Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Aspects vs. Tenses in an All-Out Grudge Match! (was ArtyomKouzminykh; Answes&proposal)

From:Tom Wier <artabanos@...>
Date:Friday, August 20, 1999, 23:52
Steg Belsky wrote:

> On Fri, 20 Aug 1999 14:11:51 -0700 Barry Garcia > <Barry_Garcia@...> writes: > >They are? Hmm tell that to the Austronesians who dont even have tense > >in > >their verbs, which only show aspect. To show time, we use adverbs of > >time, > >like tomorrow, today, now, yesterday, etc. Verbs conjugate according > >to > >aspect: finished, continuing, and contemplated. > > I seem to remember reading that some people theorize that Proto-Semitic > only had aspects, and not tenses. I never really understood what exactly > the difference is....if an action is in the past, isn't it finished? And > present actions are continuing, and future actions are only > contemplated...
No, not really. Think of it this way: aspect is (often) like a relative form of tense. Aspect refers to time, but not any one particular time. For example, the English "simple present tense" is really a mixture of aspect and tense, because its main use (now) is to indicate habitual action that is happening now. For habitual actions that occurred in the past but are ambiguous as to whether they still occur, we use another helping verb, "used to". An action in the past can indeed have effects that last into the present. I'd say this is the general distinction between the English aorist (aka simple past) and the English present perfect: "I ran into a tree" implies that you hit the tree at one point in the past and probably, though not necessarily, and without any further context, that that has no bearing on your present situation. "I have run into a tree" implies that the action was in the past, completed, but its effects still have relevance to the present, as if you were on the phone, telling your parents/spouse/ whoever that you'll probably be needing a new car soon :) One interesting point about English grammar that I find a little hard to describe is the way we mix our aspectual forms together. In English, it's perfectly acceptable to say "I was about to have flown over the Amazon, when..." or "I have been playing clarinet for four years now.", if that's what the situation was. =========================================== Tom Wier <artabanos@...> AIM: Deuterotom ICQ: 4315704 <> "Cogito ergo sum, sed credo ergo ero." ===========================================