Author Topic: perfective aspect?  (Read 2666 times)

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Offline tsrräfkxätu

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perfective aspect?
« on: February 21, 2010, 02:08:01 pm »
Here's a thing that has been bothering me for some time now: the perfective aspect. In the Log article, Frommer calls the <ol> the perfective infix, and gives the meaning of tolaron as "have hunted."

And this is what puzzles me. First of all, the English present perfect is not a perfective aspect it's a perfect (or anterior) aspect. There is an important difference. English lacks a dedicated perfective aspect, but simple past would be the thing most closely resembling one. Secondly, in English whatever isn't explicitly or semantically imperfective (or perfect) is considered perfective. Which leaves me wondering, whether we really have three aspects in Na’vi, or if a verb is always one way or the other?

Or could it be that Frommer really meant perfect aspect?

Any insight on this would be much appreciated. Maybe there's even an example in the canon I'm not aware of.


If unresolved, perhaps this question would make a worthy addition to the next bundled email?


EDIT: Hmm, the description bubbles attached to more than one word don't seem to work for me in the posted message, but display properly in the preview. Do you guys see them?
« Last Edit: February 21, 2010, 02:17:10 pm by tsrräfkxätu »
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Offline omängum fra'uti

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2010, 02:10:08 pm »
We don't have three aspects, we have two.  It just doesn't always need to be stated.

And I wouldn't look too much into the meaning of the English translations because, as you said, it's not a concept English really has on it's own, so any English translation will be inherently lacking in meaning compared to the Na'vi.
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Offline Erimeyz

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2010, 02:56:46 pm »
... but simple past would be the thing
... a verb is always one way or the other?

EDIT: Hmm, the description bubbles attached to more than one word don't seem to work for me in the posted message, but display properly in the preview. Do you guys see them?

I see the same behavior, in both IE and Chrome.  But only on yours.  Mine works just fine.  And yours work fine when I quote them.

  - Eri
« Last Edit: February 21, 2010, 03:00:58 pm by Erimeyz »

Offline Erimeyz

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2010, 03:02:48 pm »
It's a bug of some kind.

Removing the earlier URL link to the Log article fixes the problem with the later multi-word desc tags.  I have no idea why.

  - Eri

« Last Edit: February 21, 2010, 03:05:40 pm by Erimeyz »

Offline tsrräfkxätu

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2010, 03:45:00 pm »
We don't have three aspects, we have two.  It just doesn't always need to be stated.

And I wouldn't look too much into the meaning of the English translations because, as you said, it's not a concept English really has on it's own, so any English translation will be inherently lacking in meaning compared to the Na'vi.

So, essentially, you're saying that tolaron = taron. Did I get that right?

Personally, I don't find that interpretation too appealing. If that were the case, why would Frommer have indicated (or tried to do so) any difference. Why maintain a completely superfluous infix when the root would suffice just as well -- unless it carries some sort of extra meaning?

Just wondering...


... but simple past would be the thing
... a verb is always one way or the other?

EDIT: Hmm, the description bubbles attached to more than one word don't seem to work for me in the posted message, but display properly in the preview. Do you guys see them?

I see the same behavior, in both IE and Chrome.  But only on yours.  Mine works just fine.  And yours work fine when I quote them.

Whoa, that's pretty weird! Thanks Eri! :D



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Offline ikngopyu

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2010, 04:12:17 pm »

So, essentially, you're saying that tolaron = taron. Did I get that right?

Personally, I don't find that interpretation too appealing. If that were the case, why would Frommer have indicated (or tried to do so) any difference. Why maintain a completely superfluous infix when the root would suffice just as well -- unless it carries some sort of extra meaning?

Just wondering...

I guess that the use of the root itself simply give use the meaning of the verb, without any aspect (perfective or imperfective) applying on the action. Let's try an example :

oel ngahu taron <= I hunt with you / whatever the action of hunting is ended or not
oel ngahu tolaron <= I hunt with you / here the action is done
oel ngahu teraron <= I hunt with you and we are still hunting man ! ;D

Offline roger

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2010, 05:36:15 pm »

So, essentially, you're saying that tolaron = taron. Did I get that right?

Personally, I don't find that interpretation too appealing. If that were the case, why would Frommer have indicated (or tried to do so) any difference. Why maintain a completely superfluous infix when the root would suffice just as well -- unless it carries some sort of extra meaning?

Just wondering...

I guess that the use of the root itself simply give use the meaning of the verb, without any aspect (perfective or imperfective) applying on the action. Let's try an example :

oel ngahu taron <= I hunt with you / whatever the action of hunting is ended or not
oel ngahu tolaron <= I hunt with you / here the action is done
oel ngahu teraron <= I hunt with you and we are still hunting man ! ;D

A "completive", as you just illustrated, is a subtype of subjunctive. But so is an "inchoative":

oel ngahu tolaron <= I hunt with you / here the action is *begun*

The essential thing is that the perfective treats the action as a simple point in time, without worrying about the details of how it unfolds. The imperfective, in contrast, does consider such things. So the English progressive ("we are still hunting") is a subtype of imperfective. "I'll find out" (future) is perfective, because the finding is portrayed as just a blip in time. "Hunt", of course, can't be just a blip, because it takes a long time, but it can be portrayed as one with the pfv.

Offline ikngopyu

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2010, 01:53:26 am »
Irayo ma roger !

Due to the fact that I'm french, I don't apprehend tenses and aspects as a native english speaker. So, correct me if I'm wrong, the essential difference between perfective and imperfective can be illustrated as following :

      _________
     |Perfective|
      ----------
                                          ___ action
                                         |
time continuum --------------X------------------>
                                         |
                                         |___ simple point in time
 
      ___________
     |Imperfective|
      ------------
                                          ___ action=====>
                                         |
time continuum --------------Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

                                         |                           |
                                         |_________________|
                                                 unfolding

Offline roger

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2010, 02:10:35 am »
Due to the fact that I'm french, I don't apprehend tenses and aspects as a native english speaker.

Ah, quel chance! L'anglais n'a pas ces 'aspects', mais en français eux y en a.

Well, with a caveat: Only in the past tense. That is, French has <alm> and <arm> (<am>+<ol> and <am>+<er>). And then only in the literary language: in spoken French the distinction has AFAIK disappeared, except perhaps when people are trying to sound highly educated.

Je le savais is past imperfective. Je le sus is (or at least was a hundred years ago) past perfective.

The phrase "pasée simple" describes the morphology rather than the aspect. In Spanish it is called "preterito" and is still conversational. It is a combination of tense+aspect: Neither French nor Spanish has a pure pfv or ipfv without tense, but if you can imagine the difference between Je le savais and je le sus in the present tense or in the future, then you probably understand aspect better than I do.

As for your schematic, the action itself isn't necessarily any different. One might say je le savais or je le sus for the same understanding, n'est-ce pas? What is different is how the speaker conceives of that understanding: as a point in time, looking at it from the outside, or as an evolution, experiencing it from the inside.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 04:23:22 am by roger »

Offline ikngopyu

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2010, 02:58:20 am »
C'est un plaisir que de vous voir employer ma langue maternelle !

Ok, as most of the community uses english (ulte Na'vi !), let's go with english !

That was exactly what I was wondering about, the difference between the french "passé simple" and the "imparfait". Finally, these two aspects of the past, with "imparfait" belongings to the imperfective and "passé simple" to perfective, is indeed the best way for me to understand Na'vi <er> and <ol> aspects. Moreover, for me, this difference, which is mainly attached to the way the speaker conceives the action and not the action itself, could be easily adapted to the other tenses (present and futur).

I'm currently trying to make a sort of graphic schematic layout of Na'vi verbs (aspects, tenses and mood).

Thanks a lot for your help ! Merci beaucoup pour ta précieuse aide !

Eywa ngahu !

Offline tsrräfkxätu

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2010, 03:46:57 am »
With that out of the way, can we get back to my original point, please? ;) What do you all think of that <ol> vs <Ø>?
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Offline roger

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2010, 04:26:48 am »
for me, this difference, which is mainly attached to the way the speaker conceives the action and not the action itself, could be easily adapted to the other tenses (present and futur).

That's what I was hoping. I wasn't sure how well it would transfer to other tenses, or even how well a modern French speaker would understand literary forms. I'm glad it worked out.

Offline Skyinou

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2010, 04:32:14 am »
I hope there will be three seperate neutral, perfective and imperfective, but probably not, as Roger said.
It would give more possibilities.

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Offline roger

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2010, 04:36:04 am »
With that out of the way, ... What do you all think of that <ol> vs <Ø>?

If Frommer were Russian, perhaps he would have required aspect. But (and please take this with a grain of salt - I don't know Russian) I believe that even in Russian there are some verbs that are rarely found in one of the aspects; the aspect it is normally found in is thus a kind of default, and thus effectively not unlike a zero. Aspect is how one conceives of the flow of time within an event, and if one doesn't have any particular conception of that flow, then aspect is largely irrelevant. It would seem that in Na'vi we use aspect when it is for some reason salient; no salience, and we don't bother to indicate it. Same with tense. Same with pronouns. Same, evidently, with evidentiality. There seems to be a lot of grammar that is simply omitted if there's no particular reason to use it, whereas in English we use certain forms because they're grammatically required, not because they actually do anything. Like saying "it's raining" : what's "it"? We can't just say "rains", because English clauses require subjects (or at least they used to), even though the "it" is just a placeholder, effectively a zero, and adds no information whatsoever. Na'vi would seem to be more pragmatic than English.

Offline Erimeyz

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2010, 04:48:25 am »
What do you all think of that <ol> vs <Ø>?

Given the examples and Frommerian dicta that we have so far, I think it's clear that:

* It is possible (common, in fact) for verbs to have no aspect marking

* A verb with no aspect marking is not necessarily perfective and is not necessarily imperfective

* A verb with no aspect marking can be assumed to be either perfective or imperfective if the conversational context makes it clear which aspect it is (the same is true for tense!)

* If a verb has no aspect marking and there is insufficient conversational context to indicate whether it is perfective or imperfective, then its aspect is unspecified, its aspect cannot be assumed to be one or the other, and its aspect is unimportant to the speaker's intended meaning (this is not true for tense!)

  - Eri

Offline roger

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2010, 04:49:08 am »
I hope there will be three seperate neutral, perfective and imperfective, but probably not, as Roger said.

I'm not sure what a neutral aspect would mean. I have enough trouble with just the two. I suppose it might be neutral, but I rather doubt there's any real contrast. The present tense is also a zero, and is therefore conflated with any tense that's omitted, so zero tense could mean either (1) present, or (2) anything I didn't bother with. To what extent can we say that Na'vi has a present tense? I suppose if it would be ungrammatical to use any of the four overt tenses, then it must be present. So, does a parallel situation hold re aspect? I don't know, but I can't think of anything off-hand. Tense is objective: it's an actual point in time. You can't use past for s.t. that hasn't happened, and you can't use future for s.t. that has already happened, so it's logically reasonable to have s.t. in the middle that's neither. But aspect, aspect is subjective. It' a conception of the flow of time, how one wishes to present it. Most situations would be logically permissible with either aspect, and I doubt that any would be incompatible with both. An event is either conceived of as having no internal temporal structure, or it's conceived of as having internal temporal structure, or the speaker doesn't care. Given that, I doubt that there can be a grammatical distinction between (1) neither aspect pertains and (2) I'm not bothering to use aspect. Thus no neutral aspect.

[edit conflict] Eri just said basically the same thing more elegantly.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 04:51:01 am by roger »

Offline Erimeyz

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2010, 05:19:48 am »
* If a verb has no aspect marking and there is insufficient conversational context to indicate whether it is perfective or imperfective, then its aspect is unspecified, its aspect cannot be assumed to be one or the other, and its aspect is unimportant to the speaker's intended meaning (this is not true for tense!)

I should also clarify the last point: if a verb has no tense marking and no context to indicate its tense, then the tense might be unspecified and unimportant (as aspect would be), or the tense might be the present tense.

The unmarked verb does double-duty here.  There's no way to say "I'm hunting in the present tense and I really do mean the present tense."

So, as strange as this sounds: if you don't have enough context to determine the tense of an unmarked verb, you have to rely on context to determine whether it is intended to be present tense or intended to be ambiguous.  For example: Oel taron.  Did I mean to say "I hunt" in the present tense?  Or did I mean to say "I hunt" without consideration as to whether the hunting takes place in the past, present, or future?  How often do the Na'vi make "tenseless" statements?  We don't know.  Maybe never.  Frommer would have to tell us.

  - Eri

Offline tsrräfkxätu

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2010, 07:00:28 am »
[...] For example: Oel taron.  Did I mean to say "I hunt" in the present tense?  [...]

(Sorry to derail the discussion I started, but wouldn't "I hunt-INT" rather be oe taron?)

As for the perfective, roger's and Eri's suggestions seem to fit the apparent logic of Na’vi. So then, how would you all translate oe tolaron to English? How would you make the distinction between the marked perfective "I hunt" and the unmarked one? Would you say something like "this is when I hunt" or "it is now that I hunt", as opposed to "I hunt (and I am hunting)?" Or would you go with whatever fits the English context best (which could, at times, lead to an imperfective translation of a perfective sentence?)

Another thing that came to my mind it that "I hunt" could be imperfective too, e.g. in "I hunt every day." Here, using tolaron would clearly be a mistake.

Thoughts?
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Offline roger

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2010, 07:23:56 am »
English doesn't have these aspects, so you can't give them a literal translation into English. The best you can do is say what an English speaker would say in the same situation.

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Re: perfective aspect?
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2010, 07:43:04 am »
The unmarked verb does double-duty here.  There's no way to say "I'm hunting in the present tense and I really do mean the present tense."

Well, we can do what Human aspect-only languages do — throw in an adverb of time to be clear.  That can be a useful dodge even in languages that do have tense.  Oe taron set.
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