Typological change in Vedic

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The Vedic aorist indicative presents a classic case of the development from aspect to tense. In Early Vedic, the aorist indicative has properties typical of perfective past categories cross-linguistically, whereas in later stages of Vedic it is primarily, if not exclusively used to express that a situation has occurred immediately prior to the moment of speech. The recent past reading of the aorist indicative is found in Early Vedic too and may be seen as a consequence of its basic perfective meaning. The limitation of the aorist indicative to recent past contexts in later stages of Vedic may be seen as a conventionalization of a pragmatic implicature, resulting in grammatical change. The use of perfective categories to express the recent past is fairly frequently met with. In later stages of Vedic a tripartite past tense system is found. The main functional difference between the three past tense categories seems to be that they locate situations with different degrees of remoteness from the moment of speech, the aorist indicative locating the situation in the recent past, the imperfect locating the situation in the non-recent past and the perfect locating the situation in the remote past. This type of tense opposition is not uncommon in the languages of the world and it will be argued that the Vedic evidence is crucial for understanding the development of this kind of past tense system.


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