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Tense, aspect and mood in Nêlêmwa (New Caledonia)

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Abstract

Nêlêmwa is an Aspect-Mood oriented language; verbs are unmarked for tense, time reference is expressed by chronology and time adverbs. Aspect hinges on three notions: events (in the aorist), states, and processes. One focus is the contrast between the perfect and the aorist. Bare aorist verb forms refer to events or to sequences of events with no reference to their internal phases. The perfect expresses internal relations between processes and clauses (anteriority, backgrounding, causal relations); it refers to transitional processes that have reached or not their final instant, expressing changes of states and resulting states. In future reference frames, the perfect expresses imminent change of states, or imminent completion of a process, and the speaker’s certainty about their projected occurrence.

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