Aspectual systems in language Essay

Chapter 1


  1. Overview of the survey

This thesis is a synchronous typological comparing of the aspectual systems of two genetically unrelated linguistic communications, viz. Mandarin Chinese ( for simpleness, I will mention to Mandarin Chinese as ‘Chinese’ afterlife ) and Mongolian, within the theoretical model of the two-component theory proposed by Smith ( 1991, 1997 ) and subsequently modified by Yang ( 1995 ) , Olsen ( 1997 ) , and Xiao & A ; McEnery ( 2004 ) , among others. Harmonizing to the two-component theory, facet is a cosmopolitan [ 1 ] semantic class that is compositional in nature.

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The aspectual significance of a sentence consequences from the interaction of state of affairs type and aspectual point of view. Hence, sentences showing facet can be referred to as holding two independent yet interacting constituents: state of affairs facet and point of view aspect [ 2 ] . The former refers to the built-in temporal constituency of state of affairss [ 3 ] while the latter refers to the temporal position from which the state of affairs is presented. Situation facet is determined by a verb configuration [ 4 ] , its statements, and the adverbials modifying the verb whereas point of view facet is manifested through grammatical markers and particular signifiers. The two constituents of aspect interact with each other at the sentential degree to convey together grammatical and semantic information for aspectual reading. One dimension of difference among linguistic communications is the generalization of the interaction ( Smith, 1997: 5 ) . Aspectual point of views may hold a limited scope: in English and Chinese they require certain state of affairs types, whereas in Gallic they apply to all. Languages besides vary in how viewpoint relates to the grammatical class of tense, which serves to turn up the clip of the state of affairs being talked about with regard to the clip at which the talker utters the sentence ( i.e. , the clip of speech production or speech clip ) . In rule, tense and facet should be independent from each other, i.e. , the same aspectual contrast could be found in all tenses, merely as in English ( there are a few exclusions ) . In most linguistic communications such as Russian and Gallic, nevertheless, perfective and imperfective point of view contrasts merely apply to past tenses. The best involvement of this survey lies in the probe of the similarities and differences between the Chinese and Mongolian aspectual systems in footings of these dimensions, and the extent to which the universal characteristics of facet are manifested in the two systems.

1.1 Background to the phenomena

The look of clip is one of the cardinal conceptual spheres of human linguistic communication. It is non surprising, hence, that all natural linguistic communications have developed a broad scope of devices to encode clip and temporal dealingss. These devices include grammatical classs such as tense, semantic classs such as aspect [ 5 ] , assorted types of temporal adverbials and atoms, and discourse rules, among which, tense and facet are possibly the most of import 1s.

Tense vs. facet

Tense and facet are two distinguishable conceptual temporal classs, mentioning to independent dimensions of grammar.

Comrie ( 1985 ) defined tense as “the grammaticalisation of location in time” ( p.1 ) , whereas facet as “the grammaticalisation of look of internal temporal constituency” ( p.6 ) . Tense is deictic because it refers to a clip with regard to another temporal mention point, normally the minute of speech production. By contrast, facet is concerned with the continuance and temporal boundaries of a state of affairs, independent of the situation’s temporal mention. The difference betweenHe is traversing the routeandHe was traversing the routeis that of tense ; whereasHe crossed the routeandHe was traversing the routediffer in facet. In other words, tense describeswhena state of affairs occurs, whereas aspect depictshowthe state of affairs unfolds over clip.

Tense and facet are concerned with clip from complementary positions.

The separation of tense from facet is supported by the fact that some linguistic communications encode one but non the other. In fact, surprisingly few linguistic communications lack aspectual differentiations, although many deficiency tense, including Mandarin.

In some linguistic communications the differentiation between facet and tense is morphological, every bit good as semantic, because grammatical facet and tense are marked by separate affixes.

  • Therefore it is non possible from a cross-linguistic position to specify grammatical facet on strictly morphological evidences, since it is frequently non morphologically separate from tense. In this survey, I adopt Comrie’s ( 1976:2-3 ) semantic differentiation between tense and facet.
  • Like tense, facet is a manner that verbs represent clip. However, instead than turn uping an event or provinceinclip, the manner tense does, aspect describes “ the internal temporal constituency of a state of affairs ” , or in other words, facet is a manner “ of gestating the flow of the procedure itself ” . [ 7 ]
  1. Nature of facet
  2. Two constituents of facet

The lingual term ‘aspect’ can be traced back to the classical Greek grammatical termeidos‘kind, species’ , which was introduced by Grecian syntacticians to denote the formal differentiation between ‘prototype’ and ‘derived’ lexical points in Classical Greek. It was in this sense that the term was adapted by the syntacticians of the Slavic linguistic communications in the 17Thursdaycentury ( in Czech it was discovered in 1603, in Polish in 1778, and in Russian every bit tardily as 1805 ) in order to label morphological affixes distinct from tense, such as the Russian perfect tense prefixes. The English term ‘aspect’ is a loan interlingual rendition from the Slavicvid, which is appropriate, forvidis etymologically connate with the wordspositionandvision( Binnick, 1991: 136 ) .

Grammarians of the Greek and Latin linguistic communications besides showed an involvement in facet, but the thought did non come in into the modern Western grammatical tradition until the nineteenth century. The earliest usage of the term recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary day of the months from 1853 Binnick, 1991, pp.135-6 )

Alternatively of these footings in recent old ages the new footings XX have gained a step of credence.

Aspect is frequently confused with the closely related construct of tense, because they both convey information about clip. While tense relates the clip of referent to some other clip, normally the address event, aspect conveys other temporal information, such as continuance, completion, or frequence, as it relates to the clip of action. Thus tense refers totemporally whenwhile aspect refers totemporally how. Aspect can be said to depict the texture of the clip in which a state of affairs occurs, such as a individual point of clip, a uninterrupted scope of clip, a sequence of distinct points in clip, etc. , whereas tense indicates its location in clip.

For illustration, see the undermentioned sentences: “ I eat ” , “ I am eating ” , “ I have eaten ” , and “ I have been eating ” . All are in the present tense, as they describe the present state of affairs, yet each conveys different information or points of position as to how the action pertains to the present. As such, they differ in facet.

There are two sorts of lingual classs for showing temporal constructs in the world’s languages: tense and facet. Tense is frequently concerned with the chronological ordination of state of affairss that happen at different clip points, and is frequently used to turn up the relationship between clip of event and clip of address. In contrast, aspect typically characterized how a talker views the temporal contour of a state of affairs described, for illustration, the beginning, continuance or completion of a state of affairs.

One needs to recognize that the looks of tense and facet are frequently closely correlated in many linguistic communications ; for illustration, the English yesteryear tense marker –ed Markss both the past tense and the perfective facet.

Unlike tense, which is situation-external clip, facet is situation-internal and non-deictic, as it is non concerned with associating the clip of the state of affairs to any other clip point.

Linguists by and large distinguish between two sorts of facet, grammatical and lexical facet ( under assorted names )

  • The separation of tense from facet is supported by the fact that some linguistic communications encode one but non the other. In fact, surprisingly few linguistic communications lack aspectual differentiations, although many deficiency tense, including Classical Arabic and Mandarin.

Languages can by and large be classified as tense-prominent linguistic communications and aspect-prominent linguistic communications depending on how they express clip dealingss. In tense-prominent linguistic communications, such as English, Polish and Mongolian, tense and point of view facet are either combined morphologicallyp or encoded clearly. In contrast, aspect-prominent linguistic communications like Chinese which lacks the grammatical class of tense, aspectual significances are conveyed by aspect markers.

Languages vary as to how they realize the state of affairs and point of view facet to denote aspectual significances. In tense linguistic communications, such as English, Polish and Mongolian, aspectu

Aspect is a parametric quantity which is realized otherwise across linguistic communications. In a tense-prominent linguistic communication, such as English, Polish and Mongolian, aspectual significances are

In the claimed-to-be tenseless linguistic communication, Mandarin, temporal

The differentiation between state of affairs and point of view facet is desirable on both general evidences and based on considerations specific to Mandarin and Mongolian.

The survey believes that the two-component theory is equal plenty to account for the similarities and differences in the two aspectual systems.

It will comprehensively depict the features of the two aspectual systems: how aspectual significances are linguistically expressed within the conventions of the each linguistic communication and how state of affairs and point of view facets are interrelated to lend to aspectual significances in the given linguistic communication. Then it will compare the two aspectual systems on the footing of the description.


Given the premises of the catholicity of significance, linguistic communications are comparable.

Terminological diverseness of facet

1. Aspectuality – 1. in a wide sense: aspectual phenomena in general ( Verkuyl, 1996 )

2. in a narrow sense: state of affairs type + point of view facet ( Dick, 1997 ; Smith, 1991, )

2. Aspect/aspectuality=viewpoint=perspective ( different footings for the same construct )

3. “Two-component theory” ( proposed by Smith 1991, 1997 ) : There are two major types of facet: Situation type V. Viewpoint facet. They are independent but interacting constituents of facet. In Chinese, they are normally called “ aS?e??” ( actionality ) vs. “e§†c‚?a?“” ( facet ) .

4.Terminology has been a job country in aspectology. Scholars have used different footings to denote “aspect” , but the impression is basically the same.



  1. Situation type (aS?e??)

province, activity, accomplishment, achievement

( Vendler, 1967 )

( concerned with event-internal belongingss )

  1. Point of view facet (e§†c‚?a?“)

Perfective vs. imperfective/progressive

( Comrie, 1985 ) ( accepted by most syntacticians )

( trades with external position of events: grammaticalization of lingual devices, i.e. aspect markers )

Other names

Situation aspect/inherent aspect/lexical aspect**/Aktionsart*/actionality/eventuality type/event type/aspectual class/aspectual character/inner facet

Aspect/grammatical aspect**/verbal aspect/outer facet

*Aktionsartis used in Slavic and Germanic linguistics.

**Grammatical facetandlexical facetare traditional footings which are presents replaced bypoint of view facetandstate of affairs facetseverally, but still widely used.



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