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The modal basis of progressive marking

Book Contribution - Chapter

In English, the alternation between simple vs progressive marking reflects a temporal contrast (perfective vs imperfective construals of a situation) as well as an epistemic one, corresponding to the cognitive distinction between “structural” vs “phenomenal” knowledge. One implication of this analysis is that even simple tense markers have an aspectual value, though that value may remain semantically underspecified (as in Germanic languages other than English for the present). In fact, the aspectually (non-)specific nature of a language’s present tense turns out to be a good basis for predicting the conspicuousness of the modal orientation of that language’s progressive construction(s). I argue that if a progressive construction is less grammaticalized in a language, it is both formally and semantically marked. Semantically, this translates into marked temporal uses (i.e., over and above the mere expression of ongoingness and duration) as well as, crucially, marked modal uses, which all instantiate the speaker’s judgment of a state of affairs as epistemically contingent.
Book: Aspektualität in Varietäten des Deutschen / Fischer, H. [edit.]; Gillmann, M. [edit.]; Schmuck, M. [edit.]
Pages: 15 - 33
Publication year:2022
Keywords:H3 Book chapter