LSSlaL 35: The Tense-Aspect-System of Polish Narrative

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The Tense-Aspect-System of Polish Narrative

A Discourse and Cognitive Approach

David R. Bogdan & William J. Sullivan
Ehime University; Uniwersytet Wrocławski and Uniwersytet im. Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej

This book presents a complete overview of the tense-aspect (T/A) system of Polish and provides the Tense-Aspect-Narrative (TAN) theory to unify all the parts into a systematic whole. It covers the semantics, syntax, and morphology of aspect with special attention to the role T/A forms play in the construction of Polish narrative. The relations between time and tense and between aspect and Aktionsart are considered prior to a complete reanalysis of the tenses and aspects. The tenses are realigned into imperfective and perfective pasts, imperfective and perfective non-pasts, and an imperfective future. A close examination of the morphology of aspect leads to the conclusion that there are three aspects in Polish: perfective and derived vs. unmarked imperfectives. The unmarked imperfectives have morphologically simplex stems without perfectivizing prefixes or imperfectivizing suffixes and communicate Maslov’s general factual meaning. A geometric analogue for the meanings of the three aspects is given and reasons for the widespread but mistaken belief that Polish aspect is binary are examined. Finally, there is an open-ended list of special pragmatic considerations that call for imperfective-perfective juxtapositions.

The book then turns to the heart of the matter: the use of particular T/A forms to signal the contribution each clause makes to an overall narrative. The narrative functions (NF) include PLOT and PRAGMATIC DESCRIPTION (foreground-background) and a third function, TEMPORAL BACKGROUND, for which solid discourse and morphosyntactic evidence is provided. The two narrative times, past and present, are combined with the three NF to produce the TAN hypothesis, which predicts the unmarked T/A choice for the appropriate NF. These are the unmarked T/A-to-NF relations, but they may be overridden by a pragmatically marked form, according to the author’s intent. The system is applied successfully to two written narratives (one past, one present) and to one complex oral narrative with both past- and present-time subtexts. Empirical verification of the TAN hypothesis is provided in the results of two different tests taken by native speakers in Wrocław and Poznań.

The book concludes with some suggestions as to how to apply the TAN system to teaching aspect to students who are not native speakers of any Slavic language.

ISBN 9783929075854. LINCOM Studies in Slavic Linguistics 35. 220pp. 2009.

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