Aspect (perfective, imperfective verb)

virgilio

Senior Member
English UK
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".

Ireney, Well said! You have expressed my thoughts about this 'aspect' business
Virgilio
 
  • modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Irene,

    I understand your point and obviously people learn a language (well) by exposure to usage and not through memorizing a grammatical description, but that would apply to the terminology of any part of a language, whether it's aspect or tense or whatever. But in the back of my head I do have the idea that different terminologies might help or hinder people. Imagine, say, if people said that άνθρωπος was the nominative άνθρωποι was the subjective -- that might be accurate in its own way, but it would be shouting out for the words to be relabeled to take into account that these two words share something (case) and differ in something else (number). That's sort of how I see the Greek (and English) terminology sometimes when it comes to aspect -- why not bring out the fact that what certain verb forms share between them is aspect, which is basically orthogonal to other categories like tense? But again, I do realize this isn't the most important thing in the whole world :D.

    (And στιγμιαίος is only a misnomer if you use a rather narrow definition of the term :D ).

    Very true, and in the end labels are just labels.

    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) ?
    I just meant it as an example of a terminology where everything that had a perfective aspect had the word αόριστος (but στιγμιαίος would work just as well) in it somehow. And yes εξακολουθητικό παρελθόν would be perfect, and then if everything with the same aspect were labelled the same way (εξακολουθητική υποτακτική and so on), I'd be happy :D.
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    modus,
    Re your:
    "I understand your point and obviously people learn a language (well) by exposure to usage and not through memorizing a grammatical description, but that would apply to the terminology of any part of a language, whether it's aspect or tense or whatever. But in the back of my head I do have the idea that different terminologies might help or hinder people. Imagine, say, if people said that άνθρωπος was the nominative άνθρωποι was the subjective -- that might be accurate in its own way,"

    But most languages already suffer from this kind of inappropriate terminology without too many ill effects, from what I can see. A superb example is the apparent failure to notice that - in inflected languages - substantives are nouns only when they are nominative. People still refer to accusative, genitive, dative, ablative cases and so forth as nouns, when they plainly aren't and yet - such is the inherent intelligence of humans - it doesn't seem to get in the way of any linguists who don't happen to be particularly interested in syntax or symbolic logic.
    In can even produce a little harmless humour. If you want a chuckle, have a look at the definition of "preposition" in most English dictionaries (the OED included, as far as I recall)!
    And surely wrong labelling is worse than absent labelling.

    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    karuna

    Senior Member
    Latvian, Latvia
    But most languages already suffer from this kind of inappropriate terminology without too many ill effects, from what I can see. A superb example is the apparent failure to notice that - in inflected languages - substantives are nouns only when they are nominative. People still refer to accusative, genitive, dative, ablative cases and so forth as nouns, when they plainly aren't and yet - such is the inherent intelligence of humans - it doesn't seem to get in the way of any linguists who don't happen to be particularly interested in syntax or symbolic logic.

    Could you explain this more? Why nouns are not nouns when inflected? As I understand the difference between nouns and substantives is something else -- adjectives acting as nouns, for example, "the poor". See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun_substantive Although the wikipedia article seems very English centric because I think that most languages have no articles.
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    karuna,
    Thank you for your reply. I use Latin as my language 'testbed' and Latin is, of course, an inflected language.
    It seems to me clear that the "cases" (literally the 'fallings-away') are for those words which do not, so to speak, quite make the grade as "nouns" and so have to be satisfied with the lesser syntax functions of adjective or adverb.
    It follows from the above, of course, that the nominative is not itself a "case", since to call it "case" would imply noun-deficiency.
    Accordingly, the Latin cases are:
    accusative (adverb)
    genitive (adjective)
    dative (adverb)
    ablative (adverb).

    Some people find difficulty - for some reason - in accepting that verb-object accusatives are adverbs but the evidence seems to me conclusive, particularly the evidence provided by German.

    Naturally all of this demands some kind of definitions. I suggest the following:
    NOUN: a word which mysteriously compenetrates with a verb, thereby producing a sentence.
    ADJECTIVE: a word with describes or identifies a nominal.
    ADVERB: a word which asks or tells when, where, how, or why a noun-verb compenetration takes place.
    NOMINAL: a word which when and only when it is nominative is a noun and when it is in one of the "cases" is either adjective or adverb.

    I hope this may be of some help in clarifying what I meant.

    With best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    karuna

    Senior Member
    Latvian, Latvia
    Thanks, Virgilio, for your explanation. It will probably take some time for me to fully understand this. I don't really understand the part of "lesser syntax functions" because I see the other way arround: syntax rules require nouns to take certain cases. Maybe except in the vocative case.
     

    Alijsh

    Senior Member
    Persian - Iran
    Ok. Let me classify and expand what I had written at #40.

    {
    raftan: to go -> past stem: raft -> past participle: rafté
    budan: to be -> past stem: bud -> past participle: budé
    dâštan: to have -> past stem: dâšt -> past participle: dâšté

    acute accent indicates stress position
    conjugations are in 3rd person singular
    }

    past simple: raft
    |- imperfective: miraft (past imperfect)
    |- progressive: dâst miraft (past progressive)
    |- perfective: rafté-ast (present perfect; ast is enclitic)
    |--- imperfective: mirafté-ast (imperfective present perfect)
    |--- progressive: dâste mirafté-ast (present perfect progressive)

    pluperfect (past perfect): rafté bud
    |- imperfective: mirafté bud (imperfective pluperfect)
    |- progressive: dâšt mirafté bud (pluperfect progressive)
    |- perfective: rafté budé-ast (Apparently passé surcomposé. What to call this in English?)
    |--- imperfective: mirafté budé-ast (imperfective passé surcomposé)
    |--- progressive: dâšte mirafté budé-ast (progressive passé surcomposé)

    NOTES
    » All of these 12 tenses are conjugated regularly.
    » The progressive forms are only used in spoken Persian. In written Persian, we use the imperfective forms. In addition, these forms of expressing progressive are specific to the Iranian Persian.
    » The progressive forms don't have negative form. We use them only when an action has happened. I mean, we don't use the progressive to say "I wasn't writing a letter" but the imperfective form.
    » The auxiliary for perfective is always budan (e.g. French, Italian has both avoir and être). rafté budam (I had gone) literally means <'I was' gone>.
    » The imperfective form is made by adding imperfective prefix "mi".
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    karuna,
    Do take your time. The conclusions I have outlined above (along with several others) I arrived at over a period of about 40 years contemplating and mentally trying to construct what seemed to me the hypothetical system of syntax which best ordinated and 'managed' the linguistic phenomena of the languages I had observed over that time. (Latin, Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Turkish, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Arabic and English).
    Naturally I had the time to become reasonably fluent in only a few of those languages but colloquial fluency is not so important for the student of syntax.
    The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that any system of syntax worth the name had to be "logocentric", by which I mean that each of the premisses upon which the system is based must be defined in terms of single words (and not phrases).
    Looking round I found that our ancestors had already been there! The 'parts of speech' I had learned about at primary school could not - with one single exception - be improved upon. (I decided that "interjection", although undoubtedly a part of "speech", had no place in a system of syntax, since it represented an emotional outburst rather than a rational utterance.)
    I notice that many modern linguists seem not to care for this 'logocentric' approach. I may be wrong but I feel that their personal systems of syntax must consequently suffer from a certain lack of elegant simplicity.
    I would be very grateful for any comments or corrections.

    With best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    Erutuon

    Member
    English, USA
    There's been some confusion on whether the English perfect tense is an example of perfective aspect. The way I've learned it, there are two different aspects here:
    1. perfective: an action as a simple whole
    2. perfect: an action finished but with continuing effects on the time one is speaking about (i.e., present, past, or future)
    This is very confusing terminology, perfective and perfect, but the concepts are pretty distinct. These two correspond to the Greek aorist and perfect, the Latin historical perfect and present perfect, and (less neatly) the English simple past and perfect.
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Hi!

    I'd like to give my contribution concerning Indonesian, but I'm afraid I don't know what exactly this thread is all about?
    Is there any specific question at all?
    I don't want to be off topic in replying.

    Salam
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    This thread is a spin-off. There's no question in the usual WR sense of the word. It is a comparative thread about aspects - how, if at all, they are used in various languages. It was created to enlighten speakers of languages like English, who find it difficult to capture the concept.
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    Thank you Jana!

    In that case I'd belong to the ones who need to be explained about aspects, since I don't think we have such things in Indonesian.
    We have no tenses nor aspects. :)

    Salam,


    MarX
     

    Encolpius

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    This is an important discussion about a phenomenon which exists in most of the world’s languages, but which does not have a morphological expression in most of the languages that are normally being taught in Western Europe....

    That is my observation as well. In Hungarian perfective verbs are usually formed with verbal prefixes.

    Egész délután tanultam, de nem tanultam meg a leckét.
    tanulni - to learn
    megtanultam - have learnt
    (egész delután - the whole afternoon, lecke - homework)
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I'm getting a feeling that perfectives begin to be mixed with perfects in this thread. Even though perfective verbs can be potentially used in the perfect meaning (i.e. to describe some current state resulted from previous events), it is by no mean their main use and they don't necessarily imply that - i.e. saying "я сделал это" (perf.) doesn't mean that I have some result at hand; it simply means that there was a single event of me successfully completing something, but nothing tells us if the result actually exists at the moment, and most Slavic languages don't even have any grammatical means to specify that.
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Just as I said: perfects basically describe the situation resulted from some previous actions. So the English (or the Old Church Slavonic) present perfect is, indeed, basically a present tense describing the current situation. Perfectives, on the other hand, describe just single, indivisible, point-like actions/events (the aorist being a particular case of them), and the respective verbs normally don't even have present tense forms (a point-like event on the timeline is necessarily in the past or in the future).
     

    Encolpius

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Those scholastic, historical and other sophisticated explanations are interesting but as you know e.g. in Hungarian the tense and aspect is similar to that one in Slavic languages, so I have never seen any practical difference between those things.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Those scholastic, historical and other sophisticated explanations are interesting but as you know e.g. in Hungarian the tense and aspect is similar to that one in Slavic languages, so I have never seen any practical difference between those things.
    The practical difference is that certain languages can have the both. :) And if they don't, there is no direct correspondence between perfects and perfectives at all.
    E.g.:
    Eng. "I've done it" > Rus. "я сделал это" (perf.) or "я делал это" (imp., like "I've done it many times"; the aspectual features of the activity are irrelevant for English here, only the result is, but it's the other way around for most Slavic languages, which don't have the perfect tense).
    Eng. "I did it" > Rus. "я сделал это" (perf., like in "I did it once") or "я делал это" (imp.).
     
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