intransitivity neutralises tense distinctions?

Guy Deutscher gd116 at HERMES.CAM.AC.UK
Thu Apr 12 13:37:39 UTC 2001

Dear Funknetters,

(Apologies in advance if the following is a silly question):
Are there languages in which tense/aspect distinctions in transitive
constructions are regularly *neutralised* in intransitive constructions? I
don't mean the common examples where some particular verbs have defective
paradigms/distribution and appear only in one tense/aspect. Rather, I mean
cases where intransitive verbs *regularly* don't distinguish between
past/non-past (or perfective/imperfective etc.), whereas transitive verbs do.
Some scholars claim that this was the case in Sumerian, but from my present
position of ignorance, this seems strange (there is also an alternative
interpretation). So I would like to find out about possible parallels.

Many thanks, Guy Deutscher.

Dr Guy Deutscher
St John's College
Cambridge CB2 1TP

E-mail:  gd116 at

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