- The semantics and discourse function of habitual-iterative verbs in contemporary Czech by David S. Danaher
In this study, David S. Danaher reexamines the meaning and function of Czech habitual-iterative verbs such as říkávat and dělávat, derived from the corresponding simple imperfective forms říkat ‘to say’ and dělat ‘to do’, respectively. Among the questions D asks are: How do such derived verbs differ in meaning and usage from their underlying forms, and what kind of iteration do they express? Earlier studies of the subject varied from a feature-based approach to one that took into account context. The most recent collective survey of the structure and use of Czech concedes that iterativeness is a semantic category of a verb whose status is not yet completely clear.
D’s analysis is based on a corpus of data from sources of contemporary literary Czech including essays, fiction, memoirs, scholarly writings, and journalistic [End Page 520] prose (the oldest source is Karel Čapek's Obyčejný život (Prague: František Borový, 1934)). After critically examining previous scholarly treatments of the meaning of Czech habitual-iterative verbs, D outlines his semiotic and cognitive approach to the data in the corpus.
Drawing on Peircean semiotic theory and on cognitive linguistics, D argues that the combined approach to accounting for the patterning of the Czech data can be applied not only to verbs and nouns but also to behavior in general; that the notion of habituality is the mediating structure to be used for a successful comparison across tenses; that Czech habituals function as grammatical space-builders (adverbials, prepositional phrases, certain verbal predicates, and some grammatical constructions and forms); and that while imperfective simple verbs in iterative contexts tend to express simple iteration, habitual verbs must express habitual iteration. He adds, though, that ‘my analyses of these . . . questions [do not] necessarily represent the definitive word on them; in fact, most of them would likely benefit from further analysis as well as a cross-linguistic perspective’ (108).
This highly specialized study would be of particular interest to those who know Czech well and can appreciate the many examples D uses to illustrate his points.