Verbal Aspect

Henriëtte de Swart

in The Oxford Handbook of Tense and Aspect

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195381979
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Verbal Aspect

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  • Linguistics
  • Semantics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology


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Verbal tense, defined as the “grammaticalization of location in time,” commonly serves in natural language to anchor the situation described by the sentence to the time axis. Aspect is not inherently deictic and does not anchor the situation to the time axis, but may affect temporal structure. English has a small set of verbs that are inherently telic and necessarily require a delimitating argument, and which are thus incompatible with a bare plural or bare mass noun. Aspectual class and grammatical aspect are independent theoretical notions, but there are clear interactions between them. For instance, the English progressive does not easily apply to stative verbs, or creates special meaning effects when it does. This article first offers some observations about English before exploring aspect in a cross-linguistic perspective. It then discusses the role of verbs and arguments in the grammar of aspect, perfectives and imperfectives in Russian and French, progressives and perfectives in English, multiple aspectual distinctions in Mandarin Chinese, the relation between perfectivity and telicity, and the amalgamation of tense and grammatical aspect.

Keywords: verbal tense; aspectual class; grammatical aspect; English; verbs; arguments; grammar; perfectives; imperfectives; telicity

Article.  11517 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Semantics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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