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.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 172-205
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.