A binary approach to Spanish tense and aspect: on the tense battle about the past

Paz Gonzalez, Henk Verkuyl

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7557/


perfecto; pluscuamperfecto; imperfecto; indefinido; aorist; completion; anteriority; stative; nonstative; discrete; continuous; progressive; terminative; durative; tense; aspect


The present paper aims at accounting for the Spanish Imperfecto, Perfecto, Pluscuamperfecto and the Indefinido by applying three binary tense oppositions: Present vs Past, Synchronous vs Posterior and Imperfect(ive) vs Perfect(ive). For the sixteen Spanish tense forms under analysis a binary approach leads to covering twelve of them. Their relation with the preterital forms outside the range of the three oppositions is accounted for by two surgical operations: (a) the notion of Imperfect(ive) is severed from the notion of ongoing progress by restricting it to underinformation about completion and by seeing continuous tense forms as involving a more complex semantics; (b) the notion of (non-)stative is strictly severed from interference of information coming from the arguments of a verb. These theoretical moves make the way free for a formal-semantic insight into the interaction of Spanish tense and aspect. It also paves the way for a principled distinction between completion and anteriority. Restricted to tense forms pertaining to the past, our analysis sheds light on the struggle for survival of tense forms outside the binary system.


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