Tense and Aspect: . Durative Aspect, Part 1

5jj

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Tense and Aspect: 4. The Durative Aspecthttps://www.usingenglish.com/forum/#_edn1 - Part One


4.1. Traditional 'Rules'

This form, traditionally known as the continuous, or progressive (or expanded[ii]) tense/aspect may be unmarked, I am working, or marked, I was working. It can also be combined with other aspects, as we shall see in later threads. Typical lists in grammars and course bo0ks of the uses of the unmarked form include:


  1. Action in progress at the moment of speaking: Pete is in his study. He's writing a letter.
  2. Temporary situation around the present moment: I'm walking to work this week.
  3. Repeated short action Billy's hopping up and down.
  4. Annoying habit (often used with always): Andrea's always losing her keys.
  5. Future arrangement: We're meeting in front of the station at seven.

Some writers[iii] have suggested that situations for which this form is used are not necessarily complete. While this is sometimes true, it is not always so, and other tenses/aspects may also suggest incomplete action. It is not a feature that applies always and exclusively to the durative aspect.

4.2. The Durative Aspect 'Rule' - unmarked

As with the tenses, I focus with the aspects on a feature or features that can be found in all uses of them. I agree with Lewis (1986.177) that "Explanations" which include sometimes are not explanations at all. With the durative aspect, we can always note that:

We use the durative aspect when we wish to draw attention to the fact that the situation denoted has duration, and that the duration is limited[iv]. It is for this reason that I prefer the label durative rather than the less-than-helpful progressive or continuous. Let’s now look again at the five utterances shown above.


1. Pete is in his study. He's writing a letter.

However little time is involved, Pete's writing of the letter has duration; it started before the moment of speaking/writing and continues after it. That duration is limited. At some (unspecified) time in the past Pete was not writing the letter, and that at some (also unspecified) time in the future that writing will stop. This is why the durative aspect can sometimes denote a situation in progress at the time of speaking/writing, though this is not an essential feature of the use of the aspect.

We may contrast this utterance with:

1a. Pete writes a lot of letters,

In which there is no limitation. The speaker's use of the unmarked tense simply presents the situation of Pete's writing letters. From our knowledge of reality we can assume that this situation does not continue for every hour of the day and night, though other situations could, for example:

1b. Pete breathes very noisily.

We may also contrast [1] with:

1c. Pete passes the ball to George, who ... ,

where the duration of the passing is shorter than the time it takes to talk about it. The speaker's choice of the non-durative (unmarked) form is a choice not to emphasise duration.


2. I'm walking to work this week.

The limited duration of the situation is evident from the adverbial this week. Unless uttered by the speaker when s/he is actually en route to work, then the walking is not taking place at the moment of speaking. Even if it is uttered then, the focus is on the limited duration, this week, of the walking method of getting to work. not on the present happening of the action of walking.


3. Billy's hopping up and down.

Situations such as hopping have very short durations indeed, The use of the durative aspect makes the actualisation of the situation of longer duration. Of necessity, this involves repetitions of the short situation, albeit in a limited time period. In contrast with this, when speakers use the unmarked form,

3a. Billy (always) hops up and down when he's angry,

they place no limitation on the frequency of his hopping.

Situations such as starting and stopping are of even shorter duration - indeed, they have no duration at all. What follows the starting and precedes the stopping has duration: when a train stops, it is moving until a point in time; then it is not moving. The use of the durative aspect extends the duration of the situation to a point before (with stop) or after (with start) that point in time:

3b. The curtain is going up. The show is starting.
3c. Get the bags down. The train is stopping.

In [3b], the speaker is in that limited period of time between the beginning of the rise of the curtain and the first word or action of the actors. In [3c], the train has begun the slowing process that will end when its movement has stopped.


4. Andrea's always losing her keys.

In [4], the use of always, normally associated by virtue of its meaning with the unmarked tense seems at first illogical. However, as we have seen with [3] the use of the durative aspect with short actions can stress the repetition of that action. The combination of always and the durative action tells us that this is a situation that actualises repeatedly but, because the duration of the whole series of losing is limited, it is not presented as a permanent state of affairs.

This combination is associated by some writers with some idea of the speaker's emotional attitude, but this will be made explicit not just by the aspect, but by the whole context of situation. It is not true to suggest, as some do, that it always expresses the speaker's irritation[v]. It can just as easily express pleasure:

4a. William is so sweet. He's always buying me flowers and chocolates.


5. Future arrangement: We're meeting in front of the station at seven.

In [5], an arrangement of some sort has been made before the time of speaking. That arrangement continues (i.e., it has duration) from the initial time of making the arrangement to the (future) time of occurrence of the situation arranged. The arrangement could be a personal 'arrangement' the speaker has made with themself.


https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/#_ednref1 Yule (1998.63-64) also uses the term durative aspect for this form.

Curme (1931.373-7) uses the label 'durative aspect' of this form, but he extends the use of the label to cover catenative verbs such as remain, keep, go on and continue followed by an -ing form or a full infinitive.


[ii] These include Jespersen (1924. 277), Bodelsen ([1936-7] 1974.144), Schibsbye ([1965] 1970.65), Christophersen and Sandved (1969.209) and Chalker (1984.50)


[iii] These include Leech ([1971] 2004.20), Quirk et al (1985.198), Aarts (201.265)


[iv]Several writers note the idea of (limited/restricted) duration, though some do not extend this idea to all uses of the aspect. These include

Joos (1964.106-7), Schibsbye ([1965] 1970. 66), Christophersen and Sandved (1969.210), Leech (1971] 2004. 19), Lewis ((1986.87), Parrott (2000.157), Huddleston (2002.163-168), Quirk et al (1985.198), Aarts (2011.265)

[v]Aarts (2011.269) refers to the progressive of irritation.
Aitken (1992.13) says that this use suggests a regrettable habit.
Alexander (1988.165) says that it can show implied complaint.
Huddleston (2002.166) says that this feature of duration tends to be accompanied by an emotive overtone, usually of disapproval.
Quirk et al (1985.199) similarly note that this aspect can often impart a subjective feeling of disapproval to the action described.


Continued here: https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/...-Durative-Aspect-Part-2?p=1697915#post1697915
 
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jutfrank

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Again, I agree with all of this.

Situations such as starting and stopping are of even shorter duration - indeed, they have no duration at all. What follows the starting and precedes the stopping has duration: when a train stops, it is moving until a point in time; then it is not moving. The use of the durative aspect extends the duration of the situation to a point before (with stop) or after (with start) that point in time:

3b. The curtain is going up. The show is starting.
3c. Get the bags down. The train is stopping.

In [3b], the speaker is in that limited period of time between the beginning of the rise of the curtain and the first word or action of the actors. In [3c], the train has begun the slowing process that will end when its movement has stopped.

Yes. I think 3b and 3c are very illustrative of how durative grammatical aspect can easily 'trump' punctual lexical aspect, if you like. We can pretty much use any verb with a durative aspect, which I believe is evidence that the event structure revealed by the durative aspect is in some very profound way reflective of an underlying, possibly pre-linguistic mental structure.
 

5jj

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It's possible that these threads may turn into articles in this section of the site Below is my attempt at the durative aspect threads. Any suggestions for improvement, cutting, etc, will be most welcome.

Tense and Aspect: 4. The Durative /Continuous/Progressive Aspect

4.1. Traditional 'Rules'

The durative aspec , traditionally known as the continuous, or progressive tense/aspect may be unmarked, I am working, or marked, I was working. It can also be combined with other aspects. Typical lists in grammar and course books of the uses of the unmarked form include:


  1. Action in progress at the moment of speaking: Pete is in his study. He's writing a letter.
  2. Temporary situation around the present moment: I'm walking to work this week.
  3. Repeated short action Billy's hopping up and down.
  4. Annoying habit : Andrea's always losing her keys.
  5. Future arrangement: We're meeting in front of the station at seven.

4.2. The Durative Aspect 'Rule' - unmarked

The situations for which this form is used are sometimes not necessarily complete. but this is not always so, and other tenses/aspects may also suggest incomplete action. It is not a feature that applies always and exclusively to the durative aspect. As with the tenses, I focus with the aspects on a feature or features that can be found in all uses of them. With the durative aspect, we can always note that:

We use the durative aspect when we wish to draw attention to the fact that the situation denoted has duration, and that the duration is limited. This is why I prefer the label durative to the less-than-helpful progressive or continuous. Let’s now look again at the five utterances shown above.


1. Pete is in his study. He's writing a letter.

However little time is involved, Pete's writing of the letter has duration; it started before the moment of speaking/writing and continues after it. That duration is limited. At some (unspecified) time in the past Pete was not writing the letter, and that at some (also unspecified) time in the future that writing will stop. This is why the durative aspect can sometimes denote a situation in progress at the time of speaking/writing, though this is not an essential feature of the use of the aspect.

We may contrast this utterance with:

1a. Pete writes a lot of letters,

In which there is no limitation.

We may also contrast [1] with:

1c. Pete passes the ball to George, who ... ,

where the duration of the passing is shorter than the time it takes to talk about it. The speaker's choice of the non-durative (unmarked) form is a choice not to emphasise duration.


2. I'm walking to work this week.

The limited duration of the situation is evident from the adverbial this week. The walking is not necessarily taking place at the moment of speaking. Even if it is, the focus is on the limited duration, this week, of the walking method of getting to work. not on the present happening of the action of walking.


3. Billy's hopping up and down.

Situations such as hopping have very short durations indeed, The use of the durative aspect makes the actualisation of the situation of longer duration. Of necessity, this involves repetitions of the short situation, albeit in a limited time period.

Situations such as starting and stopping are of even shorter duration - indeed, they have no duration at all. What follows the starting and precedes the stopping has duration: when a train stops, it is moving until a point in time; then it is not moving. The use of the durative aspect extends the duration of the situation to a point before (with stop) or after (with start) that point in time:

3b. The curtain is going up. The show is starting.
3c. Get the bags down. The train is stopping.

In [3b], the speaker is in that limited period of time between the beginning of the rise of the curtain and the first word or action of the actors. In [3c], the train has begun the slowing process that will end when its movement has stopped.


4. Andrea's always losing her keys.

As we have seen with [3] the use of the durative aspect with short actions can stress the repetition of that action. The combination of always and the durative action tells us that this is a situation that actualises repeatedly but, because the duration of the whole series of losing is limited, it is not presented as a permanent state of affairs.

This combination is associated by some writers with some idea of the speaker's emotional attitude, but this will be made explicit not just by the aspect, but by the whole context of situation. It is not true to suggest, as some do, that it always expresses the speaker's irritation. It can just as easily express pleasure:

4a. William is so sweet. He's always buying me flowers and chocolates.


5. Future arrangement: We're meeting in front of the station at seven.

In [5], an arrangement of some sort has been made before the time of speaking. That arrangement continues (i.e., it has duration) from the initial time of making the arrangement to the (future) time of occurrence of the situation arranged. The arrangement could be a personal 'arrangement' the speaker has made with themself.


4.3. Stative and Dynamic Verbs


It is often claimed that dynamic, action or event verbs, which convey the idea of an event, process or occurrence are frequently used in the durative aspect. Such situations have a (frequently unspecified) beginning and end, and therefore have duration, which can be limited. Even for actions that appear to have a very short duration, the durative aspect can be used to convey the idea of repetition. Stative verbs, however, which depict relatively unchanging situations such as perception, possession, emotions, measurements, descriptions, are not normally used in the durative aspect.

It is true that the states denoted by such verbs as BE, HEAR, KNOW, OWN, LOVE, WEIGH, CONTAIN, are not normally referred to as being of limited duration. The beginning and end of them is unimportant or indeterminable. Thus we would not normally expect to encounter:

6. *I am knowing Marketa very well.
7. ?Peter is having a new Volkswagen.
8. ?Gisèle is being French.

However an important point needs to be made: there are very few exclusively stative verbs. There are many verbs that are often used statively but can also be used dynamically. For example SMELL can statively mean have an odour [9a] or dynamically get the odour of [9b] :

9a. This milk smells sour.
9b. Look at that cat. It's smelling the roses.

Other so-called stative verbs can also be used dynamically. Thus given the right context [7] and [8] and [10] become possible as:

7a. The sales reps have been allowed to choose their cars for next year Peter is having a new Volkswagen and Mary is having a Ford.
8a. Richard wanted to finish off the meal with cheese and biscuits, but Gisèle is being French. She's serving the cheese before the dessert.

(Continued in post 4)
 

5jj

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4.4. The Durative Aspect 'Rules' - marked

To the 'rule' we established for the unmarked durative aspect, We use the durative aspect when we wish to draw attention to the fact that the situation denoted has duration, and that the duration is limited, we simply add what we already know to be true of simple tenses: We use the marked form when we wish to distance the situation in vividness, reality or directness.

We will now consider some examples of the marked durative.

10a. I was watching TV at 10.30.
10b. I was watching TV when George got home
10c. I was watching TV from the moment I got indoors to the time I went to bed.

All three sentences show the aspect being used for the same reason: to express the limited duration of a situation distanced in time. In [10a] the situation began before a stated time, in [10b] before the time of an action. The situation continued up to or beyond that time; context and/or co-text will make this clear as the sentences below show. The actual starting and finishing times of the situation may not be stated though real-life knowledge tells us that the situation did start and finish. In [10c], above, these times are explicitly stated.

10b.i. I was watching TV when George got home. He isn't interested in football so I switched off and made us a cup of tea.
10b.ii. I was watching TV when George got home. He joined me on the sofa and we hardly spoke until the film ended.

While the use of the marked durative can show a longer action 'framing' a shorter one, but this does not have to be the case:

11a. Sally was writing a report while Barry was preparing lunch.
11b. While Sally wrote a report Barry prepared lunch.
11c. Sally wrote a report while Barry was preparing lunch.
11d. While Sally was writing a report Barry prepared lunch.


The writing and preparing are distanced in time. As they occurred in the past we know that the situations denoted are limited in duration; the durative aspect therefore emphasises the duration more than the limitation. In [11a] the speaker emphasises the fact that the situations of writing and preparing extended over a period; in [11b] there is no such emphasis, merely a reporting that these situations actualised at the same distanced time. In [11c] and [11d] the suggestion is that the situation referred to using the durative aspect filled a longer time-period than the one referred to in the non-durative aspect. In these two sentences we can talk of one action 'framing' another.

12. Mary was sneezing all morning.

We saw in [3] above some situations have very short duration. The use of the durative aspect made the situation of hopping in [3] and makes the situation of sneezing in [12] of longer duration. Of necessity this must involve repetition. In [12] the repetition is distanced in time.

13. I was meeting Joan yesterday evening so I couldn't have dinner with Henry.
14. I was meeting Joan later this evening but she called to say she couldn't make it.

In both [13] and [14] there is some kind of arrangement. distanced in time extending from the time the arrangement to meet was made to the time of the meeting. The fact that in [13] the arranged meeting took place before the moment of speaking and in [14] it was to take place after the moment of speaking is irrelevant; in both sentences it was 'future' to the making of the arrangement. It is also untrue to say that when the arranged happening was before the present moment then it always happened. It is possible to say:

17. I was meeting Joan yesterday evening but she called to say she couldn't make it.

As we have seen and will continue to see each tense or aspect has one underlying idea. In most situations speakers/writers have a choice of tense/aspect to express (sometimes only slightly) different ideas. We can illustrate this with:

18. I am writing a book.

If we have nothing but these words and know nothing of the context in which they were uttered we simply cannot know what the speaker wished to convey. If. however, we know that the words were uttered in response to one of the following questions we know far more:

18a. You've been at that computer all day. What are you doing?
18b. We don't see much of you these days Tim. What are you doing now you're retired?
18c. What are you doing with yourself when you retire next month?

Although [18] conveys a different message in response to each of these questions they all share the idea of limited duration and time reference is clear from the context.

Just as one form can convey different idea so one broad idea can be expressed by different forms as with

19. I was meeting Joan later this evening but she called to say she couldn't make it.

There is no obligation on the speaker to use the durative form. They may choose to use such forms as was going to mee,t had planned/intended/arranged/etc, to meet was scheduled/supposed/etc to meet or other forms. The speaker has free choice of whichever shade of meaning they wish to convey. This is a matter of grammar as choice not grammar as fact.
 
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