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The category of tense of the verb.



It’s necessary to distinguish between the lexical denotations of time and grammatical time proper. Time and space are the basic forms of the existence of matter. Time is independent of human perception, but it is reflected in it and finds its expression in the language. Lexical denotations of time can be of 2 types: absolutive and non-absolute.

Absolutive ones refer an action to the present, past, or future from the point of view of the present moment. Non-absolute ones give no orientation towards the present. Absolutive: “now, yesterday, in a couple of days”. Non-absolute can be of 2 types: 1) relative (show that an event precedes or follows another one, e.g. “after that, before that”), 2) factual (directly state the time of an event, e.g. “in 1066”).

Grammatical time: only the most abstract, temporal meanings are conveyed through the category of tense in the forms of the finite verb. Ilyish defines the category of tense as a verbal category that reflects the objective category of time and expresses relations between the time of the action and that of the utterance.

There are different views on the system of tenses.

1) The Traditional approach is based on the philosophical concept of time. Accordingly, 3 main divisions of time are represented by 3 tenses: the Past, the Pres., and the Fut., so there are 3 tense-forms in this system (lived-lives-will live). These forms show the time of the action from the point of view of the moment of speech, and that is the absolute use of tenses. It can be compared with absolutive lexical expressions of time, which are also present. This use is contrasted to the relative use of tenses. In that case the time of the action is referred to another moment in the past or future, it is used to express priority, simultaneity, or relative future (the sequence of tenses). Many linguists don’t include the future in the system of tenses. Otto Esperson doesn’t include it as he claims that there is no grammatical form of the future, which stands on the same grammatical footing with the forms of the present and the past. The combination shall/will+the infinitive cannot be treated as a grammatical (analytical) form of the future since the first element in this combination – shall/will – is not devoid of lexical meaning.

2) According to the theory of the splitting functions, there should be splitting between auxiliary and notional. And auxiliary must have grammatical meaning only, and notional is the bearer of lexical meaning. Shall/will aren’t devoid of lexical meaning (Esperson). Shall has traces of the meaning of obligation, will – volition => the combination is a “modal phrase” (Esperson) or a “free WC”, which cannot be placed on the same footing with grammatical forms of the Pres. and the Past. Barkhudarov doesn’t include the Future tense in the system of English tenses either. To substantiate his point of view he analyzed the form of the Future-in-the-Past and he pointed out the fact that it expresses the future time and the past time at once. 2nd feature of the grammatical category – opposite members are usually mutually excluding => 2 opposite grammatical meanings of the same grammatical category cannot coexist in one grammatical form. And Fut. in the Past has both => the Future doesn’t belong elsewhere in the system of tenses.

Blokh’s approach: he thinks that the construction shall/will (should/would)+inf. belongs to a category of its own – a temporal category of its own. It’s called the category of prospective time => it’s built on the opposition of forms with the shall/will (should/would) markers and forms without these markers. The forms with shall/will/should/would markers express an after-action; and forms without them express non-after-action. Blokh also states that the prospective time is relative because the future action is relative to the present or past time => that’s how he treats Fut. and the Fut. in the Past. The category of prospective time is opposed to the category of primary time. It provides for the absolutive expression of the time. In other words, it refers the action to the moment of speech. This category (abs. time) is based on the opposition of the Pres. and the Past forms of the verb. Present form => present action, Past form => past action (difference in meaning). The marker of the past form of the verb is the “dental” suffix (-d, or -ed) – that is a productive marker. It has 3 elements: a) t, b) d, c) id.

There are non-productive markers, too – e.g. sound interchange or suppletion. Blokh gives another reason for singling out this opposition. It is the fact that only the present and the past forms use the aux. “do” to form interrogative and negative constructions. In Blokh’s view, there are 2 temporal categories: primary time and prospective time. He thinks that the modal character of the Future tense cannot be denied because a future action can only be foreseen, anticipated, desired or planned. It isn’t a genuine feature of reality. Still, the English Future form differs from the modal constructions with the same verbs (shall/will). He claims that as a rule “shall” and “will” are free from modal shades of meaning and express near futurity (будущность). E.g. “I’m afraid I will have to go back to the hotel”. Will – combined with “have to” + “I’m afraid” => no meaning of volition.

Non-finite verbs.

As the verbals (infinitive, gerund, and participle) make up a part of the English verb system, they have some features in common with the finite forms, and in so far as they are singled out of the forms of the verb, they must have some peculiarities of their own.

Verbals have no category of number,mood and person.

The infinitive possessesthe category of aspect, i.e. the distinction between the common and the continuous aspect.

· To speak – to be speaking

· To have spoken – to have been speaking

He seems to be enjoying himself quite a lot – the continuous infinitive gives more prominence to the idea of the continuity, which is obviously much stringer than the mere statement.

With the gerund andthe participle things are different. They exhibit no such distinction (no continuous forms). Occasionally, a continuous participle is found: The younger Miss Thorpes being also dancing, Catherine was left to the mercy of Mrs Thorpe and Mrs Allen, between whom she now remained а a continuous Participle I is at least potentially a part of the morphological system of the English verb. But this use appears to be obsolete (archaic).





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