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The Development of English Perfect Constructions: structure and semantics


Ann Ochkovska

Ivan FrankoZhytomyrState University

Scientific supervisor: Candidate of Sciences



The Development of English Perfect Constructions: structure and semantics

The perfect is a system of verbal forms expressed by a combination of the past participle and any form of the auxiliary verb to have [6:  274]. The place of Perfect in the system of Tense in the modern English language causes the biggest number of discussions among linguists. In the theoretical grammar of the Modern English there exist the following discrepancies in the definition of the category, to which perfect forms should belong: "tense" view, "aspect" view, "tense-aspect blend" view, "time correlation" view.The traditional analysis of the perfect (as the tense form denoting the priority of one action in relation to another action) was developed by H. Sweet, G. Curme, and other linguists [2: 107]. M. Deutchbein, G. N. Vorontsova and others consider the perfect to be an aspective form because the perfect forms denote some result, some transmission of the past to the present [1: 111-113]. I. P. Ivanovaanalyses the perfect as the verbal form expressing temporal and aspective functions in a blend. Professor A. I. Smirnitsky was the first to put forward the idea that the perfect forms its own category, which is neither a tense category, nor an aspect category and he suggested the name "the category of time correlation [5: 304]. The object of this paper is English Perfect construction, the subject­– the structural and semantic peculiarities of English Perfect constructions development.

Process of formation of any new verb category and its inclusion in the paradigm is the subject of many linguistic researchesboth in theoretical grammar and history of the English Language. Linguists, who study the language in diachrony, such as G. N.Vorontsova, A. I. Smirnitsky, G. Fridren, F. T.Visser have no consensus about the period of emergence and the final establishment of the Category of Perfect.

In the Old English languagethe most usual way of expressing the Perfect is a synthetic one, though at that period there existed some free syntactic combinations with beonorhabbanand Past Participle, which start the process of grammaticalization at the end of the Old English period.In the Middle English language the process of grammaticalization of the free syntactic combinations continues to develop and as a result the model becomes universal, that means that it can be used almost with all the verbs. In the Early Modern Englishlanguage begins the process ofPerfectinclusioninthe verbalparadigmand expansion ofrelationsbetweendifferent categories ofverbs[4: 102].

During Early Modern English the very important process started – paradigmatization. The analytical construction acquires its semantic invariant and begins to be used with other verbal forms. By the end of this period the form enters the verbal paradigm and gains its modern meanings.

In Early Modern English two perfect constructions are used, they are tobe +ParticipleIIandtohave +ParticipleII. The first one is used only with the verbs of motion, while the second is used with all verbs including verbs of motion:

(1)Madam, he has gone to serve the Duke of Florence[8:78];

(2)When haply he shall hear that she is gonehe will return[8:81].

In the Early Modern English the present form of perfect structure tohave+ParticipleIIis used to express all meanings of modern Present Perfect:

ü an action which took place in the past and continues up to the present moment:

(3) Or do I dream? Orhave I dream'd till now[8:1758]?

ü an action which took place in the past but the exact time isn’t mentioned:

(4) Hath promis'd me to help me to another,

A fine musician to instruct our mistress[8:1769];

(5)I have seen them in the church together[8:1802].

ü a repeated past action which occurred before the moment of speaking:

(6) SigniorHortensio, I have often heard

Of your entire affection to Bianca[8:1791].

ü an action which has recently finished and which result is obvious in the present:

(7) And, to conclude, we have 'greed so well together that upon Sunday is the wedding-day[8:1777].

(8) Iknow you think to dine with me to-day, and have prepar'd great store of wedding cheer but so it is my haste doth call me hence, and therefore here I mean to take my leave[8:1785] .

Sometimes Present Perfect is used to express the meanings of Past Simple but in the Early Modern Englishthisphenomenonisresidual. Theusageof theperfectforms with the auxiliary verbto beboth in presentandpastis very limited,in contrast tothe Middle Englishlanguage. For example, the Present Perfect with the auxiliary verbto be is used to denote anaction which happened at an unstated time in the past:

 (9) Madam, my lord is gone, for ever gone[8:78].

The new meanings formed in Early New English were Present Perfect Continuous and  Past Perfect. Present Perfect Continuousis used to denote the durative action which started in the past and continues up to the present:

(10) To express the like kindness,myself, that have been more kindly beholding to you than any, freely give unto you this young scholarthat hath been long studying at Rheims; as cunning in Greek, Latin, and otherlanguages, as the other in music and mathematics[8:1773].

Past Perfectis used to express an action that happened before another past action:

(11) I would not marry her though she were endowed with all thatAdam had left him before he transgress'd[8:1442].

The Past Perfect with the auxiliary verbto be is used to denote the action which took place before a certain past moment and used with the verb of motion:

(12) For my part, I only hear your sonwas run away[8:78].

The developmentof the word orderin Early Modern English occursgraduallyandis accompanied by aloss ofendings.The common typeof the narrativesentences is SVO. In Early Modern English arrangement of the mainelementsof the sentencebecomes morefixed.Althoughwe still find the cases of inversion, especially in the sentences with analyticalstructures.In mostcases, theinversionin sentenceswithperfectconstructions is caused bythe adverbial modifiers of time, place andobjects.


Analysis of thestructure ofthe sentences with perfect constructions from the standpoint of generativegrammarprovides evidence thatthe main functional projections of the sentence with the perfect constructionareСР (complimentizer phrase), TP (tense phrase), PerfP (perfect phrase) and vP (verbalizer phrase). Auxiliaryverbto haveis generatedin the functionalprojectionPerf.P,butmovesto the positionTin order toobtainmorphologicalendingsof time andperson. The verb is generated in VP but moves to the projection vP and there receives the ending, which also moves to the position of vP due to the process of Affix Hopping.

According to the fact that perfect constructions consist of the auxiliary verb and the past participle thestructure ofthe sentences with perfect constructions is more complex and following considerations should be taken into account:

- the VP-internal subject hypothesis;

- the morphological complexity of the perfect participle;

- the idea that inflectional endings are associated with functional projections;

-the locality conditions on movement [7: 304].

Structuralshiftsin the sentenceswithperfectconstructionsinvolve a changein itscommunicativeorientation.Anynon-standardusage ofan element inthe structure of anarrativesentenceoccurs due toitsmovement. Structuralposition forthis elementisin the functionalprojectionCP. According to the theory of thegenerativegrammar, the functional projectionCPsplits intoadditionalprojections -TorP(Topic Phrase)andFocP (Focus Phrase).TopP is thefunctionalprojection, the top of whichhasa sign of topicalization. ProjectionFocPcontainsfocusedmaterial thatcauses theinversionof known information [3: 134]. For example, in the sentence

(13) The tedious minutesIwith herhave spent[8:1404],

two structural elements thetediousminutes and withher are placedin the functionalprojectionCP,where they are accentuated.With heris situated in theposition of TopP.In this case, the position of TopPcontainsalreadyknown information.

Analysis of thestructure ofthe sentences with perfectconstructions from the

standpoint of generativegrammarunderlines that theemphasis of constituentsofsentencehappens due totheirmovementto the functionalprojectionCP,whichincludes such functional projectionsas TopPandFocP.In most casesthere isaccentuationinmedialposition,namelybetween the positions ofthe auxiliaryverbandParticipleII,between the positions ofthe subject and the predicateand in the initialposition ofthe sentence that makes the sentence more expressive.



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Category: Language semantics, syntax and use | Added by: admin (25.02.2013)
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