Dravidian conceptual basis for the Badaga “tenses”

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Based on a detailed analysis of the uses of the Tense morphemes in Badaga, a minority South-Dravidian language, this article argues that ‘tense’, usually retained as a dominant category in Dravidian, does not fit to account for the range of actual uses. The Tense morphemes, which play a major role in the morphology of the finite and non-finite verb forms, encode values which cannot be reduced to a single category either tense, aspect or mood. A deeper analysis draws attention to the third term of the Dravidian reconstructed system of the so called ‘Tense’ morphemes: Past/Non-Past/Negative and gives evidence of an original cumulative encoding of tense-aspect-mood-polarity in these morphemes. The explanation comes from the historical grammaticalisation of Time into the verb.


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