LSASL 73: Tense, Aspect and Modality in Nepali and Manipuri

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Tense, Aspect and Modality in Nepali and Manipuri

Tikaram Poudel
Tribhuvan University

This work explores the morpho-syntax and semantics of tense, aspect and modality in Nepali and Manipuri. We show that a sentence in natural language consists of a proposition, the element of modality and temporal reference. The proposition consists of the verb and its arguments. The notion of modality encodes different attitudes and judgments of the speaker. The temporal reference refers to whether the action is completed or on going and whether the state or the action is prior, simultaneous or posterior to the speech time.

Traditionally moods and modal verbs were considered to be the subdivisions of modality. We show that modality is rather a semantic notion with its subdivisions of realis and irrealis. Not only moods and modal verbs, but also inherently modality verbs, express this modal contrast. Declarative mood is the default way of expressing realis modality, on the other hand, irrealis modality, the marked category, is expressed by nondeclarative in Nepali and irrealis in Manipuri. Modal verbs express different sorts of modality such as epistemic and deontic. Modality verbs cast different modal senses on their complements.

The notion of aspect is discussed within the subdivision of inherent aspect, perfectivity, terminativity and sequentiality. The discussion on inherent aspect explores the effect of inherent meanings of verbal group on the aspectual distinction. The term perfectivity is limited within the morphological level and includes the notions such as completives, anteriors, resultatives and past time markers. It contrasts with imperfectivity such as genericity, durativity and habituality. The term terminativity operates in the clausal level and has both verbal group and nominal arguments in its scope. The term sequentiality is a discourse level property and we illustrate it from the textual analysis from modern Manipuri fiction. We show that non-stative verbs marked with perfectivity and having the feature of terminativity move the story line forward functioning as the foregrounding property of discourse.

The study concludes that tense is not a universal category, but a device languages employ to encode the relationship between speech time and event time. Nepali uses tense as one of such devices and Manipuri uses realis mood and other temporal means for the same purpose as it does not have grammatical way of marking tense.

ISBN 9783895861864. LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 73. 282pp. 2007

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