Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 347-385

First online:

Aspect Shift and Coercion

  • Henriëtte De SwartAffiliated withDepartment of Romance Languages, University of Utrecht

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This paper develops an analysis of aspect shift and applies it to French and English. The Progressive, the Perfect/Parfait, and duration adverbials introduced by in or for are interpreted as aspectual operators which modify eventuality descriptions. The French past tenses are sensitive to aspect, but they do not change the aspectual class of the eventuality description themselves. Instead, they presuppose that the eventuality description they operate on is of the right aspectual type: the Passeé Simple and Imparfait are tense operators which locate respectively events and states in the past. Free aspectual transitions may be triggered by coercion in order to satisfy the aspectual requirements on aspectual and temporal operators. The analysis is formulated within the framework of Discourse Representation Theory (DRT).