Volume 23, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1606-822X
  • E-ISSN: 2309-5067



This article proposes a new account for the typologically uncommon grammaticalization path from an adjective meaning ‘tight’ to a progressive aspect marker in Cantonese. I take a formal approach to explain the cognitive foundations in such a grammaticalization path by using formal semantic theories and tools. There are two components in the meaning of the progressive aspect, i.e. temporal inclusion and dynamism. The meaning ‘tight’ is transferred from the spatial domain to describe the close succession of events, which gives rise to the dynamic meaning component. Furthermore, this eventual dynamism is mapped to the temporal domain, which corresponds to the regular partition of the time interval with an infinitesimal measure in the semantics proposed by Deo (2009). My analysis is extended to explain the Cantonese habitual marker with an original meaning ‘open’, and to the use of morphological reduplication to express the imperfective aspect in languages from the Austronesian and Pama-Nyungan families. The theoretical contribution of this article is that the grammaticalization paths of certain aspect markers share a common cognitive foundation in terms of space, events, and time, but they may take different trajectories of evolution that target different parts of a functional morpheme with complex meanings.

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