Re: verb conjugations and participles...
|From:||Paul Sherrill <sherril2@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, September 13, 2001, 23:56|
> Some goals I amtrying to fulfill with verbs are:
> 1) I would like to be able to express all the verb flavors in english, ie:
> He *has been walking* for some time.
> He *had walked* since noon.
> He *will have walked* 100 miles come the end of the day.
> He *is walking* now.
> He *walks* on.
> 2) I would like for every past tense to have a macthing future tense. Ingeneral, I would like my language to be symetrical and regular.
It sounds like you're talking about a combination of aspect and tense. I
won't claim to be an expert, but having just finished looking at Aspect by
Bernard Comrie, I'll give a shot at this. Tense is basically when the
action happens. There are a lot of ways to divide up the conceptual space,
but the most common ways are Past/Present/Future and Past/Non-Past. Aspect,
on the other hand, is how the action is viewed. If the action is viewed as
a single complete whole, including the beginning, middle, and end, without
paying specific attention to any one part, the verb is in the perfective
aspect (not to be confused with English's Perfect aspect, which is an
entirely different thing). An example of the perfective aspect is "I made a
chair." While there were logically several steps in this process, the
statement makes no specific reference to them, but rather views the creation
process as a single whole. On the other hand, the imperfective aspect is
used when an internal part of the action is viewed. For example, "I was
running" would probably be considered imperfective, since the statement does
not mention the beginning of the action, or the end, only stating that at
some point the speaker was engaged in the act of running.
The distinction between tense and aspect is pretty large, but unfortunately
most traditional grammars group the two into one system (which they call
"tense"). This generally works, because the more popularly known languages
don't have separate systems for the two, but sometimes it helps, like in
choosing how your own language will function, to pay attention to the
> 3) I would like for verbs to be dealt with more regularly and logicallywith respect to particples and how English has done it:
> ie, :
> "The boy is running and yelling." is no different than "The running boy isyelling", therefor, I would like to call "running" either an adjective or an
adverb, and call the main (and only) verb of the previous sentence,"is". Why
should the sentences "The boy is pink" and "The boy is running" be any
different from each other, or any different from "The pink boy is" or "The
running boy is"
> But *denotatively*, why should the grammar of the sentences be anydifferent?
Well, I think it's important to how these sentences might look outside of
English. The sentence "The boy is running and yelling" is in the present
tense and the Progressive (which I guess is the common name in English
grammar for a large chunk of the meaning of the imperfective aspect) aspect.
Since English doesn't have any affixes to add to verbs to denote that a verb
is Progressive rather than Simple, it uses the verb to be + the present
active participle to show the Progressive aspect. I think it's just
accidental that the sentence has the same structure as a sentence like "The
boy is pink." In the first sentence, "is running" basically represents the
notion that could be conveyed by one verb in another language, whereas "is
pink" is really a sequence of verb + adjective. (Then again, all adjectives
in a language could behave like verbs, like having a verb meaning "to be
pink", and again there'd be little grammatical difference between the two
sentences.) It all depends on how your language chooses to analyze present
imperfective verbs and predicates indicating quality.
> Is this complete? Will this cover every possible english nuance and useof the verb?
Well, I think there are really an infinite number of combinations of aspect
+ tense, although there are only a few that are practical. English also has
a Habitual aspect, "I used to walk". You could also come up with a bunch of
other ones, like the inceptive (I think this is the right term) "I started
walking" or the completetive (?) "I finished walking."
> Is this symetrical, or has a dimension been ignored?
Well, I wouldn't worry about having ignored dimensions, because no language
manages to express everything grammatically. It seems like a pretty
functional system to me, although it seems pretty close to what English has.
> Will treating particilpes as non-verbs grammatically have any undesirablerepercussions?
Well, yes and no. A participle basically is an adjective formed from a
verb, like "kicking" or "kicked", so treating actual participles as
something besides verbs shouldn't be a problem at all. However, don't
confuse participles with imperfective verb forms just because English uses
similar constructions for each. (In "the running boy", running probably
would be translated by a participle, but in "The boy is running", "is
running" could easily be translated by a simple verb, without using a
Someone else could probably offer a better explanation, since almost all of
my knowledge on the subject comes from this one book.