[Lingtyp] futures vs perfects

Wiemer, Bjoern wiemerb at uni-mainz.de
Sat Aug 6 15:12:54 UTC 2022

Dear All,
is anybody aware of work done to compare tense-aspect grams across languages with respect to (i) their stability in time and to (ii) their "fuzziness" in terms of range of functions? I'm particularly interested in a comparison between constructions considered as perfects vs those considered as futures. Both have been considered as rather unstable (in comparison at least to present tense), but have these "instabilities" been compared for a representative sample of grams belonging to the perfect or, respectively, to the future domain among each other? And has instability be captured in objectifiable (cross-linguistically testable) properties?
            For instance, Lindstedt (2000: 366), in his contribution to the EuroTyp volume on tense-aspect, wrote:
"In terms of Greenberg's (1978: 75-76) distinction between the stability and frequency of typological features, the perfect is a gram type that is frequent, that is to say, likely to appear in different languages, but unstable, as it often tends to be lost. More often than not, it does not disappear as a form but becomes something else - a general past tense, for instance."

Would there be a measure for stability (for particular grams, constructions) and frequency (across languages) that would allow for a more straightforward comparison between grams/constructions, in particular between perfects and futures?
            And, by the way, have futures been attested to become anything else, or do they just disappear (if they don't stay)? Of course, we know of epistemic uses (e.g., Engl. Paul will be in Heidelberg now. = Certainly, Paul is in H. now; [pointing at an object before themselves] What is this going to be? = What might this be?]. However, the question is whether, actually, these uses do not precede proper future uses (i.e. reference to a single event after speech time) in the chronology of functions assigned to some gram/construction. What is known about this chronological relation?

I would appreciate comments on this, and can compose a small digest of responses (if there will be many).

Björn (Wiemer).

Björn Wiemer
Professor für slavistische Sprachwissenschaft
Institut für Slavistik, Turkologie und zirkumbaltische Studien (ISTziB), Abt. Slavistik
Jakob-Welder-Weg 18
D- 55099 Mainz

Tel. +49/ 6131/ 39 -22186
Fax +49/ 6131/ 39 -24709
Sekr. +49/ 6131/ 39 -22807 (Fr. Fotteler)
wiemerb at uni-mainz.de<mailto:wiemerb at uni-mainz.de>

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