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12 Imperfective vs. Perfective Verbs

12.1. MEANING OF IMPERFECTIVE VS. PERFECTIVE VERB FORMS

In previous chapters we have already given extensive consideration to the internal structure of imperfective and perfective verb forms. Thus, in 5.5 we saw that these two types of verbs have different basic structures, as given below:

(1)   a.   imperfective verb forms:   verb marker + imperfective marker + verb stem
             
    b.   perfective verb forms:   verb marker + verb stem + object pronoun

We also discussed in detail each of the elements found in the basic structures of 1: in chap. 6 we examined the verb marker and showed how it metathcsizes in perfective verb forms; in 5.5 we saw how the variants of the imperfective marker can be determined from the following verb stem; and in 4.9 and 4.9.4 we classified the object pronouns which are characteristically suffixed to per­fective verb forms.

The abovementioned discussions, together with the many lists and step-by-step derivations presented in chaps. 5 and 6, have shown us how to distinguish between imperfective and perfective verbs from a formal point of view. In this chapter, then, we will examine how the two types of verbs contrast with each other in terms of meaning and use. As native speakers of Palauan, you may find the basic distinctions to be described below rather difficult to grasp. This is because you have learned to make them so automatically (or unconsciously) that you do not think in terms of analyzing them. The same is true, of course, for the native speakers of any language; thus, without any assistance from a linguist or teacher, most English speakers, for example, would be totally unaware of the extremely complex way in which they use the English tense system. 254

The distinction between imperfective vs. perfective verb forms is found only among transitive verbs (cf. 5.1.1); with one or two exceptions, these are all transitive action verbs. As their names imply, perfective verb forms describe actions which the speaker views as completed (or perfected), while imperfective verb forms do not. Instead, imperfective verb forms denote actions which the speaker considers as incomplete—i.e., actions which are still in progress1 and have not yet reached their point of completion or termination. A particular action can be viewed as complete or incomplete regardless of when it actually occurs; therefore, we will find that both perfective and imperfective verbs can occur in all tenses—past, present, and future.

By way of introduction, let us review the following two sen­tences, which we already presented in 5.5 (examples 59a–b):

(2)   a.   A Droteo a milȩnguiu ȩr a hong er a elii.
        ‘Droteo was reading the book yesterday.’
         
    b.   A Droteo a chiliuii a hong er a elii.
        ‘Droteo read the book yesterday.’

In the sentences above, we observe the past imperfective form milȩnguiu and the past perfective form chiliuii. Because both milȩnguiu and chiliuii are past tense forms, they necessarily have a common element of meaning: that is, they both indicate that the subject (Droteo) performed the action of reading at some time point in the past (elii ‘yesterday’). But the similarity ends here, since the two verb forms involve a very basic difference in the speaker’s viewpoint. Thus, in 2a the speaker uses imperfective milȩnguiu ‘was reading’ to focus on the past action as it was going on or in progress. The action is described as having continued for some period of time, but no claim is made that it was completed. In other words, it is entirely possible that Droteo still has some of the book to read. By contrast, the speaker’s use of perfective chiliuii ‘read (completely)’ in 2b views Droteo’s reading of the book as a completely finished past action. It is implied that Droteo has no more of the book to read.

Some further pairs of contrasting sentences are given below:

(3)   a.   A ngalȩk a milȩnga a ngikȩl.
        ‘The child was eating the fish.’
         
    b.   A ngalȩk a killii a ngikȩl.
        ‘The child ate up the fish.’
         
(4)   a.   A Cisco a millim a rrom.
        ‘Cisco was drinking liquor.’ 255
         
    b.   A Cisco a ngilȩlmii a rrom.
        ‘Cisco drank up the liquor.’

Notice that the past imperfective forms in the a-sentences are best translated with English past progressive forms (was/were… -ing), while the past perfective forms in the b-sentences have English equivalents like ate up and drank up, in which a word like up (called a particle or intensifier by English grammarians) imparts a special connotation of completion to the actions eat and drink. In the a-sentences, use of an imperfective verb implies that the action in question did not totally exhaust or consume the object: in other words, in 3a, the speaker assumes that there was still some fish left after the child was eating, and in 4a, the subject (Cisco) did not drink all of the liquor. By contrast, use of a per­fective verb in the b-sentences implies that the objects (ngikȩl ‘fish’ and rrom ‘liquor’) were totally used up.

12.2. IMPERFECTIVE VS. PERFECTIVE VERB FORMS IN VARIOUS TENSES

As we have seen in examples 24 above, the use of imperfective vs. perfective forms in the past tense results in a very clear contrast in meaning. Similar, or related, contrasts in meaning are found when we observe imperfective and perfective forms in other tenses. For example, in the pair of sentences below, the auxiliary word mla (cf. 5.3.2.1) precedes the imperfective and perfective forms of the action verb mȩngiis ‘dig’ and refers to an event or activity in the very recent past:

(5)   a.   Ak mla mȩngiis ȩr a kliokl.
        ‘I’ve been digging the hole.’
         
    b.   Ak mla kiiȩsii a kliokl.
        ‘I’ve (completely) dug the hole.’

In 5a, the speaker’s use of imperfective mȩngiis implies that al­though he has been engaged in the activity of digging the hole, the task is not yet complete; on the other hand, use of perfective kiiȩsii in 5b is a clear assertion that the job of digging the hole has been completely finished. A similar distinction of meaning is found in the sentences below, which contain the imperfective and perfective forms of the causative verb omȩkikiongȩl ‘make… dirty’ (cf. 9.2.1.3 and 9.4, ex. 22e):

(6)   a.   A rȩkangkodang a mla omȩkikiongȩl ȩr a kȩdȩrang.
        ‘The tourists have been making the beach dirty.’ 256
         
    b.   A rȩkangkodang a mla mȩkikingȩlii a kȩdȩrang.
        ‘The tourists have (totally) messed up the beach.’

Example 6b, with perfective mȩkikingȩlii, has a much stronger connotation of “finality” than 6a, where imperfective omȩkikio­ngȩl leaves open the possibility that the process of dirtying up the beach might not reach its ultimate (unpleasant or irreversible) conclusion.

As we saw in 5.3.2.1, the auxiliary mla can also be used to express past experience—i.e., to make a statement or ask a question about whether someone has had the experience of doing something. With transitive verbs, this connotation of past experi­ence is conveyed by using the imperfective form after mla, as in the a-sentences below. These sentences contrast, of course, with the b-sentences, which contain a perfective form following mla:

(7)   a.   Kȩ mla mȩruul a kall ȩr a Sina?
        ‘Have you ever made Chinese food?’
         
    b.   Kȩ mla rullii a kall ȩr a Sina?
        ‘Have you finished making the Chinese food?’
         
(8)   a.   Kȩ mla mȩnguiu ȩr tia ȩl hong?
        ‘Have you ever read this book?’
         
    b.   Kȩ mla chuiȩuii tia ȩl hong?
        ‘Have you finished reading this book?’

While the a-sentences above are interpreted as general questions about one’s past experience, the b-sentences are questions about whether some activity was completed on a single, specific occasion.

Imperfective and perfective verb forms can be preceded by the auxiliary mo to designate actions in the future (cf. 5.3.3). There is nothing unusual about the meaning difference between mo + imperfective verb and mo + perfective verb, as the fol­lowing pair of sentences shows:

(9)   a.   Ak mo mȩngiis ȩr a kliokl ȩr a klukuk.
        ‘I’ll be digging the hole tomorrow.’
         
    b.   Ak mo kiiȩsii a kliokl ȩr a klukuk.
        ‘I’ll (completely) dig the hole tomorrow.’

In 9a, mo + imperfective mȩngiis implies that the activity of digging will be going on tomorrow, but nothing is said about whether or not the task will be completed. By contrast, in 9b mo + perfective kiiȩsii expresses the speaker’s conviction that the job can be finished tomorrow. Another pair of sentences similar to 9ab is the following: 257

(10)   a.   Aki mo mȩnga a kall ȩl ngar ȩr a icebox.
        ‘We’ll eat some of the food in the icebox.’
         
    b.   Aki mo kma a kall ȩl ngar ȩr a icebox.
        ‘We’ll eat up the food in the icebox.’

While mo + imperfective mȩnga in 10a implies that only some of the food will be eaten—i.e., the object kall ‘food’ will not be totally consumed by the action of eating—the sequence mo + perfective kma in 10b makes it clear that the object will be completely used up (cf. our discussion of examples 34 above).

The present tense forms of imperfective and perfective verbs also show an important contrast in meaning. Imperfective verb forms in the present tense, as we have seen in 5.3.1, have two possible functions. Their primary function is to designate an action which is going on or in progress at the present moment—i.e., at the time when the speaker utters the sentence. This function is observed in the following sentences:

(11)   a.   A John a mȩngȩsbrebȩr ȩr a blik.
        ‘John is painting my house.’
         
    b.   Ak mȩlasȩch ȩr a mlik er a elȩchang.
        ‘I’m carving my canoe now.’

A secondary function of imperfective verb forms in the present tense is to express general statements or habitual statements, as in the examples below:

(12)   a.   A John a mȩngȩsbrebȩr a blai.
        ‘John paints houses (as a profession).’
         
    b.   Ak mȩlasȩch a mlai.
        ‘I carve canoes (as a profession).’

Unlike the sentences of 11, which refer to specific occasions, the examples of 12 look at certain actions in a general way. Thus, while 11a would only be true if the subject (John) were actually painting the speaker’s house at the moment of the speaker’s utterance, 12a could be uttered at any time because it is simply a statement about what the subject does habitually (as a profession, etc.). Notice, further, that the specific occasions designated in 11ab require specific objects; therefore, the possessed nouns blik ‘my house’ of 11a and mlik ‘my canoe’ of 11b must be pre­ceded by the specifying word ȩr (cf. 2.7). By contrast, the general statements expressed in 12 can only involve objects of the most general type. Here, the unpossessed nouns blai ‘house’ and mlai ‘canoe’ are not introduced by the specifying word ȩr and merely 258refer to houses or canoes in general—i.e., ‘any house at all’, ‘any canoe at all’, etc.

As opposed to the above, Palauan perfective verb forms in the present tense have a very different, and rather special, func­tion. To repeat what we said in 4.9.2, perfective verb forms in the present tense are used to denote actions or events which the speaker considers imminent—i.e., actions or events which are just about to occur or which are likely to occur in the very near future. Compare, for example, the following two sentences:

(13)   a.   Ak mȩluchȩs ȩr a babier er a elȩchang.
        ‘I’m writing the letter now.’
         
    b.   Ak luchȩsii a babier er a elȩchang (mȩ kȩ mȩsang).
        ‘I’ll write the letter right now (so you can see me do it).’

In 13a, imperfective mȩluchȩs simply denotes that the action of writing is taking place (i.e., in progress) at the present moment, while in 13b perfective luchȩsii implies that the speaker is just about to start writing the letter.

Because present perfective verb forms have the above-mentioned connotation of imminency, they are often found in sentences which are used as warnings or precautionary suggestions. A few typical examples are given below:

(14)   a.   Alii. A ngalȩk a chubȩlii a milk!
        ‘Watch out! The child’s about to spill the milk!’
         
    b.   Alii. A malk a kolii a bȩras!
        ‘Hey! The chicken’s about to eat the rice!’
         
    c.   Alii. A sensei a cholȩbȩdau!
        ‘Watch out! The teacher is going to hit you (by accident)!’/
‘The teacher will hit you (if you misbehave).’

12.3. FURTHER EXAMPLES OF CONTRAST BETWEEN IMPERFECTIVE AND PERFECTIVE VERB FORMS

In this section we will look at additional pairs of sentences that involve constructions in which the use of imperfective vs. perfec­tive forms results in a significant difference in meaning. Observe, for example, the sentences below:

(15)   a.   Ng sȩbȩchem ȩl mȩnga a ngikȩl?
        ‘Are you able to eat fish?’
         
    b.   Ng sȩbȩchem ȩl kolii a ngikȩl?
        ‘Can you eat up the fish?’ 259

In the sentences of 15, the possessed noun sȩbȩchem ‘your ability’ is followed by a group of words (mȩnga a ngikȩl or kolii a ngikȩl) which gives us specific information about the type of ability in­volved. This group of words is preceded by ȩl, which, as we will see in 17.7, relates it to the possessed noun sȩbȩchem. While the use of imperfective mȩnga in 15a results in a general question, the use of perfective kolii in 15b makes reference to a specific instance or occasion. In other words, in 15a, some person X asks another person Y whether or not Y is an eater of fish: perhaps X is concerned that Y might not be used to eating fish regularly, or perhaps X is just inquiring in a polite way whether or not Y likes fish. In 15b, on the other hand, X is asking Y whether Y can eat up some particular fish. While 15b can only be uttered on some particular occasion when the fish is actually there on the table, etc., 15a is of course not restricted in this way. The following sentences show the same type of contrast:

(16)   a.   Ng sȩbȩchem ȩl mȩlim a biang?
        ‘Are you able to drink beer?’
         
    b.   Ng sȩbȩchem ȩl ngilmii a imȩlem ȩl biang?
        ‘Can you drink up all your beer?’

Note that the object in 16a is general (biang ‘beer’), while that in 16b is very specific (imȩlem ȩl biang ‘your (drink of) beer’).

In the sentences below, we observe the possessed nouns soak ‘my liking’ and kirek ‘my obligation’, which are in the same class as sȩbȩchem ‘your ability’ of 15 and 16 above (see chap. 17). These possessed nouns are related by the word ȩl to groups of words which provide specific information about one’s liking or one’s obligation:

(17)   a.   Ng soak ȩl mȩnguiu ȩr a hong.
        ‘I want to read (some of) the book.’
         
    b.   Ng soak ȩl chuiȩuii a hong.
        ‘I want to (completely) read the book.’
         
(18)   a.   Ng kirek ȩl mȩngiis ȩr a kliokl.
        ‘I’ve got to be digging the hole.’
         
    b.   Ng kirek ȩl kiiȩsii a kliokl.
        ‘I’ve got to (completely) dig the hole.’

The meaning contrast found in the sentence pairs of 1718 should already be familiar to us from examples 36 above. Thus, in 17a and 18a the action is viewed as being in progress, but not neces­sarily completed, while in 17b and 18b it is seen as being com­pleted. 260

12.4. IMPERFECTIVE VS. PERFECTIVE VERB FORMS AND SPECIFIC OBJECTS

In 2.7 we noted that the specifying word ȩr must always precede specific singular objects. The presence or absence of the specifying word ȩr results in an important difference in meaning, as the sentences below illustrate:

(19)   a.   Ak ousbech ȩr a bilas ȩr a klukuk.
        ‘I need the boat tomorrow.’
         
    b.   Ak ousbech a bilas ȩr a klukuk.
        ‘I need {a boat/the boats} tomorrow.’

While objects marked with ȩr (e.g. ȩr a bilas ‘the boat’ of 19a) are automatically interpreted as specific singular objects, those not marked with ȩr (e.g. a bilas ‘a boat, the boats’ of 19b) allow for a wider range of interpretation, as indicated.

The use of the specifying word ȩr is restricted in two inter­esting ways. First, it never occurs with sentence subjects, but only with sentence objects; and second, it can only precede the objects of imperfective verbs. With the objects of perfective verbs, use of the specifying word ȩr is prevented, as the ungrammati­cality of 20b shows:

(20)   a.   Ak chillȩbȩdii a bilis.
        ‘I hit the dog.’
         
    b.   *Ak chillȩbȩdii ȩr a bilis.

If we review all of the example sentences so far given in this chapter, we will see that they meet the abovementioned restrictions on the distribution of the specifying word ȩr.

It is possible to speculate on the reasons why the specifying word ȩr cannot precede the objects of perfective verbs. Every perfective verb form, you will recall, contains an object pronoun suffix. Since all Palauan pronouns refer to specific persons (‘I, me’, ‘he, him’, etc.), it seems as if perfective verb forms, which include a pronoun in the form of a suffix, focus on the completion of an action with reference to some specific object. In other words, Palauan perfective verb forms in and of themselves imply a speci­fic object, and use of ȩr to further indicate the specificity of the object would be redundant and therefore unnecessary. Thus, ȩr would be prevented in a sentence like 20b since it would add nothing new to the meaning which was not already supplied by the perfective verb form itself. 261

12.5. CONTEXTUAL RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF IMPERFECTIVE VS. PERFECTIVE VERB FORMS

As we have seen in the sections above, imperfective and perfective verb forms contrast with each other in terms of certain funda­mental differences of function and meaning. Our analysis of the nature of these differences is confirmed when we look at the contextual (or environmental) restrictions on the occurrence of the two types of forms. In other words, we can find or construct contexts in which one type of verb form (imperfective or per­fective) is completely natural while the other is strange or con­tradictory. The differences of acceptability are undoubtedly due to the compatibility—or lack of compatibility—between the meaning of the imperfective or perfective form in question and the meaning of the other elements in the context.

To take our first example, observe that there is nothing at all unusual about 21a below, but 21b seems to make no sense:

(21)   a.   Ak mla mȩnguiu ȩr a hong e ng di dirkak kbo kmȩrek.
        ‘I have been reading the book, but I haven’t finished it yet.’
         
    b.   ??Ak mla chuiȩuii a hong e ng di dirkak kbo kmȩrek.

The key to the difference in acceptability between 21a and 21b lies, of course, in the fact that 21a has an imperfective verb form while 21b has a perfective verb form. In the sentences above, each of these verb forms has been placed in the context of the expression e ng di dirkak kbo kmȩrek ‘but I haven’t finished yet’, which clearly states that the subject (ak ‘I’) has not yet completed reading the particular book. Because imperfective mla mȩnguiu of 21a implies that the subject has so far read some of the book, but not all of it, e ng di dirkak kbo kmȩrek is “logical” and makes sense. By contrast, since perfective mla chuiȩuii of 21b explicitly states that the subject has finished reading the book, it is con­tradictory, and therefore unacceptable, to add e ng di dirkak kbo kmȩrek, which implies exactly the opposite.2

The very same phenomenon accounts for the following examples, in which the imperfective and perfective forms of mȩngiis ‘dig’ occur in the future tense and the content of the expression introduced by e ng di ‘but’ is somewhat different:

(22)   a.   Ak mo mȩngiis ȩr a kliokl ȩr a klukuk e ng di diak kudȩnge ȩl kmo ng sȩbȩchek ȩl rokir ng diak.
        ‘I’ll be digging the hole tomorrow, but I don’t know whether or not I can finish it.’ 262
         
    b.   ??Ak mo kiiȩsii a kliokl ȩr a klukuk e ng di diak kudȩnge ȩl kmo ng sȩbȩchek ȩl rokir ng diak.

Example 22a makes perfect sense, but 22b involves a contradic­tion and is therefore unacceptable. The contradiction in 22b can be explained as follows: on the one hand, mo kiiȩsii implies the speaker’s intention to complete the task of digging the hole at some future date (klukuk ‘tomorrow’), while on the other hand, the content of the expression e ng di diak kudȩnge ȩl kmo ng sȩbȩchek ȩl rokir ng diak ‘but I don’t know whether or not I can finish it’ expresses the speaker’s doubt about finishing this very same task.

If the context mentions a span of time with a specific begin­ning point and end point, only sentences containing imperfective verb forms are acceptable, as the following example shows:

(23)   a.   A Droteo a milȩngiis ȩr a kliokl ȩr a euid ȩl klok ȩl mo eai ȩl klok ȩr a tutau.
        ‘Droteo was digging the hole from 7 o’clock to 8 o’clock this morning.’
         
    b.   ??A Droteo a kilisii a kliokl ȩr a euid ȩl klok ȩl mo eai ȩl klok ȩr a tutau.

In the sentences of 23 we have the time span expression ȩr a euid ȩl klok ȩl mo eai ȩl klok ‘from seven o’clock to eight o’clock’.3 Since this expression designates a one-hour stretch of time, it can occur together with imperfective milȩngiis in 23a, which views the activity of digging as it was in progress—i.e., as having a duration. By contrast, this same time span expression cannot occur to­gether with perfective kilisii in 23b without sounding strange. This is because kilisii focuses our attention on the very moment when the activity of digging was completed, and therefore a sentence like 23b would seem to imply that the moment of completion lasted a whole hour, which is of course impossible.

Not all contexts are like those of 2123 above in restricting the use of imperfective and perfective verb forms. In the sentences below, for example, which contain a time clause introduced by er se ȩr a ‘when’ (see 22.2), both the imperfective and perfective forms of mȩnguiu ‘read’ can occur, with a difference in inter­pretation:

(24)   a.   Ak milȩnguiu ȩr a hong er se ȩr a lȩme a Toki.
        ‘I was reading the book when Toki arrived.’
         
    b.   Ak chiliuii a hong er se ȩr a lȩme a Toki.
        ‘I had finished reading the book when Toki arrived.’ 263

In 24a, the speaker was in the process of reading the book (but had not completed reading it) when Toki arrived, while in 24b the speaker had already completed reading the book by the time of Toki’s arrival.

12.6. THE TRANSITIVE VERB omes

The Palauan verb omes ‘see’ needs special consideration because the meanings of its imperfective and perfective forms differ from each other in a way which is not entirely predictable from our discussion above. Before examining this difference in meaning, let us review a few of the representative perfective forms of omes:4

(25)   Person and Number of Object Pronoun   Present Tense   Past Tense
             
    1st pers sg   mȩsȩkak ‘see me’   milsȩkak ‘saw me’
             
    3rd pers sg   mȩsa ‘see him/ her/it’   milsa ‘saw him/ her/it’
             
    3rd pers pl hum   mȩs(e)tȩrir ‘see them’   milstȩrir ‘saw them’
             
    3rd pers pl non-hum   mes ‘see them’   miles ‘saw them’

The imperfective vs. perfective forms of omes convey the fol­lowing differences of meaning. Use of imperfective omes (past: ulȩmes) generally implies purposeful or intentional seeing on the part of the subject. Therefore, the most appropriate English equivalents are words or expressions like ‘meet’, ‘get together with’, ‘visit’, ‘meet and talk to’, ‘look at’, ‘watch’, etc. By con­trast, use of the perfective forms of omes connotes unintentional, unplanned, or casual seeing by the subject. The best English equivalents in this case would perhaps be expressions like ‘happen to see’ or ‘get a glimpse of’.

The difference under discussion here is not really incompati­ble with our previous analysis of the difference between imper­fective and perfective verb forms (cf. 12.12 above). Thus, it does not seem unusual that the imperfective forms of omes should be used to describe “serious” actions of seeing whose durational or progressive quality the speaker would be likely to focus upon. Similarly, we would expect the perfective forms of omes to be chosen for describing casual or chance actions of seeing which are brief in duration and which the speaker would be likely to view as quickly completed. In the following sentence pairs, the 264rather free English equivalents are designed to make the above-mentioned distinction clear; in each pair, the a-sentence contains an imperfective form of omes, while the b-sentence contains a perfective form:

(26)   a.   Ak ulȩmes ȩr a John er a elii.
        ‘I met and talked to John yesterday.’
         
    b.   Ak milsa a John er a elii.
        ‘I happened to see John yesterday.’
         
(27)   a.   Ng soak ȩl omes ȩr a Droteo.
        ‘I want to see (and talk to) Droteo.’
         
    b.   Ng soak ȩl mȩsa a Droteo.
        ‘I want to get a look at Droteo.’
         
(28)   a.   Ak mlo ȩr a kȩdȩra er a elii ȩl mo omes a bilas ȩl mle kaidȩsachȩl.
        ‘Yesterday I went to the beach in order to watch the boats racing.’
         
    b.   Ak mlo ȩr a kȩdȩra er a elii e miles a bȩtok ȩl bilas ȩl mle kaidȩsachȩl.
        ‘Yesterday I went to the beach and happened to see a lot of boats racing.’

The sentences below further illustrate the use of the imper­fective vs. perfective forms of omes ‘see’.

(29)   a.   Ng dimlak a techȩllek ȩl omes ȩr a rȩsȩchȩlik.
        ‘I didn’t have an opportunity to get together with my friends.’
         
    b.   Ak mle ȩl me omes ȩr a John.
        ‘I came in order to see John.’
         
    c.   Ng dimlak a techȩllek ȩl mes a charm.
        ‘I didn’t have a chance to get a look at any animals.’
         
    d.   Ak miles a bȩtok ȩl mȩtongakl ȩl blai ȩr a Hawaii.
        ‘I saw a lot of tall buildings in Hawaii.’

12.7. THE TRANSITIVE VERB orrengȩs

The imperfective vs. perfective forms of the verb orrengȩs ‘hear’ often exhibit a distinction of meaning similar to that described for omes in 12.6 above. Before discussing this distinction, we shall list some of the perfective forms of orrengȩs:

(30)   Person and Number of Object Pronoun   Present Tense   Past Tense
             
    1st pers sg   rongȩsak ‘hear me’   rirȩngȩsak ‘heard me’ 265
             
    3rd pers sg   rongȩsii ‘hear him/ her/it’   rirȩngȩsii ‘heard him/ her/it’
             
    3rd pers pl hum   rongȩstȩrir ‘hear them’   rirȩngȩstȩrir ‘heard them’
             
    3rd pers pl non-hum   rȩmengȩs ‘hear them’   rirengȩs ‘heard them’

Use of imperfective orrengȩs (past: ulȩrrengȩs) implies inten­tional hearing by the subject over a relatively long duration of time: therefore, the most suitable English equivalent is ‘listen to’. By contrast, use of the perfective forms of orrengȩs connotes unexpected or casual hearing by the subject which is completed in a comparatively short duration of time: the best English equi­valent is ‘(happen to) hear’. This distinction in meaning is found in the pair of sentences below:

(31)   a.   Ak ulȩrrengȩs ȩr a Toki ȩl oukita.
        ‘I was listening to Toki play the guitar.’
         
    b.   Ak rirȩngȩsii a Toki ȩl oukita.
        ‘I heard/happened to hear Toki play the guitar.’

The sentences below further illustrate the use of imperfective vs. perfective forms of orrengȩs ‘hear’:

(32)   a.   Kȩ ulȩrrengȩs a radio er a elii?
        ‘Did you listen to the radio yesterday?’
         
    b.   Ak rongȩstȩrir a rȩchad ȩl mȩngȩrodȩch.
        ‘I (can) hear the people making noise.’
         
    c.   Ng soak ȩl rongȩsii a chisel a Toki er se ȩr a lȩbo ȩr a Merikel.
        ‘I want to hear about what Toki did when she went to America.’
         
    d.   Kȩ rirȩngȩsii a dȩrumk ȩr a kȩsus?
        ‘Did you (happen to) hear the thunder last night?’

Notes

1. Focusing on this aspect of the meaning of imperfective verbs, Wilson 1972:120–128 uses the term progressive instead of imperfective. Similarly, she uses the term progressive affix for what we have been calling the imperfective marker.

2. Any possible English equivalent for 21b would likewise be contradic­tory and unacceptable—e.g., *‘I’ve read the book completely, but I haven’t finished it yet.’

3. This time span expression is a special type of temporal phrase. See 14.6 for further details.

4. For a more complete list, see 4.9.4, ex. 53.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780824879075
MARC Record
OCLC
1053883872
Pages
253-265
Launched on MUSE
2018-09-19
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-ND
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