Discourse aspects of tense marking in Belizean Creole
Debates on the relationship between the aspectual properties of verbs and past marking in Caribbean English Creoles tend to focus on two main issues. The first is the semantic function of the “relative past” and its relation to the unmarked verb, and the second is the discourse functions of the relative past marker and the unmarked verb. This paper addresses two issues related to this debate. Using fieldwork data from Belizean Creole, I present a qualitative analysis of tense usage in discourse focusing on the role of the inherent lexical aspect (aktionsart) of predicates. I examine how two different notions of past meaning are distributed between marked and unmarked verbs with different aktionsarten. I also look at the discourse function of these verbs in the contexts of the meanings expressed. I argue that an analysis of both the aktionsarten of the verbs and discourse factors are critical to developing an understanding of the range of meanings and functions of both the relative past marker and the unmarked verb. The paper also presents a new approach to the study of temporal reference in creoles. The picture-based story method provides an objective way of evaluating speakers’ choice of grounding and also facilitates comparison across speakers, given that several potentially variable aspects of the narrative are controlled for.
Keywords: narrative, foreground, background, tense, lexical aspect, Belizean Creole, stativity
Published online: 01 October 2008
Cited by other publications
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