Re: THEORY: Temporal Auxiliaries, Aspectual Auxiliaries, Modal Auxiliaries
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, July 9, 2005, 19:40|
On Friday, July 8, 2005, at 08:37 , # 1 wrote:
> I will stop talking about this subject and simply recognize my ignorance
> of the subject,
Don't worry - Socrates claimed that the Delphic Oracle called him the
wisest man in Greece because, unlike his fellow men, he was aware of the
limitations of his own knowledge. I keep coming up against new ideas and
realizing how ignorant I am on many topics. We never stop learning :)
Also if experts like Bernard Comrie and Östen Dahl are not in agreement on
things like the 'perfect aspect', then its not a simple, straightforward
> I thought of aorist... that I never really understood, but re-reading
> about this have I understood if I say that it is in fact a tense mixed
> with a particular aspect....
Strictly it refers to Greek grammar. PIE seems to had a verb system where
three different bases were used, to express various aspects:
- imperfective aspect ('present stem')
- perfective aspect ('aorist stem')
- prefect aspect ('perfect stem')
This at any rate is what ancient Greek inherited; it developed a fourth
aspectual base base, for what I term the 'futuritive' aspect (I am sure
there must be a better term, but I do not know it).
On these four aspectual bases suufixes were added to express various moods:
indicative, subjunctive, optative and imperative (the latter not for the
futuritive aspect), as well as participles & infinitives.
Tense was expressed only in the indicative mood, and Greek distinguished
only past and non-past time, the past being marked by an prefix known as
the '(temporal) augment'.
The present stem (imperfective aspect) had both tense, conventionally
known as the 'present tense' and 'imperfect tense'. Also the perfect stem
had both tenses, conventionally known as the 'perfect tense' and the
But the future stem had only one indicative tense, the non-past which is
conventionally called the 'future tense' (no shifted futures or
'future-in-the-past' there!); and the aorist base (perfective aspect) had
only one indicative tense, the past tense, conventionally known as the
So 'aorist' was and is used in describing Greek grammar to denote _both_
an aspect as in the "aorist subjunctive", "aorist optative", "aorist
imperative" etc (*no* reference to tense) _and_ to 'tense with aspect', as
you rightly say, when they talk about the 'aorist tense'.
Thus the ancient Greek aorist tense was a past perfective, like the simple
English past "I went".
(In the modern language this has become drastically simplified; the old
future & perfect stems have gone. The 'present' and 'aorist' stems only
remain, and the verbal system has developed the dual imperfective ~
perfective aspects familiar in the Slav languages.)
But, to confuse things, the term 'aorist' has been used in describing
other languages in an _inconsistent_ manner. If you look up 'aorist' in
Trask you will find:
"1. A verb form marked for past tense but unmarked for aspect.
2. A verb form marked for both past tense and perfective aspect.
3. A verb form marked for perfective aspect.
4. A conventional label used in a highly variable manner among specialists
in particular languages to dnote some verb form or set of verb forms...."
He concludes with these words:
"NOTE: in view of this great terminological confusion, Comrie (1976)
recommends the avoidance of the term 'aorist' in linguistic theory."
I agree with Comrie. If there is terminological confusion amongst
linguists themselves, then it is hardly surprising if you have found the
term confusing :)
> But there are no language that distinct more than those? like distincting
> "far past" from "near past" or having a "past" and a
> that they would use in stories, genesis histories, dreams, childhood
> memories of the oldest members of the group...?
Bien sûr! When I said past~present~future I was talking in broad terms.
Certainly as regards past time, some languages do exactly that,
distinguishing between remote and near past and so on - tho this is often
mixed up with aspect also. Likewise some distinguish between near and
I meant that tense in its strict usage is concerned only with time.
However the conventionally named tenses of individual languages more often
than not denote both time and aspect, for example, the 'imperfect tense'
denotes both past time & imperfective aspect. Sometimes also mood may be
involved as in the 'conditional tense' of the Romance languages. (The real
nub of the difference between you and me has been whether the 'future
tense' also involves mood as well.)
In view of these two different uses of the term 'tense', I often wish
'tense' had been left with the loose, conventional usage of traditional
grammar and that linguists had coined a different term to denote 'the
category that corresponds with distinctions of time.'
On Friday, July 8, 2005, at 10:21 , Doug Dee wrote:
> Degrees of remoteness in the past (and future) tense are not uncommon.
> E.g., In _Tense_, Bernard Comrie mentions the Haya language of Tanzania,
> separate past tenses for "earlier today", "yesterday", and "before
> "Recent past" vs. "nonrecent past" is also a common distinction, but I
> reading somewhere that no natural language has a tense cutoff based on a
> specific historical event.
Exactly so - I did not want to imply that the past was just the past. In
many languages, as far as 'tense' (in the strict meaning) is concerned,
that is all there is, and aspect deals with the finer shades of meaning,
so to speak. But there are indeed languages whose tense system gives some
broad serialization to the past. A New Guinea language called 'Yimas'
apparently has a rich tense system: four denoting various degrees of
remoteness in past time, a present tense, a near future and a distant
At the other extreme we have Chinese with no tenses - only aspectual
suffixes available for its verbs :)
On Friday, July 8, 2005, at 10:01 , tomhchappell wrote:
> Thanks for writing, Ray, Max, and others on this thread.
You're welcome :)
> --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Ray Brown <ray.brown@F...> wrote:
>> On Thursday, July 7, 2005, at 07:45 , tomhchappell wrote:
>>> My question was, in Korean or other languages in which some (say)
>>> English content-verb (like "studied") has to
>>> be translated by a light-verb-and-content-word combination,
>>> say "kongpu-lul ha-yess-ta";
>>> John-i [yenge-lul kongpu-lul]VNP ha-yess-ta
>>> John-Nom English-Acc study-Acc do-Pst-Dc
>>> `John studied English.'
>>> when we re-translate "kongpu-lul ha-yess-ta" back into (in this
>>> English, does the content-word (in this case "kongpu-lul") always
>>> correspond to a verbal noun or verbal adjective?
>> Why do we not simply retranslate it as "John studied English"?
> What I meant was, if we /deliberately/ choose a /literal/ or /word-
> for-word/ tranlsation, /rather/ than an idiomatic translation, we
> would get either;
> "John did study"
> "John did English".
> My question had to do with the /literal/ translation of "kongpu-lul".
IMO a literal translation of every word and/or morpheme in such
circumstances is not helpful and indeed can be confusing. It is much
better, I think, to use interlinear morpheme-by-morpheme glosses. There is
a standard way of doing this, known as the 'Leipzig Glossing Rules'. Have
a look at:
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