Patrick C. Ryan proto-language at
Wed Aug 11 18:06:43 UTC 1999

[ moderator re-formatted ]

Dear Vidhyanath and IEists:

 ----- Original Message -----
From: Vidhyanath Rao <vidynath at>
Sent: Monday, August 09, 1999 1:51 PM

I hope you and Jens will not mind a statement or two from an interested
reader of your exchange.

> For example, progressive is a special case of imperfective. But we
> do not confuse the two, nor see progressive as a natural outgrowth of
> imperfective. We need to be just as careful with less familiar categories
> such as completives.

Keeping aspects and tenses clearly separated is a very tricky mental
exercise even when the language under discussion is fairly consistent in
matching form to actual usage but I believe you may be mixing apples and
oranges to call the "progressive a special case of the imperfective"

If one says in English: "He is eating up the food,"  we have a present
progressive perfective.

"He was eating up the food, " past progressive perfective;

"He is eating the food, " present progressive imperfective;

"He was eating the food, " past progressive imperfective.

In fact, IMHO, the major original employment of IE -*i, which, added to
"secondary" personal endings yields the "primary" set, was to create a
"progressive" form, with "progressive" understood as designating a verbal
action regarded as a period of time during which something else happened or
was happening.

Thus, I believe its original employment was to mark a temporal subordinate
clause in the early absence of subordinating conjunctions.

While he ate the up food, I drank.  =   He was eating up the food (and) I

I believe we can regard the forms with primary endings as virtual
personalized progressive participles.

>>> [Nath:]
>>> This makes it harder for me to understand how the aorist became the
>>> perfective. `Started driving', in contrast to `drove', suggests
>>> incomplete action.

Pat comments:

Again, I believe you are mixing fruits.

An aorist, e.g. IE *wid-e't, is already perfective. It is also momentary.
The ingressive is a sub-category of *momentary action*, through which the
moment of onset of an action is highlighted.

>> [Nath:]
>>> How do you classify ``I learned that chapter in one month?''

>> [Jens:] I believe as a job for the aorist.

> the aorist is compatible with duration,

Pat again:

According to Lehmann, the aorist is +momentary, hence -durational.


Nath continued:

> But languages with a perfective do not do that. As soon as the narrative is
> in the past, they use the perfective.

Pat interjects:

That does not seem to be true of Russian: pisal (impf. past); napisal (pf.


PATRICK C. RYAN (501) 227-9947; FAX/DATA (501)312-9947 9115 W. 34th St.
Little Rock, AR 72204-4441 USA WEBPAGES: and PROTO-RELIGION: "Veit
ek, at ek hekk, vindga meipi, nftr allar nmu, geiri undapr . . . a ~eim
meipi er mangi veit hvers hann af rstum renn." (Havamal 138)

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