Where the past is in the perfect

In some languages, such as French and Austrian German, the perfect construction is the standard tense/aspect form used to report past-time events. In many other languages, including English, the perfect construction alternates with other past tense forms, such as the preterit past (English) or the imperfect (French and many other languages), and there is considerable crosslinguistic variation on the precise usage conditions and semantics associated with each type of past tense form. Many of these languages exhibit the have/be alternation in the formation of the perfect, using have with transitive and unergative verbs, and be with unaccusative verbs. Many other languages, including English, use have uniformly. In this article I will seek to identify the syntactic source of the past tense meaning associated with the perfect construction. Because of the problem posed by the cross-linguistic variation in perfect semantics mentioned above, it is perhaps foolhardy to seek a single answer to this question for all languages, and a comprehensive treatment would require a dissertationlength study. For this reason I will focus on the English perfect construction, though I will occasionally rely on comparative evidence, especially with regard to the have/be alternation, and I will suggest the possibility of parametric variation. Even by focusing on the English perfect, we cannot fully avoid the problem of semantic variation, since the perfect construction does not have a uniform semantics in all its uses; according to many accounts, there are at least two, and perhaps as many as five, different uses of the perfect, each with a different tense semantics. For example, Brugger and D’Angelo (1994) have argued that the so-called universal perfect does not convey past tense; this claim is based on a particular set of syntactic/semantic diagnostics for past that they use, and is supported by the fact that many other languages convey the semantics of the universal perfect by means of the present tense..
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,188
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

57 ( #89,682 of 2,153,857 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #225,089 of 2,153,857 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums