the "-ive" at the end.
    I know enough Latin to see the "imperfect" means "unfinished" and "perfect" means "finished" - that's clear as daylight. Tenses depicting actions or states as not being finished at the time of utterance are "imperfect" and those depicted as "finished" are "perfect".
    An intelligent child can see that. What I don't get is what 'extra' is implied by the "-ive" on the end. It's plainly a closely guarded secret.

    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Whodunit,
    Thanks for your reply. I'll try reading the whole thread. It might do the trick, as you say.
    However re your:" By the way, you should know that Jana was not referring to the predicatein ha scritto, but to the root verb, which is definitely scrivere, like scribere is the root for scripsi. It's just that Latin didn't have auxiliary verbs as such (gerunds and the like are to be excluded here, and even then scriptum est would have scribere as the root, wouldn't it?).

    (1) In the expression "ha scritto" there is only one verb and it is "ha" (part of "avere") The "scritto" is a participle and therefore an adjective. Incidentally, the German Mittelwort (middle word) for participle is - I venture to suggest - rather un-German, for it belies your nation's splendid and admirable reputation for decisiveness. It has to be decided whether it is the one thing or the other; participles are, of course, adjectives.
    However, leaving that aside for the present, I deny that the verb in "ha scritto" is "scrivere".
    I must also (alas!) deny that Latin does not use the so-called 'auxiliary' verbs. Here are two or three examples, from several thousand possibles:

    (a) Campanorum urbs est tandem a Romanis recepta.
    (b) dic nobis, Antoni, quo modo sis eos ante judices defensurus
    (c) hostes sunt eo proelio a nostris fugati.

    You say "gerunds and the like are to be excluded here" but in Procrustean fashion you don't say why they should be.
    As for "scriptum est would have scribere as the root, wouldn't it?", the answer is plainly no. The root of the verb is "esse".

    I'm more confused than ever.

    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    It's just that Latin didn't have auxiliary verbs as such [...]
    Some tenses of the Latin passive voice were compound. How do you explain away that fact?

    I'm afraid I don't see what you were driving at with the difference between "to eat" and "to eat up". The second is the first modified by an adverb. I'm with you so far. Where do we go from there?
    You conclude that you can't do the same with every verb. You can't "love up", or "say up", or "choose up" with the same sense. Constructions like "to eat up" are idioms which apply only to a handful of verbs. They are not aspects.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Anyway, here's a simple argument against the (implicit) claim that aspects are a way to obfuscate the fact that Slavic languages actually have many tenses:
    Ha scritto/scrisse and scriveva have the same infinitive, scrivere. In Czech, napsal and psal have different infinitives: napsat and psát.
    Can we agree that if they were different tenses of the same verb, they would share an infinitive?
    Jana, I've given your example some thought, and remembered that, in a sense, English also has two infinitives. For example, there is:

    to write (--> plain, or imperfect infinitive)
    to have written --> which can be described as a perfect infinitive

    Is this like what you have in the Slavic languages?
     

    cyanista

    законодательница мод
    NRW
    Belarusian/Russian
    Jana, I've given your example some thought, and remembered that, in a sense, English also has two infinitives. For example, there is:

    to write (--> plain, or imperfect infinitive)
    to have written --> which can be described as a perfect infinitive

    Is this like what you have in the Slavic languages?

    No, not exactly. Slavic languages (I'm not sure if all of them) have perfective and imperfective verbs. Most verbs form perfective-imperfective pairs. The verbs in those are distinctly independent lexical entities. There is no set method how to form a perfective verb from an imperfective one or vice versa.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I see. I guess I was misled by Jana's example, where the perfective infinitive seemed to be formed by adding a prefix to the imperfective infinitive...
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Outsider,
    Re your:"Some tenses of the Latin passive voice were compound. How do you explain away that fact?"
    I can't see that there's anything to 'explain away'. Classical Latin in its perfect passive tenses used "esse" as what would now be called an 'auxiliary' verb. I don't see the problem; we use 'auxiliaries' ourselves.

    Re "eat up", if you tell me that English people don't modify every verb by the adverb "up", I agree that that would be a remote contingency. I doubt if there is a verb in any language which could claim to be able to be modified by every adverb in the language, although the Latin verb "dare" comes fairly close.
    I'm sorry but I fail to see the relevance of that fact in this connexion.
    You say that "Constructions like "to eat up" are idioms which apply only to a handful of verbs. They are not aspects."
    OK I hear what you say but what is an aspect?

    With best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    Lugubert

    Senior Member
    You conclude that you can't do the same with every verb. You can't "love up", or "say up", or "choose up" with the same sense. Constructions like "to eat up" are idioms which apply only to a handful of verbs. They are not aspects.
    First, I don't dare to start a discussion on what's aspect and what's aktionsart. For our purposes, I think we can overlook any differences.

    I beg to differ with the above quote. Adding 'up' gives the view/aspect of finishing.

    You are eating. An ongoing action from the speaker's/writer's point of view (their aspect). You eat. No aspect marker. Just referring to food intake in general. You eat up. The aspect maker up explains that the meal will be finished.

    I find it more obvious in other languages. In Chinese, chi is the general notion of eating. Chi wan (adding a verb) will express that the eating was/is/will be complete, stressing that the food is consumed. Chiguo (adding a particle) would mean that you have had a meal, once. Chile (+particle) may mean that the action is (was, will be) completed, without concentrating on the fate of the food.

    Hindi has a way of adding verbs to convey various detailed aspects. Aspects can be finished (as above), pointing out that something is happening for example suddenly, or gradually, once, or habitually, for the benefit of the speaker or for the benefit of the listener etc. Again, aspects add an opinion or judgement from the narrator's side.
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    But I believe many of those distinct forms were inflections for case, gender and number, weren't they?

    The infinitives aren't inflected for any of the categories -- I went and counted the infinitives from λύω 'loose' (one of the usual example verbs) and I got 11.

    It's interesting though how Slavic languages seem to see verbs with different aspects as different verbs, while other languages see the different aspects as different forms of the same verb. Do Slavic languages have just one perfective verb for each imperfective verb and vice versa (for "regular" verbs), or is the relationship more complicated and you can have a group of perfective verbs corresponding to a single imperfective verb, or something like that?

    Do you really mean that in the sentence above γράψει is some kind of modern Greek infinitive?

    That form is often called an infinitive because it goes back, more or less directly, to Ancient Greek infinitives (the ones in -ειν), but it doesn't function as an infinitive in Modern Greek.

    I feel sure that you must be right about something important being lost by 'aspects' being defined out of existence and I really would like to know in what way they - whatever they are - are distinct from the distinction between the "simple tense group" (you could re-name it the "imperfect tense group" without altering anything about it) and the "perfect tense group".

    But that there is aspect -- the distinction between those simple and perfect groups would be one of aspect (although not the same distinction made in other languages, just like not every language makes the same tense distinctions). Like you say below, one refers to "unfinished" actions and the other to "finished" actions, and that's a difference in aspect and not one of tense. The point in using aspect is that it makes everything more clear and precise - think of the Latin noun, you wouldn't try to list all its forms under just one category, right? you'd say that it has both case and number, and it's a similar idea with verbs in some languages.

    About the -ive, it's just that "imperfective" is the term used for aspect (and not "imperfect"). With "perfect" and "perfective" they're both used and they both mean different things, although like Outsider said in his original post, there's confusion about what means what. But I think the more common use would have, e.g., έχω γράψει being perfect and έγραψα being perfective.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The infinitives aren't inflected for any of the categories --
    You're quite right. I was thinking of the Latin participles and the Latin gerundive.

    Outsider,
    Re your:"Some tenses of the Latin passive voice were compound. How do you explain away that fact?"
    I can't see that there's anything to 'explain away'. Classical Latin in its perfect passive tenses used "esse" as what would now be called an 'auxiliary' verb. I don't see the problem; we use 'auxiliaries' ourselves.
    I was replying to Whodunit, who said there were no auxiliary verbs in Latin.
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Spectre scolaire
    Thanks. I think you have just managed to succeed where others -despite much patience and kind explanation - have failed. If the difference between the two 'aspects' is exemplified in the difference between the particular uses of the Greek present and the Greek aorist subjunctive (and, of course, also optative in the ancient language), described in your exegesis, then I've got it at last.
    Oh I dare say that one Slavic language or another will demonstrate different facets here and there but it was the central idea that was eluding me.
    Incidentally, as you will no doubt be aware, those same 'aspects' apply also to ancient Greek.
    Many thanks.
    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    modus.irrealis,
    Thank you for your reply. I think that "Spectre scolaire" has managed to explain the 'aspect' thing to me at last. It was such a relief to realise that it was something we learned at school about Greek subjunctives and optatives.
    If you will excuse me being a little pedantic about something you wrote: "think of the Latin noun, you wouldn't try to list all its forms under just one category, right? you'd say that it has both case and number, and it's a similar idea with verbs in some languages."
    In strict syntax a noun cannot have 'cases' - but that's another thread!

    best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    modus.irrealis,
    I'm so sorry. I gave all the credit for explaining this 'aspects' thing to Spectre scolaire (who did indeed explain it) but I've just realised that you tried some time back to offer me exactly the same explanation. I must have missed it earlier. Many thanks for your explanation:
    "If you think of Greek, how would you describe the difference between the present and aorist subjunctives, the present and aorist infinitives, the present and aorist imperatives, and so on? The difference is clearly not one of tense, so you really need the concept of aspect to describe it correctly."
    I am very sorry to have taken so long to read what you wrote. This 'aspect' thing all really so simple. I might even start to learn a Slavic language!

    with best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    Many apologies, Virgilio - I didn't have time to get back to this thread. I see that others offered wonderful explanations but I will share what has germinated in my head nevertheless.
    I don't see how we could so agree, for while the infinitive of "scriveva" is "scrivere" the infinitive of "ha scritto" is "avere". As for "scrisse", modern Italian no longer uses the aorist infinitive of older Italian ("scripsisse") but plainly it cannot be substituted either by "scrivere" or by "avere".
    Fine, I abused the terminology, maybe. So let's do it this way: If I ask you to form passato prossimo of scrivere, you will say ha scritto. The reverse process, whether you call it "obtaining the infinitive" or not, yields scrivere. Same for scriveva. In Czech, you will not arrive at the same infinitive.

    Nothing wrong with "I was eating up" in English. I'm afraid I don't see what you were driving at with the difference between "to eat" and "to eat up". The second is the first modified by an adverb. I'm with you so far. Where do we go from there?
    The "up" thingy lends the verb a sense of completion. But as I said above, there's more to it because "eat up" can be both perfective and imperfective.

    Jana337,
    You wrote:"I remain convinced that tense and aspect are two independent concepts. If you tweak a definition or two, you can perhaps define aspects out of existence but I think something important would be lost. And learners wouldn't benefit from it for sure"

    I feel sure that you must be right about something important being lost by 'aspects' being defined out of existence and I really would like to know in what way they - whatever they are - are distinct from the distinction between the "simple tense group" (you could re-name it the "imperfect tense group" without altering anything about it) and the "perfect tense group".
    If I'm wrong, someone please tell me where! Just keep the words short, please. I'm a simple-thinking person. For example, the first thing that gives me a headache about "perfective" and "imperfective" is the "-ive" at the end.
    I know enough Latin to see the "imperfect" means "unfinished" and "perfect" means "finished" - that's clear as daylight. Tenses depicting actions or states as not being finished at the time of utterance are "imperfect" and those depicted as "finished" are "perfect".
    Modus.irrealis has already explained that but let me try as well: I am not a native speaker of English, so I am not in a position to assess why -ive can irritate you. In Czech, we call the verbs dokonavá and nedokonavá. Dokonat - to finish, to complete, to accomplish.

    Perfective verbs ("verbs of completion") inform you that the respective action was/will be completed.
    Imperfective verbs ("verbs of duration") do NOT inform you that the action was not completed/will not be completed (the negation of perfective verbs does this). They do not trasmit that piece of information at all. Instead of the result of an action, they focus on the process, on the fact that it took/will take place (or not).

    Jana, I've given your example some thought, and remembered that, in a sense, English also has two infinitives. For example, there is:

    to write (--> plain, or imperfect infinitive)
    to have written --> which can be described as a perfect infinitive

    Is this like what you have in the Slavic languages?
    No, as Cyanista explains:
    No, not exactly. Slavic languages (I'm not sure if all of them) have perfective and imperfective verbs. Most verbs form perfective-imperfective pairs. The verbs in those are distinctly independent lexical entities. There is no set method how to form a perfective verb from an imperfective one or vice versa.
    However, (at least in colloquial Czech) we can form a literal translation of "to have written" and we use it exactly like the English present perfect. It only works for perfective verbs.

    I see. I guess I was misled by Jana's example, where the perfective infinitive seemed to be formed by adding a prefix to the imperfective infinitive...
    Sometimes a prefix, sometimes a change in the stem, sometimes both. Occasionally two unrelated words. :)

    You say that "Constructions like "to eat up" are idioms which apply only to a handful of verbs. They are not aspects."
    OK I hear what you say but what is an aspect?
    Aspect is a property of verbs that says whether the action was completed (perfective) or whether that piece of information is being withheld/not expressed (imperfective).

    What makes it really difficult is that there are several intervowen levels:
    • The "up-ness" - this is conceptually a step in the right direction. You need to realize that it rounds off an action. Granted, this doesn't work for all verbs as others pointed out. That's because there's no algorithm whereby you could map Slavic aspects into English. If you want to express our tenses in English, you need either tenses or adverbs (or other types of words), and in many cases you simply do not have a way to express them explicitly; either it follows from the context or not. As I said above, however, "eat up" can be both perfective and imperfective in Czech. This is where another level of analysis comes into the picture:
    • Result vs. progress. Let's take a typical perfective verb, "dopsat" (psát - write), which means "to finish writing", and its imperfective brother, "dopisovat", which means something like "to be finishing writing".
    Please notice how tricky this gets: You take an imperfective verb psát, add a prefix and get a perfective verb dopsat, manipulate its stem and get another imperfective verb again - dopisovat.
    Past:
    Perfective: Dopsal jsem dopis. - I finished the letter.
    Imperfective: Došel mi inkoust, když jsem dopisoval dopis. - I ran out of ink when I was finishing the letter.
    Future:
    Perfective: Po večeři ten dopis dopíšu. - I will finish the letter after dinner.
    Imperfective: Neruš mě prosím po večeři. Budu dopisovat ten dopis. - Please do not disturb me after dinner. I will be finishing the letter.
    I can well see why Virgilio was confused about tenses vs. aspects. This level is indeed similar to both Romance languages and English tenses. The difference is that we have two verbs, each for one aspect, and you have one verb and two types of tenses (simple/progressive).
    • One-time action and repetition. The same pair I used above, dopsat and dopisovat, can also mean a one-time action and a repeated action, respectively. Again, this should ring a bell if you speak a Romance language.
    I tried to give some example in my posts 8 (focus on completeness/progress) and 9 (focus on one-time/repeated). Here are more examples with contrasting uses.

    It's interesting though how Slavic languages seem to see verbs with different aspects as different verbs, while other languages see the different aspects as different forms of the same verb. Do Slavic languages have just one perfective verb for each imperfective verb and vice versa (for "regular" verbs), or is the relationship more complicated and you can have a group of perfective verbs corresponding to a single imperfective verb, or something like that?
    Typically, you have one base imperfective words from which you can form several perfective verbs that have different shades (e.g. jíst - to eat; sníst stressed that the food ends up inside you, najíst se implies that you have eaten your fill, dojíst underlines eating up, pojíst means that you have eaten/had something to eat etc.) but as I demonstrated above with psát - dopsat - dopisovat, for each of them, you can create an imperfective word that means either action in progress (the second bullet) or repetition (the third bullet).

    Edit: This could be illuminating.
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Typically, you have one base imperfective words from which you can form several perfective verbs that have different shades (e.g. jíst - to eat; sníst stressed that the food ends up inside you, najíst se implies that you have eaten your fill, dojíst underlines eating up, pojíst means that you have eaten/had something to eat etc.) but as I demonstrated above with psát - dopsat - dopisovat, for each of them, you can create an imperfective word that means either action in progress (the second bullet) or repetition (the third bullet).

    Ah, thanks. I was kind of suspecting something like that, i.e. a more intricate relationship between the aspects, and I can see why you'd have the two aspects be different verbs. With Greek, for example, a regular verb will have only one perfective form and one imperfective form, and even when they're obviously not related ('say' has perfective past ipa and imperfect past elega), they're still considered forms of the same verb.
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    modus.irrealis,
    You wrote"With Greek, for example, a regular verb will have only one perfective form and one imperfective form, and even when they're obviously not related ('say' has perfective past ipa and imperfect past elega), they're still considered forms of the same verb."
    Just what I was thinking. Is it not possible that part of this 'problem' is a purely lexicographical one, with some Slavic lexicographers separating perfective and imperfective verb-forms, whereas Greek and other western languages would tend to list them under single headwords?
    May it not be in fact little more than a cultural distinction between Eastern Europe and Western Europe with Greece - may God bless her! - the mediatrix?
    Just a thought.
    Virgilio
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Edit: This could be illuminating.
    Thank you, Jana. As you say, it's similar to the Romance languages in many ways, but then starkly different in others. For example:

    P. Remember, you can use the perfective aspect only when you are questioning if part C has taken place. The question,

    4. Have you ever read Doctor Zhivago? (A,B,C,)​

    asks if the "total" act has taken place, therefore you would use the imperfective aspect.
    In all the Romance languages that I'm familiar with, you would use the perfective here.
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Just what I was thinking. Is it not possible that part of this 'problem' is a purely lexicographical one, with some Slavic lexicographers separating perfective and imperfective verb-forms, whereas Greek and other western languages would tend to list them under single headwords?

    Yes, it does seem like Slavic grammarians have a higher awareness of aspect, but that's largely because many Western European languages are organized so that their grammarians can get away with ignoring aspect -- the main distinction of perfective vs. imperfective either doesn't occur at all (like in German) or only in the past as the difference between the simple past and the imperfect (French, for example). There's also the perfect but that seems to be tense-like enough that you can fit it into a system that just includes tenses without really losing anything (in my opinion). Then again, there's languages that have progressive "tenses" and it's odd that the aspect terminology does not seem to be catching on -- especially with English, where the progressive vs. non-progressive distinction is so crucial -- at least that's my impression from the English grammar sites on the web.

    But with Greek, where every time you use a verb (except the future in Ancient Greek) you need to specify the aspect, it's kind of surprising that an awareness of aspect didn't arise within its grammatical tradition. I really wonder how grammarians in ancient Athens explained the difference between the imperatives γράφε and γράψον, a difference that I don't think occurs in any Western European language (unless people go around saying things like "be writing"). But I do agree that Greek does somewhat seem like it's in between the Slavic and Romance languages in this (I'm really tempted to say aspect here :D).
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Thank you, Jana. As you say, it's similar to the Romance languages in many ways, but then starkly different in others. For example:

    P. Remember, you can use the perfective aspect only when you are questioning if part C has taken place. The question,
    4. Have you ever read Doctor Zhivago? (A,B,C,)​
    asks if the "total" act has taken place, therefore you would use the imperfective aspect.
    In all the Romance languages that I'm familiar with, you would use the perfective here.



    Hm... that webpage says about the above example: [If] you were to use the perfective aspect, it would imply that you, the person asking the question, know that the listener has been reading the novel, and you only want to find out if the listener has finished reading it.

    In Croatian, we have the same verb čitati (= to read) and its perfective cousin pročitati as in Russian, and I'm pretty sure that these work the same way in both languages. And the above statement isn't really true for Croatian; the actual situation is much more complex and harder to explain.

    Using the perfective aspect wouldn't necessarily imply that the listener has been reading the novel, but merely that the topic of the novel is already relevant or remarkable at the moment when it enters the conversation, for whatever reason. The reason can, but doesn't have to be that the listener is known to have been reading it previously. For example, here are a few scenarios that illustrate this difference:


    (1) You're walking with a friend down the street and you see a copy of Anna Karenina in a bookstore window. This suddenly makes you curious about whether he's ever read this novel and what he might think about it. Thus, the topic of this novel enters the conversation without having any previous relevance for the listener (as far as you know). You ask him:

    Jesi li ti čitao [read-imperf.] Anu Karenjinu?
    Have you [ever] read Tolstoy's Anna Karenina?


    (2) A few weeks ago, your friend told you that he was starting to read Anna Karenina, but he hasn't mentioned it since. You're curios if he's finished reading it, and you ask:

    Jesi li [ti] pročitao [read - perf.] Anu Karenjinu?
    Have you finished reading Anna Karenina?

    This is identical to the example "C" from the above quoted webpage. (And trust me, you don't want to get into the question of why dropping the pronoun sounds better in this example than in the previous one. :D)


    (3) You and your friend are classmates who have a habit of neglecting the reading assignments for your literature class, one of which was Anna Karenina. You're curious about whether he's read this novel or skipped it (for all you know, maybe he never even looked at it). Since the topic of the novel enters the conversation as something that's already recognized as relevant (unlike in example 1), you use the perfective form:

    Jesi li [ti] pročitao [read - perf.] Anu Karenjinu?
    Have you read Anna Karenina?


    (4) There are also gray areas where both forms would sound OK. For example, you're browsing through the book collection of your friend's family, and you don't know if your friend has ever shown any interest in any of these books. He happens to be standing nearby, and you point at a copy of Anna Karenina on the shelf and ask him if he's ever read it. In that sentence, you could use either aspect with the same meaning:

    Jesi li ti čitao/pročitao ovu knjigu?
    Have you read this book?

    The only difference is that a simple answer "yes" or "no" would technically have different implications. Answering "yes" to the perfective form would mean that you've read all of it, and answering "yes" to the imperfective form would strictly imply only that you were reading it at some point. This is however a technicality; answering just "yes" to the imperfective form if you haven't actually read all of it would be perceived as deceitfully omitting the fact that you were unable to finish it. So the questions would be equivalent for all practical purposes.


    If all this sounds impossibly complicated, that's because it is. :( The Slavic verb aspect is one of those things that take years of practice to get even approximately right, and even very advanced fluent speakers often make mistakes with it. Its use is impossible to describe with any reasonably large set of prescriptive rules. On the brighter side, missing the right aspect wouldn't really be a huge mistake in any of these examples (including the one from the quoted webpage).


    [By the way, all of my examples are in standard, i.e. highly bookish Croatian; this isn't exactly how friends would realistically talk to each other. :D However, the points I made about the aspects still hold for the colloquial language.]
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Is it not possible that part of this 'problem' is a purely lexicographical one, with some Slavic lexicographers separating perfective and imperfective verb-forms, whereas Greek and other western languages would tend to list them under single headwords?

    Not really. As a Slavic speaker, I find the idea of aspectual pairs as quite unnatural; this isn't how the system really works. A typical Slavic verb root will have a basic imperfective form, from which several perfective forms are formed with different prefixes, thus obtaining perfective verbs that often have no straightforward, context-independent English translations. Those perfective verbs can then form further prefixed imperfective verbs by changing their stem. All these forms often also have reflexive versions, and sometimes only those. The system is akin to a tree of verbs stemming from a single root, rather than a set of aspectual pairs.

    For example, take the Croatian verb rasti (= to grow, to increase). It's imperfective, and it has a bunch of prefixed perfective forms:

    prerasti = to overgrow;
    narasti = to increase in size;
    izrasti = to grow to a remarkable level of size or maturity, to grow as an extension of something else;
    srasti = to coalesce;
    porasti = to increase or intensify;


    None of these can serve as the universal, context-independent perfective form of rasti. For example, you would say:

    Njihova kćer raste brzo. = Their daughter is growing rapidly.
    Temperatura raste brzo. = The temperature is growing rapidly.

    BUT:

    Njihova kćer je narasla pet centimetara. = Their daughter has grown five centimeters.
    Temperatura je porasla za pet stupnjeva. = The temperature has grown by five degrees.


    (Admittedly, you could mix up these two perfective forms, and it still wouldn't sound too bad.)

    Furthermore, some of these prefixed perfective forms can change their stem and thus form further prefixed imperfective forms, for example izrasti -> izrastati. When to use this latter form instead of the original imperfective rasti -- that's a complicated question. I won't even try to formulate a logical rule for that choice.

    There's no way you could ever shoehorn this mess into a neat system akin to Germanic or Romance conjugation tables. :D
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    Thank you, Jana. As you say, it's similar to the Romance languages in many ways, but then starkly different in others. For example:

    In all the Romance languages that I'm familiar with, you would use the perfective here.
    Indeed, this one (have you read) is very difficult for learners. It's not like we couldn't use the perfective aspect but it would unequivocally mean that the person has actually finished the book, whereas the imperfective leaves that open. It would be very unnatural to ask how many books by Shakespeare you have finished for it would imply that I assume that you have tried many but gave up because reading Shakespeare was very laborious.

    Could you please give an example of this? I'm really curious how something like this would work in a Slavic language.
    Moved here.
     

    ireney

    Modistra
    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    But with Greek, where every time you use a verb (except the future in Ancient Greek) you need to specify the aspect, it's kind of surprising that an awareness of aspect didn't arise within its grammatical tradition. I really wonder how grammarians in ancient Athens explained the difference between the imperatives γράφε and γράψον, a difference that I don't think occurs in any Western European language (unless people go around saying things like "be writing"). But I do agree that Greek does somewhat seem like it's in between the Slavic and Romance languages in this (I'm really tempted to say aspect here :D).


    I guess they didn't think it necessary :D Taking the example of Anna Karenina used by Athaulf, I can say that the same applies to Greek too (ancient and modern). And, to be fair "did you read Anna Karenina" does convey a different meaning from "have you read Anna Karenina" although I admit that the distinction may not be as clear (I don't speak any Slavic language after all). I had to explain γράφε and γράψε (no need to look at ancient Greek for such examples eh? :) ) to people learning Greek and, since very few Westerners (and it just so happened that all were Westerners) know much about aspect I just described the function of aspect without using any special terminology. I guess that's what most Greek scholars (not of Greek) did.
    Maybe the reason is that you need to know a lot of terminology when it comes to Greek anyway so why use more? I bet they explained γράφε and γράψου to non Greek speakers with out anything more complicated perhaps than πράξις τελεία or something of the kind.
     

    cyanista

    законодательница мод
    NRW
    Belarusian/Russian
    As a Slavic speaker, I find the idea of aspectual pairs as quite unnatural; this isn't how the system really works. A typical Slavic verb root will have a basic imperfective form, from which several perfective forms are formed with different prefixes, thus obtaining perfective verbs (with different shades of meaning -C.) that often have no straightforward, context-independent English translations. Those perfective verbs can then form further prefixed imperfective verbs by changing their stem.(In Russian mostly through suffixation.-C.) All these forms often also have reflexive versions, and sometimes only those. The system is akin to a tree of verbs stemming from a single root, rather than a set of aspectual pairs.

    A very good description. :thumbsup:

    Talking about pairs is indeed inaccurate and misleading; clusters, or trees, as Althaulf puts it, would be much more appropriate.

    Sorry for adding to the confusion. :eek:
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    modus.irrealis,
    Re:"But with Greek, where every time you use a verb (except the future in Ancient Greek) you need to specify the aspect, it's kind of surprising that an awareness of aspect didn't arise within its grammatical tradition. I really wonder how grammarians in ancient Athens explained the difference between the imperatives γράφε and γράψον, a difference that I don't think occurs in any Western European language (unless people go around saying things like "be writing"). But I do agree that Greek does somewhat seem like it's in between the Slavic and Romance languages in this (I'm really tempted to say aspect here"

    But an 'awareness of aspect' did arise, as one became more and more familiar with ancient literature. What has surprised me in all the posts about "aspect"is the importance which seems to be attached to what one might call all the "small print" of the difference. When we learned Greek at school, the term 'aspect' was not used but we were taught about the difference between the non-indicative modes of the present and aorist tenses. We made mistakes, of course, and were corrected and after a while we got the hang of the thing. None of our teachers - as far as I can recall - considered that making an 'aspect' mistake was nearly so bad as, for example, using a subjunctive where we should have used an optative.
    My point is that -in this thread at least and unless I think I have understood what I have not understood - we seem to be making a mountain out of a mole-hill.
    Wouldn't you agree?
    Best wishes
    Virgilio

    By the way: I have heard English 'continuous' imperatives, such as "be starting!" - not so common, of course, as "get starting" but considering that "to get"(intransitive) and "to be(come)" are just about semantic equivalents, that hardly matters.
    Moreover the fact that English often doesn't bother to indicate changes of function by alterations of form does not imply in any way that English speakers are unaware of those changes.
    Consider, for example, the past tense "went" in its two different 'aspects' in these two sentences.
    (1) Last night I went to the theatre.
    (2) As a child I went to the theatre every Friday with my father.

    Subtle alterations of function do not always need to be indicated externally in order to be perceived.
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    I had to explain γράφε and γράψε (no need to look at ancient Greek for such examples eh? :) )

    Of course, but I do not what say, Plato, would have said about γράψε :).

    to people learning Greek and, since very few Westerners (and it just so happened that all were Westerners) know much about aspect I just described the function of aspect without using any special terminology. I guess that's what most Greek scholars (not of Greek) did.
    Maybe the reason is that you need to know a lot of terminology when it comes to Greek anyway so why use more? I bet they explained γράφε and γράψου to non Greek speakers with out anything more complicated perhaps than πράξις τελεία or something of the kind.
    But I'm not sure you need more terminology -- you can just reinterpret the terminology we have. I mean we already say present vs. aorist subjunctive, present vs. aorist imperative, and so on, so why not just reinterpret "present" and "aorist" as referring to aspect and then you only have to explain the difference once. The weird thing is that the names for the future (μέλλοντας διαρκείας and στιγμαίος μέλλοντας) are basically aspect-based (but because I can't resist complaining about the terminology as much as possible :) -- στιγμαίος? what about something like θα ζήσω άλλα εκατό χρόνια?, where I'm sure you can't say ζω), but why not be consistent and see that the difference between αόριστος and παρατατικός is the same (aspectual) difference as the one between those two futures (and say something like μέλλοντας του αορίστου and του ενεστώτα). Anyway, that's just rambling thoughts.

    My point is that -in this thread at least and unless I think I have understood what I have not understood - we seem to be making a mountain out of a mole-hill.
    Wouldn't you agree?

    I would probably disagree -- it's almost like minimizing differences in Greek just because English doesn't express those differences in the same way. In fact, these differences should be corrected more carefully because they can change the meaning, e.g. ὅταν ἔλθῃς vs. ὅταν ἔρχῃ. Or to put it another way, if people speaking a language that didn't have tenses were learning English, would you think it would be right for their teacher to not correct mistakes like "I watch tv yesterday?"

    By the way: I have heard English 'continuous' imperatives, such as "be starting!" - not so common, of course, as "get starting" but considering that "to get"(intransitive) and "to be(come)" are just about semantic equivalents, that hardly matters.
    That's a good point -- that "get Xing" does have a continuous feel to it, although I'm not quite sure it's the same feel as a Greek present imperative. But "be starting" still sounds odd -- maybe this is like the other cases where "get" substitutes for "be", e.g. where you have to say "I have been getting attacked" and not "I have been being attacked."

    Subtle alterations of function do not always need to be indicated externally in order to be perceived.
    I agree with that -- different languages express the same things differently, but I'm not sure what to conclude. To go back to tense-less languages (which obviously can express differences of time), it doesn't mean that tense in English is subtle or that it's terminology that we can ignore without losing anything. Personally I just think that if a language makes heavy use of something, it's clearer if the terminology used in explaining that language takes it into account.
     

    ireney

    Modistra
    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    But modus irrealis from what I've noticed from people studying Greek (of any kind) the lack of specific terminology and/or persistence in the aspect of tenses while teaching Greek hasn't make things more complicated for them. (And στιγμιαίος is only a misnomer if you use a rather narrow definition of the term :D ). Just as learning Present Continuous didn't seem complicated to me.
    I am not sure what you mean by μέλλοντας του αορίστου though. Do you mean something like εξακολουθητικό παρελθόν for παρατατικός (whose name says it all really) ?

    All languages express aspect in a more or less prominent way whether in the verb form or the overall context it doesn't matter. Since people are familiar with the "reality" of aspect terminology is of a secondary importance. Grammar is a toolbox to help us learn a language. If one of the tools is not needed it should stay in the box.

    Anyway, no matter how clear the distinction is and no matter what terminology we use it all comes down to usage and sometimes usage defies "categories".
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Indeed, this one (have you read) is very difficult for learners.

    And to make things truly nightmarish, even if the learner perfectly understands this example, the use of (pro-)čitati doesn't always generalize to other similar verbs, even when the analogy between the activities that they describe is perfect. Often there are incredibly complex subtleties peculiar to each particular verb. In fact, the example with (pro-)čitati was probably selected by the author of that online lesson because it's unusually simple and free of complications!

    For example, take the Croatian verbs gledati (= to watch, to look at) and slušati (= to listen). One might think that these verbs and their perfective forms would be used when talking about watching a movie or listening to a CD in exactly the same way as (pro-)čitati is used when talking about reading a book; the analogy certainly seems perfect. Alas, it's not so. Both these verbs actually have two perfective forms each, formed with prefixes po- and od-, each carrying its own subtle semantic shades (the po- forms are used more frequently and have an overtone of having fun, whereas the od- forms might suggest that the watching or listening was tedious). Even the cases when the original imperfective forms are used aren't exactly analogous to the use of čitati.

    And as the final straw, the perfective verbs pogledati and poslušati can have additional meanings in other contexts, different from the original imperfective verbs (e.g. poslušati can mean to heed, and pogledati can mean to glance).

    I'm really fascinated by the fact that we've actuallly managed to learn all this stuff as kids. :D
     
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