Volume 17, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0378-4177
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9978
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This article addresses the question of whether tense markers in Modern Tamil were historically aspectual in function, as Zvelebil (1962) has claimed. The methodological approach employed is that developed by Hopper (1979a, 1979b, 1982) for the analysis of foreground and background in narrative discourse. Narrative texts representing three historical periods — Old Tamil (5th c), Middle Tamil (12th c), and Modern Tamil (20th c.) — are analyzed for correlations between foreground-background marking and the distribution of alleged 'tense' forms. On the basis of the grounding analysis, it is discovered that the forms function aspectually in Old Tamil, analogous to the functioning of aspectual auxiliary verbs in the modern language. The overall diachronic picture which emerges is one in which surface forms and categories undergo change, while underlying functional contrasts remain remarkably stable over time.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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