Approaches to Languages in Contrast
  • ISSN 1387-6759
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9897
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This article deals with the opposition between the present perfect and the preterite in English and Norwegian from a contrastive point of view. The use of these verb forms is very similar in the two languages, and markedly different from that in closely related languages such as German and French, where the present perfect is used much more widely. In English and Norwegian the preterite is the norm if the reference is identified as being to past time which is clearly separate from the deictic zero-point, for instance through adverbial specification, while the present perfect is used of situations extending from the past all the way up to the deictic zero-point, and of situations located within such a time span. In many intermediate cases, where the reference is to a loosely defined past time, either verb form may be used in both languages, although several writers have claimed that the present perfect is more common in Norwegian than in English in such cases. The difference between the two languages is more distinct if the reference is to what can be seen as unique past time, in which case the present perfect is usually blocked in English but very common in Norwegian. Also, the so-called inferential perfect in Norwegian is not matched by any similar perfect use in English. These claims are amply confirmed by an investigation of the English–Norwegian Parallel Corpus (ENPC), where the present perfect is more frequent in the Norwegian as compared with the English sections, at the expense of the preterite. Moreover, there is found to be a marked difference between the original and the translated texts of the ENPC: the ratio between the present perfect and the preterite is generally higher in Norwegian than in English but not quite so high in Norwegian texts translated from English as in Norwegian original texts, and somewhat higher in English texts translated from Norwegian than in English original texts. This difference is ascribed to interference from the source language in the translated texts.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): English/Norwegian; Tense and aspect; Translation
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