Article published in:Tense and Aspect: The contextual processing of semantic indeterminacy
Edited by Svetlana Vogeleer, Walter De Mulder and Ilse Depraetere
[Belgian Journal of Linguistics 12] 1998
► pp. 103–127
Changing Culture Changing Grammar
A Cross-Categorial Hypothesis on the Loss of the Perfectum in Romance
Abstract. It has been often emphasized that, in Romance, the category of aspect has become subordinated to the category of tense and that the development of compound and double-compound forms was due to the necessity of recreating the opposition between perfectum and infectum, an opposition which dominated the Latin temporal system on the whole. As far as we know, there is no satisfactory explanation for this phenomenon. According to our hypothesis, the cyclic bleaching of the 'resultative value' is a consequence of a fundamental change in parameters affecting various categories such as gender, case, voice and tense. More specifically, the resultative value of compound tenses must have been in competition with the values of the newly created plain passive, which was also result-centered (as opposed to the agent-centered active and event-centered middle/reflexive). By turn, these changes in the voice paradigm were triggered by the reinterpretation of the inherent feature [+Passive] characterizing Latin neuter nouns as a contextual feature. Since the verb assigns various roles to its arguments, it is no wonder that the combination of 'topicality' with a 'passive role' will affect the entire sentential structure, including the verb markers. But if both the plain passive and the compound past are result-centered, the corresponding active forms may become first and foremost tense markers, with special pragmatic and narrative values as required by the discourse necessities of the predominantly oral registers that developed into Romance languages.
Published online: 01 January 1999