Manusya, Journal of Humanities


Walter Bisang

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The present paper has two intentions. It wants to sketch a typological basis for describing aspect in individual languages and for cross-linguistic comparison and it wants to present some first ideas of how aspect works in languages of East and mainland Southeast Asia. Aspect will be defined in terms of a "selection theory of aspect". Thus, aspect markers are understood as operators that select matching temporal phases provided by the temporal boundaries as they are determined (a) in the lexicon of verbs or (b) in additional, overt structures such as resultative verbs, markers of Aktionsart, quantified noun phrases and adverbials. Markers of perfective aspect highlight temporal boundaries, while imperfective markers present a state of affairs without reference to them. Languages of East and mainland Southeast Asia differ from prototypical aspect languages such as Russian, Bulgarian or Greek inasmuch as aspect marking is not obligatory and inasmuch as there is no binary opposition of perfective vs. imperfective. In spite of this, there are markers that interact with temporal boundaries and that show typologically remarkable properties not described for other languages. East and mainland Southeast Asian languages may thus contribute a number of new perspectives on the aspect properties.

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