Slavic Aspect and Its Implications

P. F. Kipka, 1990

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The goal of this thesis is to explore a new theory of verbal aspect.  The theory is motivated primarily by a consideration of morphological and syntactico-semantic data from Slavic, but as a module of Universal Grammar it can be shown to be of much more general applicability.  Thus Slavic aspect is contrasted with what can be found in a variety of other languages.  The proposed system of representation is derivational in character: Final aspectual structures are built up by a small number of operations from lexical representations.  The theory posits only two aspectual primitives (the point and the box, yielding perfectivity and imperfectivity in Slavic in a direct fashion).

Chapter One begins with an overview of much of the relevant data from the Slavic language Polish.  Morphological and syntactico-semantic reflexes of aspect are identified and correlated.  This leads directly to a formulation of the theory.  The working of the latter are demonstrated with respect to Polish verbs of motion.  Its applicability to other languages (including English) is also discussed; one of the key factors contributing to the language differences is different means of lexical underspecification of aspectual structures.

Chapter Two examines further data from Slavic.  It is shown how double-aspect phenomena, inherent perfectivity, and habituals can be construed as providing support for a theory of the type envisaged here.  The proposed theory (its primitives, operations, and conditions) is summarised in this chapter.

Chapter Three is an exploration of the connection between aspect and prepositional notions.  Core prepositions (or their equivalents) are taken to be interaction-denoting categories, a view that is contrasted with locationist hypotheses.  Some aspectual consequences of this view are developed.

Finally, Chapter Four continues the study of extra-Slavic and prima facie extra-aspectual implications of the theory here proposed.  The dative alternation in English is examined, as are the English locative alternation, Georgian medial verbs, and restrictions on English "re-" prefixation.  Light is shed on these phenomena, which at the same time provide empirical support for such theoretical devices as aspectual zerohood, box-layering, and lexical underspecification.

Thesis Supervisor:         Kenneth Hale

Title;                             Ferrari P. Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics

Table of Contents

Introduction                                                                                                                  8

Chapter 1         A Theory of Aspect                                                                              13

            1.1       The aspectual morphemes of Polish                                                       14

            1.2       On multi-prefixation                                                                              31

            1.3       Syntax and semantics of aspect                                                 37

            1.4       Verbs of motion                                                                                    46

            1.5       The theory                                                                                            53

            1.6       Excursus on prefix interpretation                                                            62

            1.7       Aspect and tense                                                                                  73

            1.8       Remarks on English and other languages                                                84

Chapter 2         Further Slavic Issues                                                                             99

            2.1       The double aspect phenomenon                                                            100

            2.2       Inherent perfectivity                                                                              119

            2.3       The rules of the game                                                                            138

            2.4       Further justification                                                                               159

            2.5       Contra an alternative                                                                             165

            2.6       Summary                                                                                              171

Chapter 3         Prepositional Notions and Aspect                                                         172

            3.1       Some core prepositions                                                                        175

            3.2       Connections with aspect                                                                       184

            3.3       More on location                                                                                  189

            3.4       Extensions                                                                                            201

            3.5       Aspect revisited                                                                                    208

Chapter 4         Applications and Implications                                                    220

            4.1       The dative alternation                                                                            220

            4.2       A note on the locative alternation                                                           259

            4.3       Georgian                                                                                              267

            4.4       Re re                                                                                                    286

Concluding Thoughts                                                                                                    295