Perfective aspect and perfect aspect
The case of Russian and Mandarin Chinese
The “perfective” (Chinese term: wánzhěngtǐ) and the “perfect”(Chinese term: wánchéngtǐ) seem to be two different terms that are distinguished by definition. But in the description of actual languages, the boundary between them is not clear. The use of these two terms in many literatures is very arbitrary. This arbitrariness frequently causes confusion in typological studies in tense and aspect. This arbitrary use has a lot to do with the classification and definition of Comrie (1976). Based on a description of the perfective/imperfective distinction in Russian, this paper finds that perfective is sensitive to the inner boundaries of events, and perfect is sensitive to the relation between event time and reference time. Based on a description of the four aspectual markers (zhe, le, guo, and zai) in Mandarin Chinese, this paper finds that they respectively express three different event phases (inchoative, durative and terminative) in realization aspect. The present study shows that Mandarin is not a language sensitive to boundaries of events, but to phasal aspect. Phasal aspect also exists in Japanese.
Keywords: perfective/imperfective, perfect/imperfect, phasal aspect, Russian, Mandarin Chinese