Abstract

This essay presents a series of arguments against analyzing Standard Arabic and Egyptian Arabic as tensed language systems where tense is encoded in verbs or auxiliaries. Tense analyses undergenerate because they rule out grammatical sentences where perfective and auxiliary verbs are embedded in tenseless constructions under causative and perception predicates. Moreover, these analyses overgenerate because they predict that stative perfective verbs could describe past states, and they fail to rule out ungrammatical constructions where perfective verbs have subinterval interpretations, such as adjunct circumstantial clauses. I argue that Standard and Egyptian Arabic are tenseless systems where predicates encode only aspect. The neo-aspectualist system proposed here successfully accounts for the temporal interpretations of verbal and nonverbal predicates as well as their syntactic patterns. This system is fully symmetric as it includes six aspectual contrasts. The perfective contrasts with the imperfective; the former profiles an event including its initial and final points but not its internal structure while the imperfective aspect profiles only the internal structure of an event excluding its initial and final points. The prospective aspect contrasts with the perfect aspect; the former describes the state that precedes an event while the latter profiles the state that follows the event. The neutral aspect is in contradistinction with both the perfective and the imperfective, and it includes two categories: the inceptive and the terminative aspects that contrast with each other. The inceptive aspect profiles the initial point of an event with the first intermediate stage while the terminative aspect profiles the final point with the last intermediate stage.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2375-4036
Print ISSN
0889-8731
Pages
pp. 99-139
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-29
Open Access
No
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