The category of aspect of the verb.

The aspective meaning shouldn’t be confused with the temporal. Aspect shows the character of the action from the point of view of its progress and completion. In Russian – 2 aspects: the perfective and the imperfective. They differ both in meaning and in form. In English there are no such clear-cut distinctions. For that reason not all linguists recognize the category of the aspect. In Russian most do recognize, say that it can be expressed by lexical and grammatical means. Lexical means: verbs fall into 2 groups: terminative and durative. Term. verbs denote an action implying a certain limit. Durative don’t imply any such limit. Usually – pairs of such verbs (to find – term., to search – dur.). Grammatical means: in the course of history both Continuous and Perfect Forms have been analyzed as aspective. In modern linguistics the category of aspect is analyzed in terms of the oppositional theory => the category of aspect is built on opposition of aspect Continuous and the Non- Continuous aspect (common aspect à unmarked (weak) member). Continuous – marked (strong) member. Бархударов pointed out the peculiar marker – kind of morpheme - discontinuous morpheme be + -ing. These morphemes don’t include the root of the notional verb => the difference in meaning: Continuous aspect – its meaning is defined as an action in progress, developing at a given moment; the common aspect doesn’t express duration.

Various interpretations of the continuous forms. 3 stages can be distinguished in the evolution of views on the continuous.

1st approach – of traditional grammar. It places the continuous forms among the tense forms of the verb. That’s why – “continuous tenses” => “the tense view of the continuous” and the meaning of the continuous was defined as that of simultaneity with some other action. Those who oppose this point of view analyze the form of the perfect continuous. They point out that perfect is quite alien to simultaneity, it expresses priority but as the continuous is usually used with perfect. It cannot express simultaneity, it expresses only aspectualityan action in progress.

2nd approach was put forward by prof. Ivanova – she says the continuous renders a blend of temporal and aspective meanings => “the tense-aspect blend view”. The merits: Иванова pointed out the aspective meaning of the continuous and showed the actual connection of aspect and tense in the semantics of the verb.

3rd approach – the oppositional theory was applied by linguists Смирницкий, Ярцева, Ильиш, Бархударов – if we analyze it in terms of oppositional theory we should note the opposition between continuous and non-continuous forms.

Various interpretations of the Perfect forms. The question of the perfect is one of the most debatable: the question arises whether it’s an aspective or temporal form and what is the grammatical meaning of the Perfect. Blokh says the Perfect Form belongs to the category of retrospective coordination. It’s built on opposition of perfect forms and non-perfect forms of the verb. The marked member – the perfect forms (strong). Non-perfect – weak. The marker – discontinuous morpheme have + -en. As to the difference in meaning, Blokh says the Perfect coordinates 2 times and shows connection of a prior event with the following one. This meaning is reflected in the name – retrospective coordination.

We look back + it shows connection, coordination. There are 4 different ways of interpreting the Perfect:

1)traditional grammar places perfect forms among tense forms, analyzes perfect forms as relative tenses => in some textbooks – the perfect tenses. This view originates from works by Henry Sweet, Curme, Bryant, Иртеньева, Ганшина, Василевская. According to that point of view the perfect denotes a secondary temporal characteristic of an action. In other words, it doesn’t refer an action to a certain point of time but expresses priority to the present, past or future. The weak point of this approach – it overlooks the aspective function of the perfect => “the tense view of the perfect”.

2)“the aspect view of the perfect” because it treats the perfect as an aspective form. Can be found in Deutschbein, Sonnenshein, Воронцова – she believes that the perfect represents a peculiar aspect called resultative (or transmissive), the term transmissive emphasizes the idea of successive connection of 2 events – the prior and the later. The resultative meaning is a variety of the general transmissive meaning. That can be illustrated: “The wind has dropped and the sun burns more fiercely than ever” à as a result; but at the same time we see the prior action. Some grammarians, who share the aspect view of the perfect, argue the meaning of completion prevails in the meaning of the perfect (Жидагло и Ёфик). However, it doesn’t always stand true; there are cases when completion isn’t expressed by the perfect. E.g. They scored a goal. I haven’t met him for years (no completion). The drawback of the aspect view – it doesn’t disclose the oppositional nature of the perfect.

3)“the tense-aspect blend view of the perfect”. Иванова is the author. She treats the perfect as a form of double temporal aspective character. It overcomes the one-sidedness of 2 previous approaches. E.g. I haven’t met Charlie for years. A) the temporal meaning of the perfect can be brought forth by time-test question: For how long haven’t you met Charlie? B) The aspective meaning of the perfect can be brought forth by an aspect-test function: What’s the result of your not having met Charlie for years? Drawback: it doesn’t disclose the oppositional nature of the perfect.

4) the oppositional nature of the perf. was disclosed by Смирницкий. He argues the perfect builds up its own grammatical category – of phase or time-correlation which is distinct from the category of tense and aspect. He says the category is built on opposition of perfect and non- perfect forms. Perfect – marked (strong) member – built with aux. “to have” and the Past Participle of the verb. As to the meaning, it expresses priority to a certain moment and correlates the action with that moment => the name of the category – time-correlation. Smirnitsky’s approach – his new interpretation was prompted by the analysis of the perfect continuous. He proceeds from the 2nd characteristic feature of the grammatical category in his reasoning – “the members of the opposition are mutually excluding”: 1 member cannot express the grammatical meaning of the opposite + 2 meanings cannot coexist in 1 form. “The perfect cannot be either an aspect form granted (в том случае, если) the continuous expresses the category of aspect or a temporal form granted the continuous expresses the category of tense” => the category in question is distinct from both tense and aspect, it’s a new category – of time-correlation. Blokh supports this theory but the meaning of the perfect he treats differently – retrospective coordination. Blokh specifies that though the category of retrospective coordination is independent, semantically it’s intermediate between aspect and tense.


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