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Aspectual operators across languages: a commentary on the paper by Daniel Altshuler

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This paper investigates the case of Spanish Perfecto simple and Imperfecto from the perspective of the cross-linguistic proposal in Altshuler’s (2014) “A typology of partitive aspectual operators”, pointing to ways in which the Spanish data suggests refinements for Altshuler’s proposal. In particular: (i) the paper provides evidence from Spanish that sheds doubts on Altshuler’s proposal that temporal asymmetry should be built into the semantics of Landman-style partitive operators in a manner that guarantees that the worlds quantified over match the actual world in the past; (ii) following Altshuler’s observations regarding differences between events being ‘completed’ vs. events ‘not continuing’, the paper provides a comparison between examples from Spanish and Russian to argue that more than one notion of ‘complete-event’ is actually needed; (iii) expanding on Altshuler’s proposal to link habitual readings to plural events, the paper examines the case of Spanish Perfecto vs. Imperfecto, showing that both modality and plurality play a crucial role in generating habitual readings. The paper also discusses the relative role of semantics and pragmatics in the interpretation of aspectual operators, comparing some aspects of Altshuler’s proposal to Arregui et al. (2014). Together, the various examples strengthen the case for a semantics of aspect grounded on a fine-grained ontology that brings together both temporal and modal dimensions.

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  1. See Portner (1998) for an alternative.

  2. I use ⊂ for the proper ‘part of’/stage relation (⊆ for improper parts). Altshuler describes ⊂ as the ‘part of’ relation but in the text also talks about stages. Stages seem to be the most intuitive interpretation.


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Correspondence to Ana Arregui.

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Arregui, A. Aspectual operators across languages: a commentary on the paper by Daniel Altshuler. Nat Lang Linguist Theory 32, 777–789 (2014).

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