Zero verb marking in Sranan
In the Surinamese creole language Sranan, verbs in finite clauses that lack overt TMA-marking are often considered to be ambiguous between past and present interpretations (depending on the lexical aspect of the verb involved) or analyzed as having a perfective value. We claim that these verbs are in fact zero-marked, and we investigate the various uses of this zero expression in relation to context and lexical aspect on the basis of corpus data and native speaker elicitations. It is shown that existing analyses do not cover and unify all the various uses of the construction. We propose, as an alternative, to regard the zero form as present perfective marker, whereby tense and aspect are conceived of as fundamentally epistemic categories, in line with Langacker (1991). This combination of present tense and perfective aspect, which is regarded as infelicitous in typological studies of tense and aspect (cf. the ‘present perfective paradox’, Malchukov 2009), gives rise to the various interpretations associated with zero. However, in all of its uses, zero still indicates that, at the most basic level, a situation belongs to the speaker’s conception of ‘immediate reality’ (her domain of ‘inclusion’). This basic ‘presentness’ distinguishes zero from the past-tense marker ben, which implies dissociation.
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