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The continuous forms and the perfect forms





The continuous forms are aspective because, reflecting the inherent character of the process performed by the verb, they do not, and cannot, denote the timing of the process.

The perfect, as different from the continuous, does reflect a kind of timing, though in a purely relative way. Namely, it coordinates two times, locating one of them in retrospect towards the other. The perfect expresses not only time in relative retrospect, but also the very connection of a prior process with a time-limit reflected in a subsequent event. The suggested name for this category will be "retrospective coordination", or, contractedly, "retrospect". The categorial member opposed to the perfect, for the sake of terminological consistency, will be named "imperfect" (non-perfect).

Thus, alongside of the forms of perfect continuous and perfect indefinite, the verb distinguishes also the forms of imperfect continuous and imperfect indefinite.

The aspective category of development is constituted by the opposition of the continuous forms of the verb to the non-continuous, or indefinite forms of the verb. The marked member of the opposition is the continuous. The categorial meaning of the continuous is "action in progress"; the unmarked member of the opposition, the indefinite, leaves this meaning unspecified, i.e. expresses the non-continuous.

The correlation of the continuous with contextual indications of time is well illustrated on examples of complex sentences with while-clauses. Four combinations of the continuous and the indefinite are possible in principle in these constructions .

While I was typing, Mary and Tom were chatting in the adjoining room.

While I typed, Mary and Tom were chatting in the adjoining room.

While I was typing, they chatted in the adjoining room.

While I typed, they chatted in the adjoining room.

The meaningful difference consists exactly in the categorial semantics of the indefinite and continuous: while the latter shows the action in the very process of its realisation, the former points it out as a mere fact.

Continuous is usually employed in descriptions of scenes correlating a number of actions going on simultaneously.

But if the actions are not progressive by themselves (i.e. if they are not shown as progressive), the description, naturally, will go without the continuous forms of the verbs.

Thus, the consideration of the temporal element in the continuous shows that its referring an action to a definite time-point, or its expressing simultaneity irrespective of absolutive time, is in itself an aspective factor. At the second stage of the interpretation of the continuous, the form was understood as rendering a blend of temporal and aspective meanings.

With the infinitive, the category of development, naturally, expresses the same meaningful contrast between action in progress and action not in progress as with the finite forms of the verb.

What are you complaining about?

Is there really anything for you to be complaining about?

But in addition to this purely categorial distinction, the form of the continuous infinitive has a tendency to acquire a special meaning in combination with modal verbs, namely that of probability.

If the flight went smoothly, they may be approaching the West Coast.

The opposition of the category of development undergoes various reductions.

The easiest and most regular neutralisational relations in the sphere continuous — indefinite are observed in connection with the subclass division of verbs into limitive and unlimitive, and within the unlimitive into actional and statal.



The unlimitive verbs are very easily neutralised in cases where the continuity of action is rendered by means other than aspective.

The night is wonderfully silent. The stars shine with a fierce brilliancy, there is not a breath of wind.

As to the statal verbs, their development neutralisation amounts to a grammatical rule. It is under this heading that the "never-used-in-the-continuous" verbs go, i. e. the uniques be and have, verbs of possession other than have, verbs of relation, of physical perceptions, of mental perceptions.

On the other hand, the continuous can be used to denote habitual, recurrent actions in emphatic collocations.

Miss Tillings said you were always talking as if there had been some funny business about me (M. Dickens).

Continuous is used with unlimitive verbs, including verbs of statal existence. It serves the purpose of speech expressiveness.

I only heard a rumour that a certain member here present has been seeing the prisoner this afternoon (E. M. Forster).

We have considered the relation of unlimitive verbs to the continuous form in the light of reductional processes.

As for the limitive verbs, their standing with the category of development and its oppositional reductions is quite the reverse. Due to the very aspective quality of limitiveness, these verbs are not often used in the continuous form in general, but in cases when the informative purpose does demand the expression of an action in progress, the continuous with these verbs is quite obligatory and normally cannot undergo reduction under any conditions.

The plane was just touching down when we arrived at the airfield.

In connection with the problem of the aspective category of development, we must consider the forms of the verb built up with the help of the auxiliary do.

Namely, the auxiliary do, first, is presented in grammars as a means of building up interrogative constructions when the verb is used in the indefinite aspect. Second, the auxiliary do is described as a means of building up negative constructions with the indefinite form of the verb. Third, it is shown as a means of forming emphatic constructions of both affirmative declarative and affirmative imperative communicative types, with the in-definite form of the verb. Fourth, it is interpreted as a means of forming elliptical constructions with the indefinite form of the verb.

The do-forms are parts of the corresponding verb-forms of the indefinite aspect.:

You want me to hold a smile. You don't want me to hold a smile.

Ask him into the drawing-room. Do ask him into the drawing-room.

As a matter of fact, do-forms should be first of all described as the variant analytical indefinite forms of the verb that are effected to share the various constructional functions with the other analytical forms of the verb placing their respective auxiliaries in accented and otherwise individualised positions.

The category of retrospective coordination (retrospect) is constituted by the opposition of the perfect forms of the verb to the non-perfect, or imperfect forms. The marked member of the opposition is the perfect, which is built up by the auxiliary have in combination with the past participle of the conjugated verb.

The difference between the perfect and non-perfect forms of the verb, according to the tense interpretation of the perfect, consists in the fact that the perfect denotes a secondary temporal characteristic of the action. Namely, it shows that the denoted action precedes some other action or situation in the present, past, or future.

Laying emphasis on the temporal function of the perfect, the "tense view", though, fails to expose with the necessary distinctness its aspective function, by which the action is shown as successively or "transmissively" connected with a certain time limit.

The second grammatical interpretation of the perfect was the "aspect view": according to this interpretation the perfect is approached as an aspective form of the verb.

Indeed, if we compare the two following verbal situations, we shall easily notice that the first of them expresses result, while the second presents a connection of a past event with a later one in a broad sense.

The wind has dropped, and the sun burns more fiercely than ever.

"Have you really never been to a ball before, Leila? But, my child, how too weird —" cried the Sheridan girls.

The third grammatical interpretation of the perfect was the "tense-aspect blend view"; in accord with this interpretation the perfect is recognised as a form of double temporal-aspective character, similar to the continuous.

The achievement of the tense-aspect view of the perfect is the fact that it demonstrates the actual double nature of the analysed verbal form, its inherent connection with both temporal and aspective spheres of verbal semantics.

I have lived in this city long enough. I haven't met Charlie for years.

The actual time in the examples can be made explicit by time-test questions: How long have you lived in this city? For how long haven't you met Charlie?

Now, the purely aspective semantic component of the perfect form will immediately be made prominent if the sentences were continued like that: I have lived in this city long enough to show you all that is worth seeing here. I haven't met Charlie for years, and can hardly recognise him in a crowd.

The aspective function of the perfect verbal forms in both sentences, in its turn, can easily be revealed by aspect-test ques-tions: What can you do as a result of your having lived in this city for years? What is the consequence of your not having met Charlie for years?

The categorial individuality of the perfect was shown as a result of study conducted by the eminent Soviet linguist A. I. Smirnitsky. His conception of the perfect, the fourth in our enumeration, may be called the "time correlation view", to use the explanatory name he gave to the identified category.The perfect form builds up its own category, different from both the "tense" (present — past — future) and the "aspect" (continuous — indefinite), and not reducible to either of them. The functional content of the category of "time correlation" («временная отнесенность») was defined as priority expressed by the perfect forms in the present, past or future contrasted against the non-expression of priority by the non-perfect forms.

In keeping with the general tendency, the category of retrospective coordination can be contextually neutralised, the imperfect as the weak member of the opposition filling in the position of neutralisation.

Namely, the expression of retrospective coordination is neutralised most naturally and freely with limitive verbs. As for the unlimitive verbs, these, by being used in the perfect, are rather turned into "limitive for the nonce".

"I'm no beaten rug. I don't need to feel like one. I've been a teacher all my life, with plenty to show for it" (A. Hailey).

Very peculiar neutralisations take place between the forms of the present perfect — imperfect. Essentially these neutralisations signal instantaneous subclass migrations of the verb from a limitive to an unlimitive one.

Where do you come from? (I.e. What is the place of your origin?) I put all my investment in London. (I.e. I keep all my money there).

Characteristic colloquial neutralisations affect also some verbs of physical and mental perceptions.

I forget what you've told me about Nick.

The categorial opposition "perfect versus imperfect" is broadly represented in verbids. The verbid representation of the opposition, though, is governed by a distinct restrictive regularity which may be formulated as follows: the perfect is used with verbids only in semantically strong positions, i.e. when its categorial meaning is made prominent. Otherwise the opposition is neutralised, the imperfect being used in the position of neutralisation. The structural neutralisation of the opposition is especially distinct with the present participle of the limitive verbs, its indefinite form very naturally expressing priority in the perfective sense.

She came to Victoria to see Joy off, and Freddy Rigby came too, bringing a crowd of the kind of young people Rodney did not care for (M. Dickens).

With the gerund introduced by a preposition of time the perfect is more often than not neutralised.

E.g.: He was at Cambridge and after taking his degree decided to be a planter (S. Maugham).

Less liable to neutralisation is the infinitive. The category of retrospective coordination is for the most part consistently represented in its independent constructions.

It was utterly unbelievable for the man to have no competence whatsoever (simultaneity expressed by the imperfect). — It was utterly unbelievable for the man to have had no competence whatsoever (priority expressed by the perfect).

In addition, as its third type of function, also dependent on the individual character of different modal verbs, the perfect can render the idea of non-compliance with certain rule, advice, recommendation, etc. The modal verbs in these cases serve as signals of remonstrance (mostly the verbs ought to and should).

Mary ought to have thought of the possible consequences. Now the situation can't be mended, I'm afraid.

The modal will used with a perfect in a specific collocation renders a polite, but officially worded statement of the presup-posed hearer's knowledge of an indicated

It will not have escaped your attention, Inspector, that the visit of the nuns was the same day that poisoned wedding cake found its way into that cottage (A. Christie)





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