Abstract

English already and the perfect aspect are both acceptable in many of the same environments. For example, both can express the recent past, an experiential reading, or a result. In investigating the semantics of a marker with these properties in an understudied language, it is easy to categorize such a marker as either notion. The auxiliary wis in Javanese (Western Malayo-Polynesian) is a case in point: different grammars, typological studies, dissertations, and journal articles on Javanese have glossed wis as expressing already, a (present) perfect, a past tense, or a perfective. However, the semantics of Javanese wis has not been formally studied. In this paper, we first identify several cross-linguistic properties that distinguish already from the perfect aspect. Using these diagnostics, we then propose that Javanese wis cannot be analyzed as a perfect aspect. Instead, wis is a focus operator that presupposes that the focus is a maximal element among a set of ordered alternatives, following Krifka’s recent analysis of English already.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9421
Print ISSN
0029-8115
Pages
pp. 172-205
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-21
Open Access
No
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