Imperfective and simple present distinction

Östen Dahl oesten at LING.SU.SE
Thu Jun 26 09:10:34 UTC 2008

Before the discussion storm breaks out - didn't we have exactly this issue
on LINGTYP already? On Jan. 19, Kazuha asked:

"I am looking for a language which has both plain present tense form and
distinctively marked imperfective aspect form (not progressive).  All the
languages I know seem to either use imperfective only in the past
tense(Romance, for example) or mark imperfective in the present tense but do
not have a separate plain present tense form (Slavic, for example)."

...and here it was explicit that progressives were not relevant, so that
would answer Nicholas' examples.

- Östen

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Discussion List for ALT [mailto:LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG]
> On Behalf Of Nicholas Ostler
> Sent: den 26 juni 2008 10:48
> Subject: Re: Imperfective and simple present distinction
> Well, how about Japanese?
> iku 'go' itte iru 'be going, be gone'
> siru 'get to know' sitte iru 'be aware, know'
> Or English
> 'I go' 'I'm going' (both of which have potentially present and future
> time reference)
> or the southern Romance languages
> Spanish:  'voy' 'estoy andando'
> Italian: 'vado' 'sono andando'
> The verb 'to be' makes this distinction in Hindi, athough not other
> (lexical)
>  verbs:
> wo di:va:na: hai 'he is mad' (i.e. 'is now')
> pya:r di:va:na: ho:ta hai 'love is mad' (i.e. 'is generally')
> Sorry these examples are so 'close to home'. I presume this phenomenon
> is pretty universal.
> In all these languages at least, the distinction is just as available in
> the past.
> Nicholas Ostler
> Kazuha Watanabe wrote:
> > Dear all,
> >
> >   I am looking for a language which distinguish imperfective and simple
> > present (in present tense or non-past tense).  I am especially
> > interested in distinction in stative situations (such as 'I am tall' or
> > I know the man') It seems that this sort of distinction is more common
> > in past tense (i.e., past imperfective vs. plain past tense form/general
> > past tense), but not so common in present tense (or non-past)
> >
> >   Thank you for your help!
> >
> > Kazuha Watanabe
> >
> >
> --
> Nicholas Ostler
> Chairman, Foundation for Endangered Languages
> Registered Charity: England & Wales 1070616
> 172 Bailbrook Lane, Bath BA1 7AA, England
> Phone: +44 (0)1225-852865 Mobile: (0)7720-889319
> nostler at

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