A cross-linguistic discourse analysis of the Perfect

Department of French/Uil-OTS, Utrecht University, Kromme Nieuwegracht 29, 3512 HD Utrecht, The Netherlands
Journal of Pragmatics (Impact Factor: 0.76). 12/2007; 39(12):2273-2307. DOI: 10.1016/j.pragma.2006.11.006
Source: OAI


Since Reichenbach (1947), the Present Perfect has been discussed in relation to the Simple Past. The Reichenbachian characterization E-R,S has led to the view that the English Present Perfect, with its restrictions on modification by time adverbials and its resistance to narrative structure is the prototypical perfect. If the Pluperfect is different, or if counterparts of the Present Perfect in other languages behave differently, that is because they are less prototypical perfects. In this paper, we argue that the most important cross-linguistic differences do not require a different sentential semantics, but should rather be explained in terms of different discourse level properties. We investigate Perfect constructions in four languages: English, French, Dutch and German. We argue that all four are Reichenbachian Perfects, and have very similar aspectual properties. Moreover, they introduce the same discourse configuration of Elaboration. However, they differ in the additional constraints imposed upon the possible relations between the event time E and other times or events in the sentence or the surrounding discourse. These differences imply that we can use a Present Perfect construction to tell a story in French and German, but not in English or Dutch.

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    • "Regarding discourse factors, the presence of deictic adverbials and quantified noun phrases provide information on whether the speech time of the narration is being included or not in the reading (cf. Gué ron, 2008; de Swart, 2007). Finally, information on subjectivity (or viewpoint) expressed in the use of the PP is uncovered in the analysis of the semantic roles of human subject participants in the narration, i.e. whether their role is of agent, experiencer, or patient. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present perfect (PP) exhibits great variation in use, while concurrently following the same general evolutionary path across languages. The Spanish PP is no exception, with some varieties being more conservative (e.g. Northwestern Spain, Mexico City), than others (e.g. Alicante, Andes). As little is known of the evolution of the PP in the Andean region – the focus of this paper – a detailed semantic analysis of perfect constructions in the Andean colonial period is presented.Judicial complaints are chosen for the analysis, as they represent controlled event-structured narratives, where the author is the complainant, and the audience is the Spanish administration. As expected, PPs are common in the description of the wrongdoing, since this section narrates events close to the experience of the complainant, that is, events that have affective charge.The analysis suggests that during this period, the PP exhibited semantic functions found in the Spanish of the time, although constrained by discourse strategies attributable to differences in the social status of individuals in colonial society. A unified development of the PP is found to have taken place during this stage of the evolution of the PP in this region, including resultative and current relevance functions.
    Lingua 04/2012; 122(5). DOI:10.1016/j.lingua.2011.10.005 · 0.71 Impact Factor
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    • "Nous nous opposons ainsi à la thèse qui soutiendrait que le passé composé étant un 'point of view' aspect permet la lecture épistémique de la modalité. En essayant de donner un contenu à cette notion, on pourrait en effet argumenter que le passé composé en tant qu'accompli, non seulement il établit le présent comme temps de référence (comme il a été soutenu par Lusher, 1998 ou de Swart, 2007) mais en plus que ce temps donne une 'perspective'. Si telle était la solution, et en admettant que le temps de référence du passé simple est situé dans le passé on ne comprendrait pas les données en (32). "
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    ABSTRACT: Nous étudions les interprétations épistémique et habilitative de 'pouvoir'/'potere' au passé composé en Français et en Italien. Nous soutenons que la phrase et non pas la modalité a une interprétation épistémique et montrons comment l'effet épistémique est obtenu. Nous comparons le calcul de cet effet avec celui mis en oeuvre pour obtenir la lecture habilitative. Nous soutenons que la distinction habilitatif / épistémique est établie dans la syntaxe en Italien, mais que, en Français, ces deux interprétations sont obtenues à partir d'une règle sous-spécifiée.
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    • "Used as a Perfect, it is a function which operates on an eventuality v and returns the result state s' of v (Kamp and Reyle 1993). As de Swart (2007) emphasises, on this use, it requires v to be bound, since it returns the resulting state of v. On its aoristic use, the passé composé is a perfective past, and as the passé simple, denotes a bounded eventuality. Recall that as emphasised in note 2, replacing the passé composé by the passé simple does not change anything to the contrasts above. "
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    ABSTRACT: Possibility Modals: abilities and epistemic readings (French).
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