The typology of Slavic aspect: a review of the East-West Theory of Slavic aspect
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Until recently, differences between the verbal aspectual systems of the individual Slavic languages have not received much attention and data was often interpreted to hold for all Slavic languages. Only in the past decades has this situation changed and to date a number of studies comparing two or more Slavic languages have seen the light of day. Independently from each other, Barentsen and Dickey have devised theories which account for the observed differences between respective Slavic languages. Their approaches are so similar that we think it is justified to speak of a single, comprehensive theory which attributes the differences in the functioning of the systems to differences in the meaning of the perfective and imperfective aspect for the individual languages. This leads to a typology in which there is an Eastern and a Western type of Slavic verbal aspectual system, hence the name ‘East-West Theory’. In this paper, we provide a critical analysis of this theory, focusing on three context types: habitual contexts, narrative contexts and retrospective contexts. Our analysis shows that the theory adequately and convincingly explains most of the data. However, we will also demonstrate that there are still areas in which the theory needs to be developed further, and we provide some suggestions as to how this can be approached.
Типология славянского глагольного вида: обзор теории славянского глагольного вида ‘восток–запад’
Различия в употреблении глагольного вида в разных славянских языках долгое время не привлекали особого внимания. Однако в последние десятилетия появилось несколько работ, направленных именно на выявление различий между данными видовыми системами. Среди них наиболее последовательным и детальным подходом можно считать теорию противопоставления восток-запад в славянском виде (‘теория восток-запад’). Эту теорию развивали (независимо друг от друга) голландский славист Барентсен и американский славист Дики. Данная теория объясняет системные различия в употреблении глагольного вида в славянских языках, предлагая разные определения общего значения видов в тех или иных группах этих языков. Противопоставляются восточный и западный типы славянского вида. В настоящем исследовании проводится критический анализ этой теории. При этом в основном рассматриваются три типа аспектуального контекста, играющих наиболее важную роль в теории: многократность, повествовательность и ретроспективность. Наш анализ показывает, что теория адекватно и убедительно объясняет имеющийся фактический материал. Однако некоторые аспекты теории требуют дальнейшей разработки. Для этого мы предлагаем возможные дополнения.
With respect to verbal aspect, Slavic languages occupy a special position because of their morphologically encoded opposition between a perfective and an imperfective aspect, which holds for the entire verbal system and applies to the complete verbal paradigm. In fact, the term ‘aspect’ itself is borrowed from the Russian vid (cf. Klein 1994, p. 72), and many general linguistic descriptions of the category of aspect across languages devote special attention to aspect in Slavic (see for example Comrie 1976; Dahl 1985; Smith 1997; Croft 2012; Binnick 2012; cf. especially Gvozdanović 2012). Even though it is generally acknowledged that one can speak of a common aspectual system for all Slavic languages (see for example Galton 1976), various studies that have appeared in the last decades have pointed out that there are considerable differences in the use of aspect between the Slavic languages (see for example Galton 1976; Ivić 1983; Mønnesland 1984; Stunová 1993; Dickey 2000; Barentsen 2008; Alvestad 2013). Several linguists have discussed such differences, but surprisingly few have actually tried to explain them in a cross-Slavic fashion. In this paper, we will provide a critical analysis and review of the most comprehensive theory of Slavic aspect to date, which takes these differences into account and tries to explain them. This is the East-West Theory of Slavic aspect (short EWT)1 as developed by Adriaan Barentsen and Stephen Dickey.2 It should be noted that there is no such thing as a single fully explicit EWT or paradigm, as for example laid down in a single book or article. In fact, there are two authors who (largely independently from each other) have developed very similar theories, sharing their central hypotheses. From this perspective it is justifiable to speak of a single theory (cf. Dickey and Kresin 2009, p. 125).
The aim of this paper is two-fold. First, by providing a critical analysis of EWT we aim to contribute to its further development and to provide a deeper understanding of Slavic aspect. Second, in doing so we also hope to bring EWT to the attention of a larger group of linguists than is currently the case.
It should be noted that both Barentsen and Dickey have a usage based (functionalist) approach to aspect, and do not work within a formal semantic model. In the same vein our analysis must also be seen as a contribution to the usage based study of Slavic aspect, and its aim is not to present a formalization of aspect.
retrospective contexts (‘perfect’ use of the past tense).
2 General outline of EWT of Slavic aspect
In this section we will discuss the central ideas on aspect of the two main proponents of EWT—Barentsen and Dickey. This section serves as a background for the following sections in which the data are discussed in detail.
Barentsen, pf aspect in Russian
Adriaan Barentsen has set out and developed his theory of aspect in various publications, amongst others: Barentsen (1985, 1995, 1998, 2008). Even though most of his publications focus on Russian, he has considered other Slavic languages as well (see, e.g., Barentsen 2008). He also supervised Stunová’s (1993) PhD-thesis on the comparison between Russian and Czech aspect. The central idea of his theory is that the pf and the ipf aspect in Russian each have a specific invariant meaning, which explains their use. According to Barentsen, the meaning of the pf is made up of three ‘layers’, forming a hierarchical structure (Barentsen 1995, p. 4, 1998, pp. 44–50). This means that the pf is used if: (a) the event expressed by the predicate is terminative (predel’nyj; cf. ‘telic’), (b) the event is seen as a totality (celostnost’), meaning that a terminus is reached such that there is a change of situation (smena situacij), and (c) the event expressed by the pf verb is sequentially connected to a following and / or preceding situation (sekventnaja svjaz’).3
Before we discuss this in more detail, it should be noted that Barentsen uses the term ‘terminative’ instead of ‘telic’. This term is a broader one than what is usually defined by the term telic, because it also accounts for the so-called delimitative and perdurative perfectives in Russian, which contain the prefixes po- and pro- respectively. An example is the sentence On pospal (he po-slept—‘He slept for a while’). Such perfectives express the idea of a temporal boundary (terminus), but not the idea of a goal (telos) or ‘internal end point’. Furthermore, terminative is also used for semelfactives such as kriknut’ ‘shout’, where there is also no inherent end point (see also Barentsen 1995, p. 5, who refers to predel’nost’ v širokom ponimanii ‘terminativity in a broad sense’ as used by Bondarko and specifičeskaja predel’nost’ ‘specific terminativity’ as used by Maslov for his term terminative).4 For an extensive discussion of the differences between telicity and terminativity and the way in which various authors use these terms, see Genis (2008, pp. 91–100). In this paper we use Barentsen’s term terminative.
Terminativity means that the event can be regarded as a constellation of three situations. In this case situation X is the situation is which the book has not yet been opened, while situation Z represents the situation in which the book has been read. Situation Y stands for the ‘event itself’, the activity of reading transforming the initial situation into the final situation. The change of situation from X to Y and from Y to Z in Fig. 1 is accomplished by crossing the boundaries ‘In’ (initium) and ‘Tr’ (terminus). Barentsen indicates the crossing of these boundaries with ‘d’ (distance or difference). The presence of these boundaries shows that we are dealing with a terminative predicate, fulfilling the first requirement. This means that we can present the situation as complete, which the circle around situation Y symbolizes. This is the second requirement. However, in Russian these two characteristics of the event are not enough to use the pf aspect. For that, the event also needs to be sequentially connected to another situation, as such fulfilling the third requirement for the pf. Barentsen (1995, p. 16) provides the following definition of the feature of sequential connection, which, according to him, is part of the invariant meaning of the pf in Russian; because of its importance we provide the whole quote and our translation:
Ėtot tretij priznak my uslovno oboznačaem terminom ‘sekventnaja svjaz’ ’. Ego sut’ zaključaetsja v podčerkivanii svjazej, kotorye celostnoe predel’noe dejstvie imeet so svoim okruženiem, čerez situacii Z i / ili X. Ėto značit, čto ėti situacii, ili xotja by odna iz nix, sovpadajut s vremennymi otrezkami, opredelennym obrazom uže izvestnymi iz konteksta ili rečevoj situacii. Čerez situaciju X dejstvie možet kak by ‘ottalkivat’sja’ ot momenta, raspoložennogo do samogo dejstvija. V takix slučajax obyčno podčerkivaetsja potencial’nost’ vozniknovenija dejstvija Y. Čerez situaciju Z dejstvie ‘privjazyvaetsja’ k bolee pozdnemu momentu, i takim obrazom ėtot moment xarakterizuetsja suščestvovaniem ‘itogovogo sostojanija’ dannogo dejstvija (Barentsen 1995, p. 16).
‘For this third feature we will use the term ‘sequential connection’. Essentially, this feature underlines the links that the total terminative event has with its surroundings through situation Z and / or X. This means that these situations, or at least one of them, coincide with temporal segments [a reference point or an other event, E. F., J. K.] that are, in a specific manner, already known from the context or from the speech situation. Through situation X the event is able to ‘push itself away’ from a moment preceding the event itself. In such cases, the potentiality of the realization of the event Y is usually emphasized. Through situation Z the event is ‘tied’ to a later moment in time, and in this way this moment is characterized by the existence of the ‘final / resultant phase’ of the event.’
My ustali pf.
‘We are tired.’ (Ru; cf. Barentsen 1998, p. 51)
Barentsen, ipf aspect in Russian
[T]am možno spirt kupit’ i kokain. Sovsem nedorogo.—Čto, pokupalipf?
‘ ‘There you can buy alcohol and cocaine. Not at all expensive.’ ‘What, did you buy some?’ ’ (Ru; RNC: В. Пелевин. Хрустальный мир. 1991)
As is argued by Barentsen, the feature of sequential connection is absent in some other Slavic languages such as Czech (Barentsen 1998, p. 55). This means that in Czech the meaning of the pf is: (a) the situation expressed by the predicate is terminative, (b) it is complete. Even though Barentsen does not explicitly discuss the meaning of the ipf in other Slavic languages such as Czech, one could infer from the logic of this theory that the ipf can be used in Western languages if the action is non-terminative or if it is terminative, but the terminus is not reached (i.e. non-completed, non-total). However, as we will see in our discussion below, this definition does not hold for some contexts.
In many ways the theory presented by Stephen Dickey (2000), and further elaborated upon in subsequent articles (among others Dickey 2001, 2005, 2011, 2015, to appear),10 can be seen as a verification of and an elaboration on Barentsen’s ideas, specifically on the difference between the meaning of the pf aspect in Russian and in Czech. In contrast to Barentsen’s theory, which focuses mainly on Russian, Dickey’s theory has a stronger typological character, because he discusses various Slavic languages. Another important difference to Barentsen is that Dickey presents his ideas within the framework of cognitive linguistics. This explains why he does not speak of invariant meanings and different uses—terms which are typical for the European structuralist framework—but of prototypical (or central) meanings and derived meanings. Furthermore, Dickey formulates Barentsen’s notion of sequential connection in terms of ‘temporal definiteness’ following Leinonen (1982).11
Like Barentsen, Dickey argues that the semantics of aspect is not identical in all Slavic languages. Based on a comparison of aspect usage between the various modern Slavic languages in a number of contexts he comes to the conclusion that there are two main groups within Slavic, in which aspect is used in different ways: an Eastern group (Ru,12 Uk, Br and Bg13) and a Western group (Cz, Sk, Sn and Sorb).
For the pf Dickey proposes one central concept, ‘temporal definiteness’, for the eastern group, and another, ‘totality’, for the Western group. For the ipf the central concept in the Eastern group is ‘qualitative temporal indefiniteness’, while the central concept for the Western group is ‘quantitative temporal indefiniteness’.
We will examine the definitions of aspect in the Eastern group first. As mentioned above, in this group the meaning of pf is temporal definiteness. An event14 is temporally definite if it is uniquely locatable in a context, i.e. if it is viewed as contiguous in time to qualitatively different situations (Dickey 2000, pp. 26–27).
In Fig. 3 ‘NA’ negates the complete representation of the pf aspect as given in Fig. 2. This is in fact reminiscent of Barentsen’s ‘negative’ definition of the ipf aspect in Russian, where the ipf is used in case either one of the three layers of which the pf is made up of is not present.
Event X is construed as more conceptual points on a timeline (i.e. in the case of a non-terminative event or if the terminative event is not complete, for example in a durative context).
Event X is construed as one conceptual point on a timeline, but without external situation Y and / or Z (e.g. in the case of general factual use as in (2)). The (perhaps unintended) implication of this description is that in this case the Russian (Eastern) ipf is conceptually identical to the Western pf aspect.17
The circle represents event X as a single indivisible whole. In contrast to the Eastern pf, there is no relationship between X and its surrounding situations (Y or Z). As we have already remarked above, the Western pf aspect is conceptually identical to the eastern ipf aspect in the case of a fully completed terminative event as in (2).
Kdo šilipf ty šaty?
‘Who made (lit. sewed) this dress?’ (Cz; Filip 1999, p. 186)
We have now discussed the general or central meanings for the pf and the ipf aspect in the East and the West respectively provided within the EWT of aspect. As we have seen, the notion of sequential connection (or temporal definiteness) of the Eastern pf is a crucial notion within the theory. In the following sections, we will discuss three contexts or usage types (habitual contexts, narrative contexts, retrospective contexts) and provide a critical analysis of how EWT accounts for the difference in aspectual use between the Eastern and the Western group in these contexts.
3 Aspect in habitual expressions
3.1 Introduction of habitual expressions
On davalipf emu spisok—čto emu nado pročest’… Esli by ne bylo Vitalija Jakovleviča, to ne bylo by i «Sovremennika». On vse nam ob”jasnjalipf. On govorilipf, komu i kak pisat’ […].
‘He would give him a list what to read…. If it were not for Vitali Jakovljevic, then there would not have been the “Sovremennik”. He explained everything to us. He told us whom and how to write […].’
(Ru; RNC: V. Davydov. Teatr moej mečty. 2004)
Aspect in habitual expressions
Non-past habitual contexts
ipf / pf
Past habitual contexts
ipf / pf
The differences in aspectual use are generally linked to the two levels on which aspect can work in habitual contexts (Mønnesland 1984, p. 54; Stunová 1993, p. 35). The first level is the micro-level, which is the level of the individual sub-event. In the case of (4) this is each individual instance of the event of giving, explaining or speaking. The second level is the macro-level, the level on which the individual sub-events form a collective macro-event (Timberlake 1982, p. 315). In the case of (4) this is the whole complex of the repeated giving, explaining and speaking events. On the micro-level it is possible to see each repeated situation as a totality, whereas this is impossible by definition on the macro-level because of the presentation of the repetition of the events as unbounded. As we will show, languages differ as to which degree they allow habitual events to be conceptualized as total on the micro-level.
In the following sections we will say more about the use of aspect in the different Slavic languages in habitual expressions, and how the EW-model accounts for this use. Since there is a difference between aspect usage in habitual expressions in the pres and in habitual expressions in the past (Dickey 2000, p. 77), we will treat the way the EW-model deals with these contexts separately.
3.2 Habitual expressions in the present
Vypijepf jednu skleničku vodky denně.
‘(S)he drinks a glass of vodka every day.’ (Cz; Dickey 2000, p. 52)
Denně dostávámipf několik dopisů.
‘I receive some letters every day.’ (Cz; Petruxina 1978, p. 60)
Ja vyp’jupf rjumku vodki. (Ru)
Vypijupf skleničku vodky. (Cz)
‘I will drink (finish) a glass of vodka.’
Within the EW-model, the restriction in Russian (and other Eastern languages) on the pf pres form in habitual contexts is explained by pointing at the fact that the pf expresses sequential connection, or to put it differently, it needs a temporally definite context in which it can be contrasted with either a preceding or a subsequent event. Barentsen (1995, p. 21) argues that in the case of an (isolated) fut tense use of the pf pres as in (8), the pf aspect expresses a sequential connection with the moment of speech, preceding the realization of the pf pres event. The pf pres event Y is ‘pushed away’, as it were, from the situation at the reference point X, creating a contrast with the reference point, which results in a fut or potential interpretation. However, in a habitual context like in (5), with a non-terminative macro-event and no contiguous, qualitatively different situations relative to the micro-event, the pf aspect cannot occur in Russian, so the only choice is to use the ipf aspect.26 This differs from the situation in Czech.
The possibility to use the pf in the Western group as in (6) can be explained in terms of the absence of the feature sequential connection. In the Western group, the pf aspect expresses totality. In the case of (6), the pf expresses a total, fully completed terminative event on the micro-level, which is indefinitely ‘multiplied’, in this case by the adverb denně ‘every day’. Unlike Russian, Czech can focus on both the unbounded repetition of the (total) events, which creates a non-terminative event on the macro-level by using the ipf, as in (7) or on the totality of the (terminative) event on the micro-level by using the pf, as in (6). One could be tempted to say that Russian focuses on the macro-level by using the ipf in examples like (5), but the fact that there is no choice of aspect, shows that we are not dealing with a deliberate emphasis of the macro-event, but with a necessary consequence of the meaning of the Russian pf.
Exceptional cases in the Eastern group
On vsegda / vyp’etpf kofe i pojdetpf na rabotu//
‘That’s what he always does—drinks his coffee and goes to work.’
(Ru; Zemskaja 1983, p. 125)
Vsegda, kogda mne zaxočetsjapf, ja smogupf posmotret’ na nego […].
‘Always, when I feel like it, I can look at him.’
(Ru; RNC: O. Čexova. Moi časy idut inače. 1973)
Často, kogda on ljažetpf spat’, emu delaetsjaipf vdrug strašno (…).
‘Often, when he lies down to sleep, he suddenly starts to feel terrible.’
(Ru; RNC: F. K. Sologub. Teni i svet. 1910)
On vsegda, kogda nanjuxaetsjapf, nesetipf okolesicu.
‘He always, when he takes his fill of snuff, talks nonsense.’
(Ru; RNC: L. Petruševskaja. Morskie pomojnye rasskazy. Oktjabr’. 2001)
V nemeckoj škole vsegda skažutpf, na kakoj stranice kakoj abzac čitat’ i kakie imenno frazy nužno zapisyvat’.
‘In a German school they will always tell you, on what page you have to read what and exactly which phrases you have to write down.’
(Ru; RNC: A. Stepanova. Ne vse priživetsja na rossijskoj počve. Evropa. 2001.06.15)
—A vospitatel’nicy vsegda govorjatipf, čto sadit’sja na zemlju nel’zja, možno prostudit’sja i ispačkat’sja.
‘And educators always say that you cannot sit on the floor, otherwise you could get cold and dirty.’
(Ru; RNC: E. S. Ginzburg. Krutoj maršrut: Čast’ 2. 1975–1977)
Esli, naprimer, brosit’ metalličeskij šar v jaščik s peskom, on šlepnetsjapf i ostanovitsjapf.
‘If you, for example, throw a metal ball into a box of sand, it will plop down and come to a stop.’
(Ru; Barentsen 1995, p. 21)
3.3 Habitual expressions in the past
Every morning he went out with his umbrella and put a stick in the place where the water came up to […]. (Winnie-the-Pooh)
‘Každoe utro on vyxodilipf s zontikom iz doma i paločkoj otmečalipf mesto, do kotorogo podnimalas’ipf voda.’ (Ru translation)
‘Vsako jutro je z dežnikom odšelpf ven in zataknilpf palico tja, do kamor se je vzdignilapf voda […].’ (Sn translation)
He was taking the balloon out, and putting it back again. (Winnie-the-Pooh)
‘On opuskalipf šarik v goršok i vynimalipf ego snova i snova.’ (Ru translation)
‘Ves srečen je jemalipf balon iz lonca in ga spet devalipf vanj.’ (Sn translation)
V nemeckoj škole vsegda *skazalipf, na kakoj stranice kakoj abzac čitat’ i kakie imenno frazy nužno zapisyvat’. (Ru)
(Intended meaning: In a German school they wouldalwaystell you, on what page you had to read what and exactly which phrases you had to write down.)
On vsegdavypilpf kofe i pošelpf na rabotu//. (Ru)
(That’s what he always did—he would drink his coffee and go to work.)
Special tense forms in Macedonian and Bulgarian
Za večera obiknoveno si kupuvahipf.imperf (*kupihpf.aor) salam.
(Bg; Dickey 2000, p. 74)
Vărnešepf.imperf se večer izmoren, sednešepf.imperf pri ogništeto, zapalešepf.imperf si lulata…
‘He would return tired in the evening, sit down by the fire place, light his pipe…’
(Bg; Pašov 2005, p. 145)
Exceptional cases in Russian: subordinate clause
Často, posle togo, kak rebenok prinjalpf vse pravila žizni v sem’e, vozmožna opeka i usynovlenie.34
‘Often, after a child has accepted all the rules of living in a family, guardianship and adoption is possible.’
Červ’ točit detej vesny často do togo, kak raskrylis’pf ix butony […].
(Ru; RNC: M. M. Morozov. Metafory Šekspira kak vyraženie xarakterov dejstvujuščix lic. 1947)
‘The worm destroys the children of spring (= spring buds) often before they open (lit. opened) their buds.’
Očen’ často, pered tem kak skazat’pf pravdu, ja naprimer, dumaju, a nado li?
‘Very often before telling the truth, I think, for example, is it really necessary?’
Vsegda kogda on *prišelpf / prixodilipf domoj, on srazu ložilsja spat’.
‘Always when he came home, he immediately went to bed.’
Kogda on prišelpf domoj, on srazu ložilsja spat’.
‘When he came home, he immediately went to bed.’
Vsegda, pridjapf domoj, on srazu ložilsja spat’.
‘Always, after he had come home, he immediately went to bed.’
Habitual sequences of events in the Western languages
V Žižkově ulici měl tehdy lahůdkářský obchod pan Brůžek. Tam velmi často muž zašelpf a koupilpf bud’ dva pomeranče, nebo banány a mě a hocha podělilpf.
‘In the Žižka street, Mr. Brůžek had a delicatessen shop in those days. The man very oftenwent there and bought either two oranges or bananas and gave one to me and one to the boy.’ (Cz; Dübbers 2015, p. 200)
3.4 Evaluation of the explanation of habitual contexts within the EW-model
In habitual expressions, both in the non-past and the past, EWT is able to account for the observed variation across Slavic by postulating the presence of the feature sequential connection for the pf in the Eastern aspectual group. The restrictions this feature places on the contexts in which pf verbs can occur, namely the presence of a preceding or subsequent contrasting situation, is not in accordance with habitual contexts in which there is no other situation with a unique status to which the event can be connected. Since in Czech and other Western languages38 sequentiality is not an obligatory feature of pf aspect, in those languages there is a choice to either express unbounded repetition on the macro-level by using an ipf verb, or focusing on a representative instance on the micro-level by using a pf verb.
The feature of sequential connection can also account for some exceptional cases in the Eastern group, which allow for the use of the pf pres in habitual contexts. All these exceptional contexts can be explained in terms of the possibility to create a sequential connection. In some instances there is a sequence of (micro-)events, where one event is linked to the other, whereas in other instances there is a context of singularization, where a connection is created with another situation that is presupposed by the usage of a pf form. All these cases also have a specific meaning that seems to be absent in the case of the Western pf aspect in pres habitual contexts, which further corroborates that it is the feature of sequential connection that facilitates these uses in the East.39 We have also shown that past tense contexts do not allow for such exceptions in the majority of cases. This is harder to explain within the theory, even though we have argued that the past tense probably makes it difficult to single out one instance of a repeated situation. A better understanding of the concept of ‘reference point’ is necessary, including a discussion of exceptional cases such as (24). Something which merits special attention is the fact that a sequence of events in Czech often triggers the use of the pf, as in (30), even though it is exactly these two notions that in other cases are used to explain the difference between the Eastern and the Western group.
Dickey (2000, p. 264) states that the notions of totality and temporal definiteness are conceptually proximate and that sequentiality entails totality. Following this line of thought one could perhaps argue that a context of sequences of events is the most natural context for the meaning of totality, which is the meaning of the pf in the West, and part of the meaning of the pf in the East. In the East, the pf also signals sequential connection in addition to totality. This explains why in the East there is an almost one-to-one correspondence between contexts of sequences of events and the pf, whereas in the West there are particular exceptions, as we will show in Sect. 4.
4 Sequences of events in narration
4.1 Introduction to sequences of event in narration
Aspect in sequences of events in narration
Present tense narration
ipf / pf
Past tense narration
ipf / pf
4.2 Past tense narration
Vot mi i svernulipf (*svertyvaliipf) nalevo i koe-kak, posle mnogix xlopot, dobralis’pf (*dobiralis’ipf) do skudnogo prijuta.
‘So we turned left and somehow, after much trouble, we managed to get to the meager shelter.’
(Ru; M. Ju. Lermontov; cited in Barentsen 1998, p. 52; imperfectives added by E. F., J. K.)
Pak se najednou zastavilpf, udělalpf vlevo v bok a pomalupřešelpf ulici na druhej chodník.41 (Cz)
‘Then he suddenly stopped, turned left, and slowlycrossed the street to the pavement on the other side.’
Když me vidělipf, poroučelipfse té paničce a šelipf ke mně.
‘When he saw me, he said goodbye to the little lady, and walked up to me.’
(Cz; Čapek; cited in Stunová 1993, p. 123)
Potom do něho kouslpf, odporem zkřivilpf tvář a vracelipf jej rychle Matějovi.
Then he bit into it, twisted his face with disgust and returned [it] to Matěj quickly.
(Cz; Drda; cited in Ivančev 1961, p. 83)
Raz kak-to vzjalpf klarnet i zaigralpf… (Ru; Dickey 2000, p. 225)
Within EWT, the difference between Russian and Czech aspect usage is explained by pointing out that the ipf in the Eastern languages signals the absence, or denies the presence, of a sequential connection (temporal definiteness), unlike the pf (Barentsen 1995, p. 18). Since events in past tense narration are typically presented as being connected, this context is not compatible with the ipf aspect. In the Western languages, on the other hand, ipf aspect does not deny the unique location of an event in a sequence (Dickey 2000, p. 232), or, in other words, the existence of contrasting situations, and is therefore not incompatible with past sequences of events. At first sight it is not entirely clear how one can explain the obligatory use of delimitative (po-) or inchoative (po-, za-) perfectives in Russian past tense narratives instead of the unprefixed base verbs (e.g. posidet’ ‘sit for a while’, postojat’ ‘stand for a while’, pojti, ‘leave’, zapet’ ‘start singing’ etc.), solely based on the basic meanings of pf and ipf aspect. Why would a speaker, for example, not be able to choose to present a chain of events in an isolating manner by using ipf forms like in the historical pres (cf. Sect. 4.3 on the historical pres)? Nevertheless, the past tense narrative context itself seems to require the use of these prefixes, at least in many contexts (cf. the restriction on the use of pf verbs in habitual past contexts in the Eastern languages). Dickey and Hutcheson (2003, pp. 25–26) connect the relative absence of ipf verbs in past sequences of events in modern Russian to the rise of delimitative verbs in Russian. From a diachronic perspective, one could say that sequentiality and perfectivity became more closely intertwined in the Russian system from the sixteenth or seventeenth century onwards. One of the effects of this development was the increasing use of pf delimitative verbs in sequences, where Old Russian uses ipf verbs, just like modern Czech. Therefore, even if the situation itself is aterminative, a specially derived pf verb is required in contexts of sequentiality in the past tense. This is in line with Barentsen (1998, p. 52) who argues that a past tense narrative context with completed terminative events is the most basic instance of a sequential connection. As Dickey (2000, p. 77) puts it, the past tense itself “bears a certain resemblance to the concept of temporal definiteness […] just as the past tense contrasts one situation (that denoted by the predicate) to another (the present), temporal definiteness construes a situation as unique relative to other situations (and often to the present)”.
Some data that are more difficult to account for
Tja spaipf.aor i započnapf.aor da raboti.
‘She slept and began working.’ (Bg; Lindstedt 1985, p. 181)
Navjarno v tozi moment toj vlizašeipf.imperf veče v grada. Struvašeipf.imperf ì se, če go vižda. Toj razkazvašeipf.imperf slučkata na Lavin; bleden ot vălnenie, Lavin zvănešeipf.imperf na prislužnicata […].
‘Probably at that moment he already entered the town. She felt as if she saw him. He told Lavin about the incident; white with rage, Lavin rang for the maid…’
Potom ona vdrug obratilas’pf k knjazju i, grozno naxmurivpf brovi, pristal’no ego razgljadyvalaipf.
‘Then she suddenly turned to the prince and, having frowned threateningly, examined him closely.’ (Ru; Dostoevskij. Idiot; cited in Ivančev 1961, p. 43)
4.3 Present tense narration
Petr prišelpf, našelpf ključ i sprjatalpf ego v karman. (Ru)
‘Peter arrived, found a key and hid it in his pocket.’
Petr prixoditipf, naxoditipf ključ i prjačetipf ego v karman. (Ru)
‘Peter arrives, finds the key and hides it in his pocket.’
Russian differs from languages of the Western Slavic group such as Czech, where both the ipf pres and the pf pres can be used as a historical pres and in similar contexts, like stage directions. This can be explained within EWT in the following way: the Western pf aspect does not express sequential connection (temporal definiteness) but totality. The feature totality, unlike the feature sequential connection, is compatible with an isolating manner of presenting the elements of a narrative chain of events, which is typical for the historical pres style of narration (cf. Stunová 1993, p. 175).
Even though Czech and other Western aspectual languages allow for the use of the pf pres in the case of the historical pres, Stunová (1993, p. 179) shows that the ipf is predominant in Czech as well in these contexts. According to Stunová (1993, p. 178, p. 190) the ipf is more typical for situations with a longer duration, whereas the pf is more typical for situations with a shorter duration or to indicate a sudden entry. This is in accordance with Dickey’s point of view that the ipf in the West expresses quantitative temporal indefiniteness or the assignability of a situation to several points in time. This meaning excludes the use of the ipf with single (as opposed to iterated) situations without a clear durative phase.
Půl páté. Vstanupf, zvednupf tašku, přehodímpf si její dlouhé ucho přes rameno a vyjdupf na ulici. (Cz)
‘Four thirty. I get up, take the bag, sling the long strap over my shoulder and go out onto the street.’
Půl páté. Vstávámipf, zvedámipf tašku, přehazujuipf si její dlouhé ucho přes rameno a vycházími na ulici. (Cz; Procházková; cited after Esvan 2015, p. 214)
4.4 Evaluation of the explanation of narrative contexts within the EW-model
Aspectual behavior within narrative contexts can largely be explained within EWT, but the data are less straightforward and therefore harder to analyze and explain than in the case of habitual contexts. Generally speaking, one can conclude that in past tense narratives, there is no big difference between the Eastern and the Western group. Both in Russian and Czech the pf is preferred in such contexts. In Bulgarian, where more verb forms are available, the default choice for the pf is more easily overruled than in Russian. The main difference between Russian and Western languages such as Czech is that, whereas a language like Czech can sometimes use imperfectives, Russian mostly uses specialized ingressive pf prefixes (za-, po-) or pf ingressive verbs (stat’) in similar instances. Dickey and Hutcheson (2003) and Dickey (2011, 2015) show that the very development of these specialized (po-) forms from the seventeenth century on points to a closer association between contexts of sequential connection and the pf in Russian and as such can be considered one of the most important developments in the Russian aspectual system, setting it apart from, among others, the Czech aspectual system. This is in accordance with the observation made by Ružička (1962, p. 316) that in older versions of Russian, the use of the ipf was more common in sequences of past events (see also Dickey 2007, 2011).46
The data in the case of pres tense narratives are to some extent clearer than in past narrative contexts. Whereas Russian does not allow for the pf pres in such contexts, in the Western languages such as Czech it occurs relatively often.47 This can be explained by pointing out the presence of the feature of sequential connection in the East, which is incompatible with the isolating presentation of the elements of the narrative chain of events in the historical pres.
Note that the explanation of EWT is also in accordance with the fact that in older stages of Russian, the pf pres was also possible in the case of the historical pres (see Manning 1939). This, together with the observations by Ružička (1962, p. 316) on the use of ipf verbs in pres tense narration in older stages of Russian, accords well with the assumption that the specific meaning of sequential connection is a Russian innovation. However, the data strongly suggest that in some contexts the ipf in the West is acceptable with (single) non-durative events, and it is not immediately obvious that such cases have a specific slow-motion effect. This is not in full accordance with the definition of the Western ipf given by Dickey as ‘assignability to more than one point in time’. We have also seen that the pf in the Western languages is easily triggered by sequences of events. Clearly, sequences provide an ultimate environment for the expression of total events. One can perhaps explain the use of the ipf with non-durative predicates as a way of preventing this sequencing effect, similar to the use of the reportative past in Bulgarian. This is in accordance with the effect of fragmentation one achieves by using the ipf in pres tense narration. In the same vein, the use of the pf in the Western languages is very similar to the use of the pf in the Eastern languages. In both groups the use of the pf has the typical aor function, used to narrate a chain of events, which can be attributed to the sequencing effect that the pf carries in these languages. This suggests that it is the feature of totality which explains the similarities between the different languages.
As a general remark regarding narrative contexts, we would like to point out that unlike pres tense habitual contexts, in which the choice of aspect is clearly dependent on the environment, EWT implies a categorical incompatibility of the context with one of the aspects in narratives in the Eastern group (ipf in past tense and pf in pres tense) (cf. the strict restriction on the ipf in past tense habitual contexts). However, it is not entirely clear how this incompatibility is connected to the proposed meanings of the pf and ipf aspect. There is a certain circularity in the argument that a historical pres style of narration is an inherently isolated manner of narration, and therefore not compatible with the Russian pf pres, or that the past tense sequences are incompatible with the isolating effect of the Russian ipf. However, we have shown that these connections between certain contexts and the pf or ipf aspect occur throughout the Slavic languages, in both the Eastern and the Western group. For example, Czech also prefers the pf in past tense narration and in habitual sequences. This can function as independent evidence of the influence of certain contexts on the choice of aspect. The differences in meaning of the aspects between the languages and groups can then explain why this attraction is stronger or weaker in some cases.
5 Aspect in retrospective contexts
5.1 Introduction to the retrospective (perfect) use of past tense forms
We use the term ‘retrospective use’ for what could also be called the perf use of the past tense.48 In most Slavic languages, except Bulgarian and Macedonian,49 the Late Common Slavic compound perf tense form (a pres tense form of byti ‘to be’ and a past part), has become the general past tense. Since this form is now also used in narrative contexts, it is often no longer referred to as perfect, because, as Lindstedt (2000, p. 371) remarks: “When a perfect can be used as a narrative tense […] it has ceased to be a perfect”. Nevertheless, it is still possible to speak of the perf use of the past tense, just as it is possible to speak of the narrative use of the past tense. Moreover, it is necessary to make this distinction, since, as we will see, aspect usage also interacts with these different uses.
Maslov’s definition is interesting because it actually defines two types of perf, namely one where the result of a past action is present at the moment of speech and one where a past action is somehow relevant to the present, even if no specific result of that action is present at the moment of speech. Both these sides of the perf are present in Slavic past tense forms, and are strongly correlated with aspect use. As Lindstedt (1995, p. 99) puts it: “[i]n dialogues, the distinction between the Slavonic ipf and pf often parallels the distinction between the so-called experiential (or existential) and resultative meaning of the perf tense in such languages” [i.e. languages that possess a morphological perf, E. F., J. K.]. This can be illustrated by the following two examples from Russian:
[A]n aspecto-temporal form of the verb, expressing a present state as a result of a preceding action or change, and / or expressing a past action, event or state that is somehow important to the present and is considered from the present point of view, detached from other past facts.50
—A gde ty polučalaipf svoe vysšee posvjaščenie?—sprosil ja.
‘ “And where did you obtain your higher ordination?” I asked.’
(Ru; RNC: Е. Хаецкая. Синие стрекозы Вавилона / Обретение Энкиду. 1997)
My ustalipf. (= (1))
‘We are tired.’
In (45), the pf past refers to the resultative state of a completed event, which holds at a certain reference point, normally the moment of speech. This use has been described for Russian (e.g. Barentsen 1995, p. 19, 1998, p. 50), and Barentsen connects this usage to the defining characteristic of the pf aspect in Russian: sequential connection. It might therefore be expected that this use of the pf past tense to refer to the resultative state of a completed event is typical for the Eastern group as a whole, and less typical for the Western group, but as we will show in Sect. 5.3, the data indicate that this is not entirely the case.
Aspect in retrospective contexts
Ipf past tense for completed terminative events
Yes (but restricted)
Pf past tense for resultative state
Yes (but often a construction with a past pass part is used)
Yes in Ru (but in Bg often a construction with a past pass part is used)52
5.2 General factual use and related uses
Padalipf sneg / Ja padalipf. (Ru)
Sníh padalipf / Padalipfjsem. (Cz)
‘Snow was falling / I was falling (e.g. from a great height).’
Dajalipf sem mu denar, pa ga ni hotel vzeti. (Sn)53
‘I gave (offered) him money, but he did not want to take it.’
Když se letoun vracelipf k letišti potřetí, letěl nízko a ztrácel výšku. (Cz)54
‘When the aircraft tried to return (lit. ‘was returning’) to the airport for the third time, it was flying low and losing altitude.’
“Tudi če bi jo v to prepričevalipf, verjamem, da je ne bi prepričalpf”, je dodal njen brat Ivica. (Sn)55
‘ “Even if I had tried to persuade her, I wouldn’t have persuaded her”, added her brother Ivica.’
Fully completed terminative situations in the past
Vy čitaliipf «Vojnu i mir»?—Čitalipf.
‘Have you read ‘War and Peace’?’ ‘Yes I have.’ (Ru; Forsyth 1970, p. 82)
Kto šilipf vam ėtot kostjum?
‘Who made (lit. sewed) that dress?’ (Ru; cf. Rassudova 1969, p. 37)
Četl jsteipf Vojnu a mír? Četlipf. (Cz)
‘Have you read ‘War and Peace’?’ ‘Yes I have.’
Kdo šilipf ty šaty?
‘Who made this dress?’ (Cz; Filip 1999, p. 186)
Ste braliipf Vojno in mir?
‘Have you read ‘War and Peace’?’ (Sn; Derganc 2010, p. 76)
Ja pomnju, v detstve odnaždy ja upalpf / padalipf s ėtogo dereva.
(Ru; Dickey 2000, p. 99)
It should be noted that even though it is correct that in the West the ipf past tense easily triggers a processual (or habitual) interpretation, in some contexts in Czech it is in fact possible to use the ipf past tense even if it has no clear process phase. As we will show, this is especially the case for the actional type of the general factual use.
Some unexpected cases of ipf general factual in the Western languages
Už jste někdy platiliipf pokutu. Jaká byla nejvyšší? (Cz)59
‘Have you ever paid a fine? Which one was the biggest?’
Už jste někdy kupovaliipf použitou fototechniku ze zahraničí? Jaké servery byste doporučili?60 (Cz)
‘Have you ever bought used photo-equipment from abroad? Which servers would you recommend?’
Už jste někdy dávalipf úplatek? (Cz)
‘Have you every paid (lit. given) a bribe?’
Už jste někdy dalpf (*dávalipf) gól? (Cz)
‘Have you ever scored (lit. given) a goal?’
Kdo dávalipf ten gól? (Cz)
‘Who scored (lit. gave) that goal?
Kdo spadlpf / *padalipf z toho stromu? (Cz)
‘Who has fallen from that tree?’
[P]ak jsem měl ještě jednu příhodu kde jsem se dobrovolně poroučel k zemi, abych nenabral děcko, které se rozhodlo že přeběhne z jedné strany cesty na druhou aniž by se podívalo kolem, děcko sice narazilo do boku předního kola a skončilo na zemi, ale to už se netočilo a já padalipf k zemi. Děcku se vůbec nic nestalo, mě taky ne, jen mě srali ženské které šli před děckem a neviděli situaci (chlap kterej to viděl tak byl zticha), hlavně že jejich jediná starost byla jestli děcko nespadlopf na hlavu, přitom jsem to byl já kdo padalipf z výšky na asfalt. (Cz)63
‘Then there was one incident in which I voluntarily fell on the ground, in order not to take a child that had decided to roller skate from one side of the road to the other without looking around, down with me. The kid crashed into the side of my front wheel and ended up on the ground, but the wheel stopped turning and I fell to the ground. Nothing happened to the child, nor to me; I was just cursed at by the women who came for the child and had not seen what had happened (a guy who had seen it did not say anything). Their main concern was whether the child had fallen on its head, while it was me who had fallen from a height onto the asphalt.’
Kdo ztratilpf (*ztrácelipf) klíče? (Cz)
Kto terjalipf ključi? (Ru)
‘Who lost the keys?’
Myslel jsem si, že to bude on, kdo bude tak blbej a ztratí pěněženku, ale byl jsem to samozřejmě já, kdo ztratilpf (*ztrácelipf) jeho peněženku. (Cz)
‘I thought that he would be so stupid to lose his wallet, but of course I was the one who lost his wallet.’
To conclude, the definition of the Western ipf in EWT (‘several points in time’) is not enough to predict or even fully explain the use of the ipf general factual in Czech. This is mainly because it is not entirely clear what counts as several points in time and what does not. There does not seem to be an independent test to determine whether or not verbs have enough of a process phase to refer to a fully completed terminative event by means of an ipf verb. Furthermore, to what extent a verb can be used in such contexts depends not only on the specific verbal semantics, but also on the construction in which it is used (for example existential general factual or actional general factual), and on other contextual clues, which facilitate a shift in focus from the resultative phase to the situation itself, or to participants associated with this situation (for example contrastive contexts with some ipf verbs in the case of the actional general factual). We will say more about this issue in Sect. 5.4.
Annulment, or ‘Two-way action’
Ty otkryvalipf okno?
‘Have you opened the window?’ (opened and (now) closed again)
(Ru; Rassudova 1984, p. 68)
On bralipf knigi v biblioteke.
‘He borrowed books from the library’ (but has returned them again).
(Ru; cf. Rassudova 1969, p. 38)
Samolet uže vozvraščalsjaipf na aėrodrom.
‘The airplane already returned to the airport.’
(Possible interpretation: ‘returned and left again’) (Ru; Rassudova 1969, p. 35)
Otvíralipf jsi okno? (Cz; Dickey 2000, p. 112)
Letoun se vracelipf. (Cz)
‘The plane was returning.’
(Cannot mean: The plane returned (but has now left again).)
Slavic languages with a morphological perfect
Vednâž veče e polučavalipf zabeležka za zakâsnenie.
‘He has already once received a reprimand for being late.’
(Bg; Dickey 2000, p. 98)
Kato malăk vednăž padahipf.aor ot tova dărvo.
‘As a boy I once fell from this tree.’ (Bg; Stankov 1976, p. 48)
Gde vy braliipf bumagu, v kakom škafu? (Ru; Lindstedt 1985, p. 228)
Otkăde ste vzelipf.perf xartijata, ot koj škaf? (Bg)
‘Where did you take the paper from, from what cupboard?’
Az veče popălnixpf.aor (*popălvaxipf.imperf) anketata. Zašto ošte vednăž?
‘I already filledout the form. Why again?’ (Bg; Sell 1994, p. 100)
5.3 Perfective past for resultative states
On očen’ ustalpf, ele peredvigaet nogi.
‘He is very tired, he hardly moves his feet.’ (Ru; Barentsen 1998, p. 51)
Lošadi izmučilis’pf, my prodroglipf.
‘The horses were exhausted; we were chilled.’
(Ru; M. Ju. Lermontov; cited after Barentsen 1998, p. 51)
“I’m sorry,” Langdon said, “but I’m very tired and -”
(Dan Brown. The Da Vinci Code)
—Izvinite,—otvetil Lèngdon,—no ja očen’ ustal … (Ru)
—Meni škoda,—vidkazav Lengdon,—ja duže vtomyvsja i … (Uk)
—Przykro mi—powiedział Langdon—ale jestem bardzo zmęczony i… (Pl)
“Je mi líto,” odpověděl Langdon, “ale jsem velice unavený a…” (Cz)
“Prepáčte,” povedal Langdon, “ale somunavený a -” (Sk)
“Oprostite,” je rekel Langdon, “toda zelo semutrujen in…” (Sn)
“Žao mi je,” rekao je Langdon, “ali vrlo samumoran i -” (Cr)
“Žao mi je,” reče Langdon, “ali veoma samumoran i…” (Sr)
“Žalam,” reče Lengdon, “no mnogu sumizmoren i…” (Mc)
—Săžaljavam, no săm mnogo umoren i…—započna Langdăn. (Bg)
Jako se izmorivpf.aor.68 (Mc)
‘I am (lit. have become) very tired.’
Unavilpfjsem se. (Cz)69
‘I got tired.’
5.4 Evaluation of the explanation of retrospective contexts within EWT
Even though Dickey (2015) rightly points out the marginal status of sentences like (71), we have also pointed out other instances that are not fully in accordance with the definition of the ipf in the West by Dickey, for example (62) or (64). Following Dickey’ (2000) line of thought, who advocates a polysemous account of the ipf with a central meaning, it could be argued that such instances are peripheral, rather than marginal, in the sense that they cannot be seen as prototypical instances of the meaning of the ipf (‘assignability to more than one point in time’). Instead, it seems, such uses share some features with the prototypical use of the ipf in the West, but not all. Nevertheless, the ipf conceptualization is more optimal in such cases than the perfective conceptualization, which explains why the ipf is chosen. Also note that we pointed at other contexts in which the use of the ipf does not fully seem to fit the definition of the Western ipf as ‘assignability to more than one point in time,’ namely the use of non-durative imperfectives in sequences of events in narration (e.g. vracel in example (34)). If we follow a polysemous account, more analysis is necessary of exactly what features of the prototypical ipf meaning are ‘highlighted’ and what features are ‘backgrounded’ in such cases, and why the chosen ipf conceptualization is more suitable than the perfective conceptualization. Such an analysis should take the interaction between the meaning of constructions into account, and the predicates that are used in that construction. Different constructions provide different construals of a scene or situation, which may favor the use of the ipf over the pf, depending on the meaning of the predicate (cf. the notion of fusion of grammatical constructions with verbs as discussed by Goldberg 1995). As we have shown, constructions may more or less easily trigger the ipf in the case of a fully completed terminative event. This was already illustrated with respect to the difference between the existential and the actional general factual in Czech. As we have shown, ipf verbs referring to terminative events that lack a clear process phase are used much more easily in an actional construction than in an existential construction. The difference between the two constructions could be explained in the following way: the actional general factual refers to a concrete occurrence of an event in the past, while the existential general factual is a more general statement (or often a question) regarding the occurrence of some non-specific event at a non-specific point in time. Because the event is more concrete in the case of the actional use, it is probably easier to focus on the action (event) itself, and regard the totality of the event as a given.70 An example was the ipf verb dat ‘give’ in Czech, which is not allowed in the existential general factual as in (61), whereas it is in the actional general factual as in (62). Another illustration of the importance of the way the predicate interacts with the construction is the difference between the actional general factual, which does not facilitate the use of the ipf ztrácet ‘lose’ to refer to a complete event as in (65). It is, however, possible to use the same ipf verb in Czech (though not Slovene) to refer to a complete terminative event in the pres tense like the following, probably because the pres tense is less clearly associated with the idea of completion:
[o]f course, one could always posit an associated component of qualitative temporal indefiniteness within the network for the western impv. Given the conceptual proximity of the two concepts, this is not implausible. Moreover, if the pv [pf, E. F., J. K.] in the respective languages represents a radial category, then there seems to be no reason for not assuming the impv [ipf, E. F., J. K.] is a radial category as well.
[description of a chapter of a book] …ve které ztratípf / ztrácíipf peněženku. (Cz)
‘…in which he loses his wallet.’
Another factor in the use of the ipf past tense in the case of fully complete events appears to be the possibility of employing special verb forms. In case of the general factual the use of perf forms seems to lead to different aspectual behavior in those Slavic languages in which the proto-Slavic perf form has not become a general past tense, like Bulgarian.71 Again, the data suggest that a more fine-grained theory is necessary to account for these data.
If we look at the use of the pf past in retrospective use in examples with ‘be(come) tired’, the data seem to indicate that resultative function is more wide-spread in Russian than in the Western languages. This could be explained in terms of the feature of sequential connection, which is part of the Eastern pf. However, languages of the Western group do employ the pf past in the same vein. More generally, both Western languages and Eastern languages other than Russian use alternative part constructions more in this context. It could be argued that the relative lack of the part constructions in Russian (at least in the contexts given here) could be connected to the feature sequential connection. In languages where the pf past tense in retrospective contexts does not signal ‘sequentiality’, the past part construction is the most suitable expression to signal result, whereas in Russian the idea of result is an inherent part of the meaning of the pf past tense in such contexts.
6 Conclusion and further remarks
In the East, but not in the West, only the ipf aspect can be used in the case of past habitual contexts. In the West, both the pf and ipf are possible;
in the East, but not in the West, only the ipf pres tense can be used in the case of the historical pres. In the West, both the ipf and the pf are possible;
in the East, but not in the West, a past tense narrative context requires the use of the pf in sequences of events. In the West, the use of ipf in such past tense narrative contexts is more common;
in the East, but not in the West, the ipf past tense can be used with single complete terminative events without a process phase. In the West, the ipf past tense is only possible with terminative events that have a process phase.
The role of the surrounding context of the perfective event in the case of sequentiality or temporal definiteness
According to EWT, the pf in the Eastern group has a semantic feature, which is absent in the Western group, namely sequential connection (in Barentsen’s version) or temporal definiteness (in Dickey’s version). The theory shows that the surrounding context to which the event can be sequentially connected can be a linguistically expressed situation in the pf (or sometimes an ipf), but also a referential point such as the moment of speech or another vantage point. Whether or not the event can be sequentially connected is inherently related to the construction in which the verb is used. To give an example, in the Eastern languages such as Russian a habitual context makes it impossible to anchor the event in past tense contexts, with the exception of subordinate clauses. However, sequential connection is possible in the case of some pf pres tense habituals. Further research could focus even more on the question of what the prerequisites are for the surroundings of a terminative event to allow sequential connection (or in Dickey’s terms, for the terminative event to be uniquely locatable, and contiguous in time to qualitatively different situations), and how the meaning of aspect interacts with the type of predicates or constructions in which the predicate is used. This could perhaps lead to an even better understanding of the strength of the factors, which either facilitate or block sequential connection. Furthermore, such an analysis could perhaps also explain contexts in which Bulgarian, due to its different tense forms, behaves differently from Russian. In our view, such a development of the theory could possibly integrate the feature of sequential connection proposed by Barentsen, as a feature of the pf, to the feature of temporal definiteness proposed by Dickey, as a feature of the context in which the pf is used.
Further explanation of data within the Western group that are not in full accordance with the theory
Non-complete (terminative or non-terminative) events;
- fully complete events where the focus is not on the resultative phase and which are therefore not presented as a totality because:
the event is presented as habitual and the habituality is construed on the macro-level, as such blurring the boundaries between the different repeated events (cf. Dickey’s description in terms of ‘several points in time’);
the durative character of the event (i.e. the event occupying several points in time) makes it possible to focus on the event itself or the circumstances associated with the event;
other factors make it possible to shift the focus from the resultative phase to the action itself (or circumstances associated with the action) even if the event has no clear process phase (i.e. even if the event is not clearly durative).
Different meaning, same aspectual use
At some points in our discussion we have pointed out that particular aspectual behavior can be explained by focusing on the differences in the meaning of aspect of a particular aspectual group, whereas we frequently find similarities as well. A case in point are narrative sequences of events which seem to favor the pf both in the East and the West. Other examples include the use of the ipf aspect in actional general factual contexts and the use of the pf past in restrospective contexts. Even though these uses can certainly not be seen as a falsification of the theory, this topic merits more discussion and explanation.
We hope that further systematic comparative research will shed further light on these issues.
aor—aorist, asp—aspect, EWT—East-West Theory, imp—imperative mood, imperf—imperfect, inf—infinitive, ipf—imperfective, fut—future, ger—gerund, pf—perfective, perf—perfect, pres—present, part—participle, pass—passive.
In this paper we will use the term ‘event’ as an umbrella term for things with a temporal dimension that are expressed by a verb (including different types of Aktionsart). We use the term ‘situation’ more broadly, including, for example, things with a temporal dimension that are not expressed by verbs such as the moment of speech.
The term ‘terminative’ is also used for achievements where there is no process leading up to the completion of the situation (e.g. ‘forget’). This contrasts with the use of the term ‘telic’ by some other authors, who employ this term only for accomplishments (e.g. Comrie 1976, pp. 44–47).
Examples without a source indicated are our own (E. F., J. K.).
Even though the semantics of predicates are in some cases more and in others less easily associated with the idea of a terminus, in Russian most events can be presented as terminative because of the presence of prefixes such as delimitative po- which turn typical aterminative predicates into terminative ones (e.g. sidet’ipf ‘sit’ → posidet’pf ‘sit for a while’). Cf. the broader sense of terminativity vs. telicity.
‘Our model presupposes the possibility that the ipf differs from the corresponding pf form only insofar as the feature ‘sequential connection’ is negated.’
The theory presented by Barentsen should not be interpreted in such a way that the question whether the event is complete (total) can be objectively determined on the basis of the state of affairs in the actual world. As such, the idea of completeness or totality has to do with the way the event is presented (cf. Comrie 1976, p. 18, who argues that it is incorrect to speak about a ‘completed’ event, and uses the term ‘complete’ event).
In these subsequent articles Dickey does not only refine the theory as proposed in Dickey (2000), but also ties differences in the productivity of particular markers of perfectivity to the east-west division and discusses diachronic developments.
Definiteness is reminiscent of the nominal domain. The linking of different domains to each other is typical of the cognitive approach to language, where similar concepts in different domains are often linked to each other, for example because they are seen as cognitively similar, or because a concept from one domain is understood in terms of a more basic concept from another domain. But note that Barentsen (1995, p. 11) also links the pf in Russian to the nominal domain, stressing the relationship between delimitative perfectives and countable nouns. Mehlig (1996) treats such analogies between Russian aspect and nouns more extensively.
We use the following abbreviations for language names: BCS—Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Br—Belarusian, Bg—Bulgarian, Cr—Croatian, Cz—Czech, Mc—Macedonian Pl—Polish, Ru—Russian Sr—Serbian, Sk—Slovak, Sn—Slovene, Sr—Serbian, Sorb—Sorbian, Uk—Ukrainian.
Dickey uses the term ‘situation’ where we use ‘event’. To prevent terminological confusion as much as possible, we will change his term ‘situation’ to ‘event’ when it is used in the sense that we have defined for ‘event’.
Dickey uses the letter X to refer to the ‘action itself’ and Y and Z to refer to situations with which X is contrasted, while Barentsen uses Y to refer to the ‘action itself’ and X and Z to refer to contrastive situations. However, in the case of Dickey’s theory the Y and Z are to be understood as external situations, while for Barentsen X and Z are part of the terminative event itself. Note that Dickey’s representation with circles seems to suggest that the external situations are always complete (total). This is, however, probably not an intended feature of the theory. In the case of Barentsen’s theory no such suggestion is made.
In this definition it is not clear whether these ‘other states of affairs’ in the definition are to be interpreted as preceding and / or subsequent situations, or that it also includes concurrent situations in processual usage, like the moment of speech in the actual pres, where all Slavic languages use an ipf aspect. However, Dickey and Kresin (2009, note on pp. 126–127) remark that although in those cases some phases of the event are clearly assignable to a single unique point in time, the entire event cannot be uniquely located, so the other states of affairs with which the event contrasts, are either preceding or subsequent situations.
Furthermore, the inability to be assigned to a single unique point in time is not simply a matter of ‘objective inability’, but it can also be a choice of the speaker to present an event that way in discourse contexts that facilitate or allow such a presentation (Dickey, personal communication).
Barentsen does not explicitly discuss this point. We might argue that in his theory, which is essentially structuralist, the idea of totality in the case of the eastern ipf is an interpretation rather than a meaning. This means that it is not part of the meaning of the form, in other words: it is not expressed by the form, but it is something that can be inferred from the context in which the form-meaning element is used.
Barentsen (1985, 1995, 1998) does not speak about the ‘synoptic construal’ of an event, but stresses that in the case of a pf a terminative event is presented as complete, i.e. with the changes of state in focus. The similarity with Dickey’s approach is that both see the pf aspect in the Western languages as expressing one feature less than the pf in the eastern languages. For Barentsen this is the lack of a sequential connection, for Dickey it is the lack of temporal definiteness, hence the absence of external situations Y and Z in Fig. 4.
Dickey draws circles with different colours on both sides of the timeline. The point of this shading is to indicate the vagueness of the ‘more than one point’ (Dickey, personal communication).
The same is true the other way around: the Western pf aspect is not incompatible with situations that occupy more points on a timeline, cf. our example (32). So while pf verbs conceptualize the event as total, the same event can be presented as consisting of more points on a timeline by other means in the utterance. And while ipf verbs conceptualize the event as occupying more points on a timeline, this is not incompatible with a total interpretation.
Dickey (2000) does not discuss Macedonian, but Kamphuis (2014) shows that Macedonian can be seen as a transitional zone between the Eastern group and the Southern transitional zone proposed by Dickey, BCS. In Macedonian the pf aspect behaves like the pf aspect in the eastern group. The use of the ipf aspect, however, differs in some respects.
‘Indefinite’ is used here as opposed to ‘definite.’ So the definition does not imply that habitual events are being presented as repeated a countless number of times, rather that the number of repetitions to which the habitual expression refers is not fixed, as it is in bounded repetition. Habitual expressions can be seen a generalization over a number of occurrences (cf. Carlson 2012, p. 829) and the number of occurrences needed for such generalizations depends on the particular event and the context.
These studies focus, however, on the use of the ipf in past tense habitual contexts.
In Slovene, which is, like Czech, a member of the Western group, the pf pres is not the default pf fut tense. In this it behaves as all South Slavic languages do, which have a separate fut construction for both ipf and pf verbs.
In Russian it is, however, possible to use a pf verb in the case of context of bounded repetition, for example in contexts where the event is repeated x times. In such cases the repeated events can together be conceptualized as one total event, which is sequentially connected to the surrounding context (see for example Fortuin 2008; Barentsen et al. 2015).
- 27.Also, in the transitional language Macedonian, the ipf pres tense is normally used in the case of habitual contexts, and the pf pres (in a construction with the modal marker ḱe) is only used when there is a sequential connection with another event:BCS, the immediate neighbor of Macedonian in the transitional zone, allows for the use of perfectives as they are used in Czech with no special definite environment. Polish, the transitional language in the north, allows the use of perfectives to a greater extent than Russian, but their use is still more limited in this regard than Czech and BCS (Dickey 2000, pp. 68–71).
Cf. Dickey’s (2000, p. 86) remark that “[t]he causal and temporal connection between the circumstances and the action involves temporal definiteness.”
Dickey (2000, pp. 77–80) also provides an analysis, which is to some extent similar to our analysis.
Remember the ‘if X then Y’-function of the Russian pf pres in singularizing contexts, which is similar to the conditional or irreal mood. Kalsbeek (2012, p. 347) argues that it is exactly this overlap in function that leads to the use of the conditional in BCS to denote repeated actions in the past.
In the RNC the query ‘vsegda pered tem kak’ yielded 8 examples, all of which contained a pf inf.
Also see the discussion in Fortuin (2008, pp. 215–219), which shows that pf inf can occur in habitual contexts if they are dependent on an ipf predicate.
- 37.In some cases, we find a pf both in the subordinate clause and the main clause. An example of this is (11) given earlier in the text which has two pf pres forms. Another example is given below with the habitual expression po utram ‘in the mornings’, the subordinator kak tol’ko ‘as soon as’, and an imp in the main clause:In such cases the habitual form po utram has scope over the entire sentence, in which the situation in the subordinate -clause is sequentially connected to the situation in the main clause. We have not found such instances with the past tense. More empirical research is necessary before any conclusions can be drawn.
Po utram, kak tol’ko privedeš’pf sebja v porjadok, navedipf porjadok i na svoej planete.
‘In the mornings, as soon as you have attended to yourself (i.e. get ready), attend to your planet.’
(Ru; translation of Le Petit Prince, Saint-Exupéry; Fortuin and Pluimgraaff 2015, p. 224)
Including BCS in the transitional zone. Polish mainly falls within the Eastern group.
It should be noted that there are instances where Czech seems to behave more or less in the way that Russian does. An example is the potential reading of the pf pres (see Sonnenhauser 2008, for an overview). Within the EW-model, the modal character of this use can probably only be explained in terms of sequential connection similar to the exemplary use of the pf pres in the Eastern languages. The same usage type also seems to occur in Czech, where the pf aspect does not have the feature sequential connection.
- 40.There are exceptions to this rule that can be motivated in terms of the semantics of the predicate, or in terms of the effect that is intended (see also Stunová 1993, p. 112; Dickey 2000, p. 215). Some instances are given below. In (i) and (ii) the meaning of the verb, or the fact that there is no natural pf (cf. Janda 2007) to these ipf verbs, seems to play a role in the use of the ipf, and in (iii) the use of the ipf portrays the event as having duration:It is not fully clear to us how EWT accounts for such instances. To give an example, how are sxvatili and rasstreljali in (iii) sequentially connected to the surrounding context? This again raises the question of whether it is possible to make a sequential connection to a situation that is expressed by an ipf verb. Alternatively, one might argue that in these cases, there is a mix of a narrative sequence of events and a retrospective style of narration, which facilitates the use of the ipf. In addition, lexical factors may play a role, such as the meaning of modal verbs (see for example Barentsen 2002, for the semantics of (s)moč’ ‘can’).
Potom ona poterjalapf soznanie, my perepugalis’pf, zvoniliipf vraču…
‘Then she lost consciousness, we gotscared, called a doctor…’
(Ru; RNC: Ju. Trifonov. Dom na naberežnoj. 1976)
—On zasmejalsjapf, vstalpf, xotelipf obnjat’ ee, no Valja vyskol’znulapf iz ego ruk.
‘He laughed, gotup, wanted to hug her, but Valya slippedout of his hands.
(Ru; RNC: T. Tronina. Rusalka dlja intimnyx vstreč. 2004)
Ix sxvatilipf, doprašivaliipf, potom rasstreljalipf.
‘They arrested them, interrogated them, and then shot them.’
(Ru; RNC: Načal’nik razvedki. Soldat udači. 2004.04.07)
http://www.kkkk.cz/091024_ukazka_vds.htm (September 2014).
Our Czech informant does not think that this example to expresses an overlap, but rather as a concentration on the action of ‘giving back’ itself, leaving the possible consequences of the action out of focus. This creates a kind of dramatic moment in the sequence of events.
Ivančev (1961, p. 48) considers Slovene in this respect to be a transitional zone between Russian and Bulgarian on the one hand and Czech on the other. Note that this differs from most of the other contexts that we are discussing, where Slovene seems to occupy the most extreme position within the Western languages.
Such examples of events in a sequence with ipf aor should not necessarily be interpreted as presenting the events as sequentially connected, or temporally definite (cf. our discussion of the way events are presented in the historical pres, Sect. 4.3). The aor is used to refer to a total event, while the ipf aspect is used to indicate that the event is not terminative, has no inherent limit. The Bulgarian ipf aor is thus the ultimate example of a total event presented by an ipf verb. In other languages, like Russian, the ipf is not incompatible with a total interpretation (cf. the ipf general factual usage, Sect. 5.2), but it does not express totality, which is exactly what the ipf aor in Bulgarian does. Bulgarian (and to a lesser extent Macedonian) is thus the only Slavic language in which totality and temporal definiteness are also formally discernable.
This is underscored by the fact that an ipf pres tense verb such as prixodit ‘comes’ does occur in the historical pres, even though it cannot be used in a regular processual context (e.g. ?On sejčas prixodit! ‘He is coming (arriving) right now!’).
- 46.This can also be illustrated using examples from the Bible. Note the following example from Matthew:This Slovo Zhizny translation uses an ipf verb in a sequence of events, probably influenced by older versions of the Slavic Bible translation (NB: all Old Church Slavonic Gospel codices have the verb služiti here). It is interesting to see that the English translation uses an ingressive construction here and that the Russian Easy-to-Read Version (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+4%3A11&version=ERV-RU), which generally uses a more colloquial style, translates this verse with an ingressive construction as well (cf. also Dickey 2000, pp. 219–222):
Togda d’javol ostavilpf Ego, a k Iisusu pristupilipf angely i služiliipf Emu.
‘Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.’
(Ru; Matthew 4:11, Slovo Zhizny, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew+4%3A11&version=SZ)
I togda d’javol ostavilpf Ego, i prišlipf k nemu Angely i stalipf Emu služit’.
Even though we have not done any extensive research on this topic, the data we have seen suggests that in Slovene the pf pres is the default in the case of pres tense narratives, while the ipf aspect is only used to refer to states or processes.
Note that we use the term ‘retrospective’ for perf use in a broad sense, including uses of the ipf aspect. This is different from perfektnoe značenie in Russian literature, which is generally used only for the typical resultative meaning of pf verbs. This terminological issue was the reason Barentsen (1992, p. 14) coined the term ‘retrospective’, which covers both pf and ipf perf usage as opposed to narrative usage.
And to a lesser extent (dialects of) BCS.
In the way we discuss the perfect instead of ‘aspecto-temporal form of the verb’ one should read ‘aspect-temporal usage of the verb,’ given the fact that e.g. Russian and Czech do not have a special perf form.
The term itself seems to have been introduced by Maslov (1959).
http://www.uzpln.cz/pdf/incident_aRhUgv8d.pdf (February 2014).
This seems to contradict the definition Dickey gives for the ipf aspect in the Western group, namely the assignability of a situation to several points in time. One could argue, however, that by emphasizing the non-completion of the event, the preparatory phase is ‘stretched out,’ and as such presented as having some duration. Such an analysis implies, however, that the duration of a situation expressed by a predicate can only be measured relative to particular linguistic contexts, and cannot be determined objectively. We will say more about this issue later.
- 57.There is an intriguing factor for which we have no full explanation. Dickey (2000, pp. 117–118) claims that in general experience, in questions in the Western languages, an indication like ‘from the beginning till the end’ or ‘fully’ is only compatible with the pf. He provides the following example from Czech:This could be seen as a corroboration of the meaning of totality of the Western pf: when the event is explicitly presented as fully complete, the pf is the only possible option in Czech. This differs from Russian, which prefers the ipf in contexts like (i). Note, however, that this restriction also seems to be due to the specific construction with někdy (vůbec) ‘ever’, since the ipf is acceptable in the case of concrete experience questions:
Interestingly, the situation in Slovene is different. According to the native speakers we asked, in Slovene the ipf is possible with the verb ‘read’ in general experience questions and in concrete experience questions, even if the completeness of the realization is made linguistically explicit, for example:
Přečětlpf / *Četlipf jsi někdy vůbec tu celou knihu?
‘Have you ever read this whole book?’
In (iii) the ipf can be chosen to emphasize the importance of the book that was read and the reading of it. It is not clear to us why sentences like these are not acceptable in Czech, especially because in general, Czech more readily allows for the ipf in general factual type contexts than Slovene. More empirical research is necessary before any conclusions can be drawn.
Četlipf jsi to celé?
‘Did you fully read that?’
(http://www.motorkari.cz/forum-detail/?ft=166023&fid=63 (September 2014))
Ste že kdaj braliipf Božjo besedo od začetka do konca?
‘Have you ever read the word of God from the beginning till the end?’
A je sploh kdo to klikal in bralipf do konca?
‘Has anyone clicked on it and read it till the end?’
(http://www.joker.si/mn3njalnik_oldy//index.php?s=ea44009130f3e22f6d668f8706217bc5showtopic=71115st=0p=1063290480#entry1063290480 (September 2014))
In the original Czech translation in Dickey (2000, p. 99) the word jednou ‘one time’ is used as an equivalent for the Russian odnaždy. We are thankful to Hana Filip who pointed out that jednou is more like the Russian odin raz ‘one time’, which in Russian would probably trigger the pf aspect as well. However, the aspectual difference between Russian and Czech as described by Dickey is still present when the Czech adverb jednoho dne ‘one day’ is used as an equivalent for odnaždy.
http://www.bxclub.com/ankety.php (February 2014). Diacritics—E. F., J. K.
https://www.facebook.com/fototipy/posts/530504546995585 (September 2014).
According to the test advocated by Vendler (1957) for English, both ‘fall from a tree’ and ‘score a goal’ must be seen as achievements, since they can occur with an ‘at + time expression’-phrase, and do not combine with For how long?, at least in English: He fell from the tree at 15:00; He scored at 15:00 sharp; ?For how long did he fall from the tree; ?For how long did he score a goal. Also note that both verbs cannot be compared to predicates like reach the top, which have a preparatory phase and an instantaneous culmination point, presupposing the transition of one state to the other (cf. Moens and Steedman 1988).
Dickey (2000, p. 100) remarks that “in the Western half Slavic territory, impv [ipf, E. F., J. K.] achievement verbs are much less acceptable [italics our] in general factual contexts—the pv [pf, E. F., J. K.] is used instead”. In the examples he provides, however, the pf is marked as ungrammatical (*), and not as (much) less acceptable. Note that these examples are all instances of the existential use of the general factual. In Dickey (2015), the issue is treated from a somewhat different angle, and Dickey argues that ‘Czech allows the non-resultative IGF [ipf general factual, E. F., J. K.], the actional impf and the existential IGF with accomplishments; however, in contrast to Russian it does not allow the existential IGF with achievement verbs (…). The concrete IGF is also very uncommon in Czech, as is the two-way IGF (…)’. Even though Dickey does not explicitly say that the actional use is possible both with accomplisment verbs and achievement verbs in Czech, one could draw this conclusion a contrario because he does mention the restriction on ipf achievement verbs for the existential general factual. On the other hand, the example he gives of the actional general factual is A kde jsi kupovalipfty roury?, ‘And where did you buy the pipes?’ With respect to this example (and other examples) he remarks that ‘Western languages primarily allow the IGF in cases in which a process component can be identified’. This suggests that in Dickey’s view, the actional type is only possible with accomplishment predicates only and not with achievements. It should be emphasized here that the differentiation between accomplishments and achievements based on the criteria used by Dickey (2000, pp. 13–14) is not always easy, as our discussion shows.
http://www.bike-forum.cz/forum/pes-nepritel-bikeru/995934/forum.html (February 2014).
In this case, both the origin and the destination of the falling are made linguistically explicit. It may be the case that such factors are also relevant in shifting the attention away from the resultative state.
- 65.In Slovene, the actional use of the ipf general factual seems to be possible only with clearly durative predicates or if the predicate expresses repetition as in the following example:Unlike Czech, where a contrastive context sometimes facilitates the use of the imperfective, like in (64), in Slovene a contrastive context does never facilitate the use of the ipf (ipf padati, instead of pf pasti). As such, the data suggest also that Czech more easily allows for the ipf in the case of fully complete terminative events than Slovene. This is in accordance with the conclusions provided by Fortuin and Pluimgraaff (2015) with respect to the use of aspect in the imp.
—Rekla sem ti da me ne napij.—Dajalipf sem ti brezalkoholno pivo.
‘ “I told you not to let me drink.” “I gave you a nonalcoholic beer.” ’
(Intended meaning: I have been giving you nonalcoholic beer (on various occasions).)
(http://www.cswap.com/2001/Not_Another_Teen_Movie/cap/sl/25fps/a/00_42 (February 2014))
For a discussion of Macedonian aspect usage in this context, see Kamphuis (2014).
We do not want to conceal that there are probably important differences between these past pass part. In some cases, they can be stative passives which have a conventional adjective-like meaning and not an eventive passive meaning. This is, however, not relevant for the point we want to make.
- 68.In Macedonian, there is the added possibility of using two different perf forms to translate this sentence, cf. (i) or (ii), which is available in Bulgarian as well:
Toj se ima jako izmorenopf.perf.
‘He clearly is / got very tired.’
Toj jako seizmorilpf.perf.
‘I understand he is (was) / got very tired.’
- 69.Our informant remarks that this construction is preferred when the cause of the exhaustion is mentioned, like in (i) or (ii):Thus also in Czech this construction expresses a link between the action and the moment of speech.
Unavilpf jsem se tím.
‘I got tired because of that.’
‘That exhausted me.’
Note that Dickey (2015, p. 182) argues that ‘the western languages (…) tend to avoid IGF [ipf general factual, E. F., J. K.] usage when an action is most naturally seen as a single total entity’, referring to an example with an existential general factual with an achievement verb. Even though we think it is correct that achievements are most naturally seen as a single total entity, this does not explain the difference regarding the actional general factual.
This can also be compared to the use of the pf imperf in Bulgarian and Macedonian in habitual situations.
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