Verbal aspect in Slavic languages between semantics and pragmatics

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The main function of the linguistic category of aspect is perfectly reflected by the traditional term “aspect” or “view” which means that the speaker chooses a view of the situation s/he is speaking about. This view of a situation, or “point of view”, is first of all reflected by an internal analysis of the situation into parts: moments and stages. This necessary choice can be compared to that of a centre of attention in order to build an utterance (cf. the definition of subject and object in Chapter 4 in this volume). As such, aspect is an essential tool of the meta-informative structure of the utterance. The internal view of the situation is further completed by external view parameters concerning its repetition, the modification of its flow or intensity, the composition of several situations into one complex situation. This approach aims at integrating into a cohesive whole the great variety of uses described in the huge literature on verbal aspect in Slavic languages. The ASMIC theory is of great help in dealing with the blurred borderline between semantics and pragmatics in aspect usage, making it possible to propose some tentative way out of endless debates on Slavic aspectology: the problem of aspect pairs, the difference between aspect and Aktionsart, the amazing differences in the use of imperfective (IPF) verbs in Slavic languages and the use of the imperfect tense in French or progressive forms in English, etc. By reference to the three sorts of parameters we have defined (concerning situation types, situation internal and external view) we can distinguish precisely the different possible semantic types of perfective (PF) partners that can be derived from a simple IPF verb in Slavic languages depending on the type of semantic situation to which the simple verb refers (in a given context). The reference to the different values of the aspect parameters also makes it possible to distinguish among derived PF verbs those which can be considered as pertaining to grammatical aspect, as opposed to the lexical classes of derived verbs formed with prefixes having not only an aspectual perfectivising meaning but adding also various (spatial or abstract) meanings to the root verb.


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