CHAPTER 3. THE VERB AND ITS GRAMMATICAL CATEGORIES 2 page
past and future. The present coincides with the time of communication, past is prior to it (before 'now') and future follows it (after 'now').
Yet, there is no denying a very special character of the future time as ontological phenomenon, compared to the present and past. The famous British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington is known to have expressed an idea that there exists a purely physical distinction between present, past and future as physical entities. This distinction is based on the enthropy principle which asserts that as time goes by, energy undergoes transformation from an orderly into a less orderly form In Eddington's view, earlier is different from later because earlier energy is more highly organized. He asserts that "the present moment always contains an element of novelty and the future is never wholly predictable" (quoted from: [Campbell 1982, 90]). So the hypothetical character, the element of probability appears to be an inherent feature of the ontological time, which finds its representation in our perception of this temporal plane and its grammatical expression.
The works in cognitive grammar also point out the specificity of future, its hypothetical character. In the analysis of the grammatical category of tense cognitivists start from the interpretation of time as a psychological phenomenon. They consider the concept of time as a means of categorizing human experience and in the interpretation of the grammatical category of tense they focus on the 'viewer factor' and relate the essence of tense to the psychological concept of the viewer's personal perceptive space. In this interpretation the present tense is based on the inclusion of the event in the perceptive space of the viewer (the viewer is present during the action, the event is directly perceived by the viewer). Correspondingly past is something 'which is gone by', i.e. the event already excluded from the perceptive space of the viewer. The future time (and tense) is not based on the viewer's immediate experience, it presents the sphere of the predicted, expected events (for more detail see: [KpaBHeHKo 1996, 72-82]).
An attentive reader may be tempted to ask a question here: are the two notions: the speaker in the traditional grammar and the viewer in cognitive grammar somehow correlated? I think they are. The difference lies in the focus of the linguist's attention: the term 'viewer' suggests that the researcher is focused on the conceptualization of time, on how time is perceived by the human mind whereas the term 'speaker' suggests that the linguist is primarily interested in the presentation of this concept by grammatical forms in the act of speech. However, there are cases when the speaker and the viewer do not coincide in one person and the viewer then refers not to the speaker but to the recipient of the utterance (e.g. Now he was absolutely alone in the world where 'now' is correlated with the viewer and 'was' - with the speaker). Such cases reveal the dialogical character of human consciousness (which is reflected in the literal meaning of the Russian word 'cosnanue'1 , i.e. 'co-snanue'), human communication and human language: every utterance presupposes a listener, every text is created for a reader etc. The interpretation of the tense within the cognitive frame does not seem to contradict this traditional definition radically as it is sometimes asserted.
Historically the tense paradigm included only two forms: present and past (the remnants of the two-tense system are still observable in the use of the Present tense to denote a future action in clauses of time, concession and condition, e.g. But if you change your mind I'll be very happy). The pragmatic needs of the people to make predictions, suppositions and plans resulted in the development of the grammatical forms of the future and for expressing future the speakers of the language naturally chose the linguistic means which had this meaning of prediction, or probability, i.e. the modal verbs (for more detail see: [KpaBHemco 1996, 56-83]. Interestingly, in the Ukranian language the future is called mau6ymue (maybeing). It is probably this specificity of the future time that found reflection in the definition of future given by A. Bierce in "The Devil's Dictionary". Acting up to his reputation of a great pessimist he defined future as "that period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured".
So we may conclude our discussion of the status of the future tense by saying that the hypothetical character, the meaning of prediction is a characteristic feature of the future both as a physical and a psychological phenomenon and it naturally finds its representation in the grammatical future, but it can hardly be used as an argument for excluding this form from the tense paradigm.
The present-day paradigm of tense comprises three categorial forms: present, past and future. The present tense expresses an action simultaneous to the time of communication, the past tense - an action prior to the time of communication and the future - an action subsequent to the time of communication.
The present tense, coinciding with the time of communication presupposes the immediate perception of the events by the speaker/the viewer, of the speaker's knowledge of the events pertaining to the time of communication, whereas past and future tenses denote events which are not perceived directly, they have either moved out of the perceptive space (past) or have not yet come into it (future).
Each tense form has a rich semantic potential which is realized in the process of language functioning. The forms of the present denote actions simultaneous to the time of communication. Yet in must be admitted that the time of communication, the 'now' is rather a relative notion: it may be a point on the time axis (Now I understand), it may be a stretch of time (What does your friend do?) and it may occupy the whole of the time axis - the case of panchronic present which occurs in universal statements (Humans follow great illusions and suffer), proverbs ( Still waters run deep), scientific rules (Water boils at 100°). As the 'now' in such statements stretches to the whole of the time axis, the concept of time loses its dynamic character and becomes static. Graphically it may be presented in the following way:
past . present future
For this reason some scholars think it necessary to clarify the idea of the 'moment of speech' and suppose that it is more appropriate to define the present tense as including the moment of speech but not necessary coinciding with it [IIIajiaMOB 2004, 281-285].
Besides this primary meaning, the forms of the present tense are regularly transposed into the sphere of the future. In the process of transposition the forms expose their secondary, syntagmatic meanings. The future action expressed by the present tense forms usually becomes less hypothetical and more predictable, it is an action which is bound to happen either according to schedule (The train arrives in a few minutes), or according to the speaker's determination to fulfil or not to fulfil an action. E.g. "Now what? " "Now we clear the dishes "; ThereJs_ no more news of Jessie Craig this season, Miss " (I. Shaw). When are you seeing him again? (E. Segal).
This effect of the inevitability of the future action is achieved due to the fact that the form of the present brings the action into the perceptive space of the speaker/hearer, the meaning of predictability, characteristic of the future, is weakened and the future action expressed is thus presented as real.
The present forms may also be transposed into the past-time context when the actions referring to the past are described in the present tense. This is the case of the so-called "dramatic present". E.g.
Anyway, some years passed and we were playing poker with the wives one evening, and suddenly Joe looks at me and says,' What do you do about that guy?' (A. Miller).
Such uses of the present tense are usually described as stylistically marked. This expressive effect is achieved by the fact that, using the present tense the speaker/writer brings the event that took place in the past into his own and the listener's/reader's perceptive space. It is mental synchronization of the action and the viewer that creates the effect of immediate presence, thus making the description of the past events more visual, or, as J.Fowles aptly
calls it, more relentless, e.g. The flight was announced and he went down to where he could watch for Beth. He had brought her holiday luggage in the car, and she came out with the first passengers. A wave. He raised his hand: a new coat, surprise for him, a little flounce and a jiggle to show it off. Gay Paree. Free woman. Look, no children. She comes with the relentless face of the present tense; with a dry delight, small miracle that he is actually here. He composes his face into an equal certainty (J. Fowles).
In the first-person narration the effect of the reader's immediate presence may be heightened by the change of the personal pronoun / to you. Due to this change the reader is involved into the narration even more and becomes an immediate participant which creates the effect of certainty. E.g. So I told Sugar-Boy how -to get through town and to the Row where all my pals lived or had lived. We pulled through the town where the lights were out except for the bulbs hanging from the telephone poles, and on out Bay Road where the houses were bone-white back among the magnolias and live oaks.
At night you pass through a little town where you once lived, and you expect to see yourself wearing those knee pants, standing all alone on the street corner under the hanging bulbs, where the bugs bang on the tin reflectors and splatter to the pavement to lie stunned...
You come into the town at night and there are the voices. We had got to the end of the Row, and I saw the house bone-white back among the dark oak boughs (R.P. Warren).
This effect of immediate presence is characteristic of cinematography and therefore the use of dramatic present creates a cinematographic effect. The American writer John Updike, analyzing how he came to appreciate the effect of dramatic present in his own writing, directly mentions the effect of cinema and the chapter devoted to this analysis has a characteristic title "The Film''' [ JlnxepaTypHaa raaexa, 20 4>eBpajifl 1991]. Nowadays linguists point out the existence of the so-called cinematographic prose in which the present tense is used as the main tense of the narration which is also a sign of synthesis of two arts: verbal and visual. A vivid example of such a cinematographic prose is the well-known novel "Bodily Harm" by the famous Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. The main tense of the narration in this novel is the Present Indefinite and the retrospective plain is presented by the Past Indefinite. Let's have a short extract from this novel: In the washroom there's a blow-dryer for your hands, which claims to be a protection against disease. The instructions are in French as well as English: it's made in Canada. Rennie washes her hands and dries them under the blow-dryer. She's all in favour of protection against disease. She thinks about what's behind her, what she cancelled or didn't bother to cancel. As for the apartment, she just shut the door with its new shiny lock and walked out, since out was where she needed to be).
The past tense denotes an action prior to the time of communication. It is the main tense of narration about the past events. Besides this primary, paradigmatic meaning the past tense may occasionally be used to express universal truths. E.g. Men were deceivers ever (W.Shakespeare). This use occurs less frequently than the use of the present tense. Probably this use of the past tense originated from the belief that if something was so characteristic of one particular time it may be true for all times. Far more frequent is the use of past tenses in dialogue where the Past Indefinite and more frequently the Past Continuous actually refer to the present but are deliberately chosen by the speaker for the sake of politeness. This use is known as the Preterite of modesty, or attitudinal past. Let's analyze the following examples:
1) -We were wondering about your plans once the film is finished.
- My plans? We 're going home.
-1 see. That was really all. (A. Miller).
The conversation took place at the British Foreign Office. The clerk has been entrusted with a very unpleasant task - he has to tell the American writer that the British authorities want him to leave the country as soon as possible and doing his duty the clerk tries to sound as diplomatic as possible.
2) "/ thought you might like dinner", he says, "some place with real
food". "I'llput on my shoes ", says Rennie (M. Atwood).
In this conversation the man who invites Rennie to dinner is not sure that the girl will accept his invitation and he tries to sound very tentative using the past tense for this purpose and also the modal verb might to express supposition.
This use of the past tense is dictated by pragmatic factors and is referred to as a "pragmatic softener" [Taylor 1995, 150]. The presence of pragmatic functions in a grammatical form proves the opinion expressed by many grammarians that much of the apparatus of grammar has its source in the pragmatics of discourse. This use of the past tense is probably related to the concept of personal space. By using the past tenses the speaker deliberately distances him/herself from the listener's personal space, which makes the statement less assertive and the request or proposal less insistent and more polite. A similar use of the past tense occurs in other languages, e.g. in Russian ("JI xomex cnpocumb Bac..."}. John Taylor writes that Zulu children are admonished by their elders not to ask for things with Ngicela - "I wanf\ but with the Benglicela - "I was wanting" (Taylor 1995, 151). Such cases also reveal the interaction between two categories - tense and modality - the tempora^ and modal meanings are interrelated in the grammatical semantics of the form.
The future tense denotes an action subsequent to the time of communication. Besides this primary meaning the forms of the future may also
be used to express universal truths or habitual characteristics. E.g. Boys -will always be boys. They will always fight.
However, in these cases the borderline between the modal verb will expressing determination/volition and the auxiliary will becomes so fuzzy that it is really hard to tell the difference between the two.
The description of the English system of tenses would be incomplete without mentioning the fact that it actually consists of two subsystems: absolute and relative tenses. Absolute tenses are correlated to the moment of speech whereas the relative tenses are correlated to some moment in the past taken for the reference point of temporal relations.
Absolute tenses (correlated to 'now')___Relative tenses (correlated to 'then')
Present: He is married. He said he was married.
Past: He was married. He said he had been married.
Future: He'll be married soon. He said he would be married soon.
As we can see from the table, Future-in-the Past is not an isolated form, as it is sometimes presented, but a member of set of relative tense forms, and strictly speaking, each of the three forms in this paradigm may also have this '/« the past' modifier: Present in the Past, Past in the Past and Future in the Past. They are used to correlate actions to a certain past moment. The existence of relative tenses in English is another manifestation of the fact that the concept of time finds a very elaborate representation in the grammar of the English verb.
The existence of relative tenses finds its manifestation in the grammatical rule known as sequence of tenses. The grammatical system of the Russian verb does not have a similar system of relative tenses and mistakes in the use of relative tenses are quite predictable for Russian learners of English, therefore sequence of tenses requires a lot of training till this rule becomes habitual.
It is necessary to accentuate the fact that sequence of tenses is not just a formal subordination of tenses in the subordinate object clause to the tense of the principal clause. On the contrary, it is an essentially semantic phenomenon. The rule of the sequence of tenses is observed only if the action or state of affairs described in the clause refers to the real world (ontological) past. If the actions of the object clause have present relevance (i.e. refer to the ontological present, past or future - they may be expressed by lexical units of time or understood from the context) the rule is generally not observed, e.g. Jessie turned to Paula. "Davey told me that Jean-Claude is_ Daddy's son!" (E.Segal). The discovery made by the girl has present relevance - their Daddy has another child - and the tense in the subordinate clause is present.
4. Another grammatical category of the verb, also related to the concept of time, is aspect. Aspect is a general name given to verb forms and it is used to
denote certain ways in which an event placed in time is viewed or experienced. An event placed in time can be .seen as a completed whole, as developing in progress, or as being repeated intermittently. It is connected with further elaboration of the concept of time by the grammatical means of language. Aspect involves different ways of viewing the internal temporal consistency of a situation and presenting it by the verbal forms. 'Aspect' is derived from a Latin word which means 'gape', or 'view'. B.Comrie defines aspect as "different ways of viewing the internal temporal consistency of the situation" [Comrie 1976, 3]. So aspect may be defined as a grammatically category that expresses the speaker's interpretation of the internal character of the action in its relation to such features as internal limit, result, duration, iterationetc. These features may find both a grammatical and a lexical expression in languages. The grammatical category of aspect, universal in its nature, also displays an idioethnic character as different languages may choose different features of action for the basis of the grammatical category of aspect. In the Russian language the grammatical category of aspect is based on the internal limit of the action and is constituted by the opposition of perfective and imperfective forms of the verb, e.g. denamb - cdenamb, luazamb - waenymb , eudemb — yeudemb , nemb - cnemb etc. The concept of aspect finds a very elaborate linguistic expression in Russian. Besides the grammatical means, aspect may be expressed by numerous word-building affixes (e.g. such oppositions of verbal lexemes as: denamb - nepedenamb -uedodenamb ; xodumb — noxaotcueamb ; zmdemb - noznxdbieamb etc/
In most Slavic languages, like in Russian, the grammatical category of aspect is based on the meaning of internal limit and the category of aspect is constituted by the opposition of perfective and imperfective forms of the verb. However, this feature does not have a universal character - it does not necessarily serve as the grammatical basis for the category of aspect in all languages. In English perfective and imperfective meanings also find expression in the sphere of verbs: they may be expressed by opposing different verbal lexemes: to go - to come, by adding a postpositive adverb: to eat - to eat up, to drink - to drink up; by combining infinitives of durative verbs with terminative verbs which impart a perfective meaning to them: to love - to come to love; to know — to get to know etc. But these oppositions are not regular and they do not embrace the whole class of verbs and for this reason they cannot be treated as grammatical. The grammatical category of aspect in English has at its basis a different feature of action, that of duration and is constituted on the basis of the opposition of Indefinite and Continuous forms of the verb. This opposition embraces the whole class of English verbs (with very few exceptions like the verbs to contain, to consist whose semantics is incompatible with the idea of limited duration), both the finite forms and the forms of the Infinitive.
The formal marker of the Continuous form is the discontinuous morpheme be ----- ing (one of the few morphemes which has no allomorphs). The semantic marker, i.e. the meaning of the Continuous form is limited duration, or process. The meaning of limited duration comes out most clearly in the contexts where the Indefinite and Continuous forms are juxtaposed, e.g.
1) -Doyou work here?!
-1 am working here, but I do not work here (I. Murdoch)
2) - What are you doing here?
-1 work here (M. Dickens).
3) He was blushing, and Rennie was entranced: the men she knew did
not blush (M.Atwood).
In some rare cases one and the same verb used in different forms of aspect realizes different meanings, e.g. She has a baby. She is having a baby (She is giving birth to a baby).
The analysis of the difference between the semantics of the opposed forms of the aspect shows that the forms of the Continuous aspect often denote actions which are directly perceived by the speaker (they are perceived in the process of their happening, this is why this meaning is called 'limited duration') whereas the Indefinite forms are used to denote actions /events/states which may not be directly perceived but rather known to the speaker, j.e. the information about the action is based not the direct perception, but on knowledge (for more detail see: [KpaBHCHKo 1996, 119]. However, this difference is not absolute and it does not cover all the numerous cases of the use of Continuous forms. Very often the speaker chooses the Continuous form to denote an action which is happening outside his/her perceptive space and the information about the action happening at the moment may be deduced not from the direct observation, but from knowledge, e.g. It's 10 o'clock. My brother is having a French lesson now (I know he always has a French lesson at this time). Another factor is also very important here, the factor of the speaker and the speaker's interpretation of the action. In fact, aspect does not depict the internal structure of the real world situation but rather expresses the speaker's view of the situation. Therefore one and the same action may be presented as developing in time or as a fact, and the choice of the speaker is determined by the speaker, e.g. The family wants to go to the seaside for summer and The family is wanting to go to the seaside for summer - the reality of the situation is the same but the viewpoint of the speaker is different.
The meaning of duration, under the influence of various contextual and pragmatic factors may be modified and presented by a number of syntagmatic meanings, or variants. The most common syntagmatic meanings are:
1) Simultaneity to another action. This meaning is actualized in the structure of a composite sentence or a sequence of sentences, e.g. Ivory was still straining to get behind the cyst, still calm, incisive, unruffled... The anaesthetist,
an elderly grizzled man, was stroking the end of the bottle contemplatively with his thumb (A.J. Cronin). The others -were talking and he listened (J.Aldridge).
2) A temporary character of a state or a quality, e.g. Rennie decided that she -was being silly and possibly neurotic as well (M.Atwood); "You are being naughty" "Oh, I thought I was being irreverently charming" (E.Segal). "Every door and window in the joint was unlocked. She liked it that way" "I think somebody was being clever. I think that's misdirection " (S. Turow) .
The analysis of these examples shows that the use of the verb to be in the Continuous form imparts a temporary character to the quality and the nominal predicate acquires an actional meaning 'to behave in a certain way displaying the quality expressed by the adjective'. Characteristically, such cases are usually translated into Russian by such 'behavioural' verbs as: nepeHunamb, KanpusHunamb, yMuunamb etc. E.g. The child is being naughty- Pe6euoK KanpusHimaem.
3) Intensity. This meaning is usually found with verbs of sense perception, desirability and liking/disliking. E.g. Byron saw none of this. Byron was seeing: dead swollen horses in the gutter, yellow plywood patches on rows of broken buildings, a stone goose bordered with red flowers in a school yard, a little girl in a lilac dress taking a pen from him, orange starshells bursting in the night over church domes (H. Wouk). Duffy was trying to say something to him but Willie wasn 't hearing it (R.P. Warren).
4) Recurrence of action. This meaning is realized with terminative verbs, e.g. All through supper I was lifting up the white tablecloth to look at my feet under the. table (E. O'Brien).
5) When the Continuous form combines with the adverbs like always, ever, constantly, permanently it is transposed into the sphere of its counterpart and expresses a regular, repeated action that actually becomes a characteristic feature of a person. Su'ch sentences are usually very expressive and reveal various emotional states of the speaker. Feeling strong emotions we tend to exaggerate things and the meaning of exaggeration is usually present in such utterances. E.g. Men look so silly when they are caught. And they are always being caught (O. Wilde). He abhorred tea, but since it gave him a little longer time in her presence, he drank it devoutly, and the red-haired girl sat in an untidy heap and eyed him without speaking. She was always watching him (R. Kipling). "That's Uncle James, isn 't it? What's he like? " "Older then the hills and always thinking he's going to be ruined" (J. Galsworthy).
6) Tentativeness, lack of assertiveness. This use of the Continuous form is conditioned by pragmatic factors. The difference between the two phrases / hope that and / am hoping that lies in the degree of assertiveness. In this pragmatic function the Continuous form is often combined with the attitudinal past - both are used to make a statement less assertive and a request more tentative. E.g. / was thinking I'II have another made exactly like it" (J.Rhys). "I
was wondering if you'd want to go to midnight Mass with me on Christmas Eve" (D. Steel).
The Continuous forms carry out a specific function in the text. This function is best seen when we compare the use of the Past Indefinite as the main form of the narration with the Past Continuous used in the narration. The forms of the Past Indefinite express a succession of past actions thus carrying out the function of the text progression in the narration and the forms of the Past Continuous, on the contrary, suspend the narration as the writer focuses on details, particulars, descriptions. E.g.
1) The American wife stood at the window looking out. Outside right under their window a cat was crouched under one of the dripping green tables. The cat was trying to make herself so that she would not be dripped on (E.Hemingway).
2) He looked at her. The sun was blazing on the windows ofSt George's
Hospital. She was looking at it with rapture (W. Woolf).
Characteristically, verbs of visual perception are present in both the examples, which accentuates the semantics of the Continuous forms - they denote a directly perceived action.
This use of the Past Continuous can be compared to a close-up in a film, when the action is suspended and the camera brings out the details. This function of the Continuous form can be defined as descriptive. The picture created by the use of the Past Continuous is not static, however, but dynamic, like a picture in a movie. E.g. He was at Hyde Park Corner. The scene was extremely animated. Vans, motor-cars, motor omnibuses were streaming down the hill. The trees in the Park had little green leaves on them. Cars with gay ladies in pale dresses were already passing in at the gates. Everybody was going about their business (W. Woolf).
The forms of the Common aspect as the weak member of the opposition have a wide and abstract meaning which is best defined negatively as non-continuous, they may denote repeated actions and single occurrences. Due to the abstract and wide character of their grammatical meaning the Indefinite forms have a greater frequency of use as compared to the Continuous forms (according to R.Alien, the proportion between the use of Common and Continuous aspects is 96%. to 4% [Alien 1966, 136]. The opposition 'Common Aspect :: Continuous Aspect' is often neutralized and the Common aspect is used in the sphere of the Continuous aspect. It becomes possible when the meaning of duration is expressed by such elements of context as: the durative character of the verb, adverbial phrases, prepositions and conjunctions with durative semantics, e.g. While Jake took a shower, Rennie stood in the bedroom with the closet door open, wondering what she should put on (M.Atwodd). The old man winked at him as they strolled over the gravel toward the line of buildings to their left (J. Fowles).