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UNIVERSITATEA SPIRU HARET

BUCURETI
FACULTATEA DE LIMBI I LITERATURI
STRINE

LUCRARE DE DISERTAIE

TEMPORAL FEATURES OF TIME


ADVERBS AND THEIR
INTERACTION WITH ENGLISH
TENSES

COORDONATOR TIINIFIC,
PROFESOR DR. ILINCA CRINICEANU
MASTERAND,
ANCA MAGDALENA PIRN

CONTENTS
The Importance of Grammar in Teaching a Foreign
Language 3
Chapter 1: The Category of Tense..

1.1. What is tense?......................................

1.2. Expressions of 'tense'.. 16


1.3. The status of 'tense' as a feature 18
1.4. The values of feature 'tense'.. 19
Chapter 2: The Classification of Temporal Adverbs
.. 21
2.1. Definition 21
2.2.

The

classification

of

temporal

adverbials. 23
Chapter 3: The Category of Aspect.. 35
3.1. The Definition of Aspect... 35
3.2. Features of the Aspect 37
Conclusions.. 43
References 45

THE IMPORTANCE OF GRAMMAR IN


TEACHING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE
Grammar is seen as the process of choosing
forms and constructing language in response to
communicative demands. It essentially involves the
learners

creative

response

to

context

and

circumstance. Someones knowledge of grammar


implies knowledge of how to recognize structures
when spoken, how to identify them when written, how
to understand them in context and how to produce
meaningful sentences.
Grammar should be taught using all four
language skills so that the students should/would be
able to produce structures for oral and written
communication, but at the same time to comprehend
structures while listening or reading. The instructor
will design a variety of activities directed to both form
and communication. This diversity will enable
students to concentrate in turn on increasing the level
of language accuracy or developing fluency in
English.

In the communicative competence model, the


purpose of learning grammar is to increase awareness
that grammar is a part of the language. It is
important that traditional ways of teaching grammar
should not be entirely eliminated but the instructor
will teach grammar structures in relation to specific
communication task that students need to complete.
As far as the teachers role is concerned,
perhaps the most important component is the way in
which he/she presents the new items of grammar. This
is the key for a successful grammar lesson because
presentation - the stage at which students are
introduced to the form, meaning and use of a new
piece of language - strongly influences pupils
performance.
Nowadays communication is the main goal for a
learner who decides to take up studying a foreign
language. Few choose to make this endeavour only for
literatures sake, to develop their capability of reading
an author in the original or for other reasons, such as
to broaden their experience or to expand their view of
the world.
A modern learner needs to have the ability to
encode and decode information in a direct way as one

faces a variety of communicative situations. In this


context, the role of foreign language education has
become extremely important and teachers should be
able to instruct students in this respect. This means
that the language instructor should know and use the
best methods and techniques in order to provide
successful training.
It is obvious that at present the general focus is
primarily

on

fluency

rather

than

correctness,

especially in every day conversation where little


grammar is taken into consideration. Nevertheless,
grammar remains central to the teaching and
learning of languages as the ideal combination would
be both a good flux of communication and accuracy.
Up to now, two major tendencies have
influenced the practice of teaching foreign languages.
The former leads to the view of treating grammar as a
set of word forms and rules. After explaining the
rules, the teacher prepares a series of drills designed
to give the pupils some practice with the already
learnt

structures.

The

immediate

results

are

sometimes boredom because of the lack of variety as


well as dissatisfaction because of the possibility of
making errors when students try to use the language

in the context. On the other hand, some teachers


choose not to teach grammar at all. They believe that
the acquisition of the target language is done as in the
case of pupils first language, so no overt grammar
instruction is necessary. They assume that the
students will absorb the grammar rules as they use
the language in communication activities. This
approach deprives students of active understanding of
the way in which the language they know works.
The latter tendency mentioned above was a part
of what is called the Communicative Approach or
Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), developed
in the 1970s. It was based on the belief that
grammatical knowledge is merely one component of
what theorists called communicative competence.
Communicative competence involves knowing how to
use the grammar and vocabulary of the language to
achieve communicative goals, and knowing how to do
this in a socially appropriate way. Two schools of
thought tried to attain this objective, but the one led
by N.S. Prahbu, a teacher of English in southern
India, is considered today radical as studying the
rules of grammar is not a waste a time and many

specialists state the fact that grammar is an essential


resource in using language communicatively.
The reason for choosing this topic is related to
the frequent occurrence of time adverbs in many
language structures and to the fact that the usage of
these involves other grammatical issues. In this
respect, dealing with time adverbs does not imply only
a classification of these ones. It also involves
modalities of understanding/making up the English
tenses.
Throughout my pedagogical career so far I have
noticed

that

pupils

have

difficulties

when

encountering time adverbs, not as much when they


recognize them as being included in a certain
sentence, but especially when they try to integrate
such adverbs into sentences of their own.
This paper provides a theoretical basis for the
topic as well as a practical one. Of course,
grammarians and linguists dedicate a quite vast area
of their works to this type of adverbs and their
interaction with the English tenses, so the theory
comprised here does not bring novel/novelty elements,
although I have striven to make some comparisons
and to illustrate their differences in opinion when

there was the case. Additionally, the bibliography I


have consulted helped me find a more thorough
insight into the communicative approach and into the
relation between fluency and accuracy.

CHAPTER 1: THE CATEGORY OF


TENSE

1.1. What is tense?


Generally tense is defined as representing the
chronological order of events in time as perceived by
the speaker at the moment of speaking, speech time
(ST). Tense is a deictic category, i.e. the moment NOW
is central, past time or future time representing
DIRECTIONS whose ORIENTATIONS depends on
ST. ST/NOW is a central point on the temporal axis of
orientation according to which we interpret the
ordering of events/states. All accounts of tense make
interpretation sensitive to tense. Events can develop
simultaneously with ST (at relation) or sequentially to
it

(before/ after relations).Tense

is

functional

category that expresses a temporal relation to the


orientation point (ST) locating in time the situation
talked about.
Tense represents the grammaticalisation of
location in time. In order to define tense and identify

tense distinctions, three parameters are traditionally


cited as being relevant: (a) the location of the deictic
centre (either at the present moment - in the so-called
'absolute tenses', or at a different point in time - in the
so-called 'relative tenses'); (b) the location of the
situation with respect to the deictic centre (i.e. prior
to, subsequent to, or simultaneous with the deictic
centre); and (c) the distance in time at which the
situation referred to is located from the deictic centre.
In what it concerns the category of tense, the term
'situation' is understood as an event, process or state,
without taking into account its internal temporal
contour. The internal temporal contour of the
situation provides the conceptual basis for the notion
of aspect. This conceptualisation of time, which
appears to be adequate for an account of tense in
human

language

including

all

time

location

distinctions found in natural language, can be


represented diagrammatically as follows:

10

The diagram represents time as a straight line,


with the past represented conventionally to the left
and the future to the right. The present moment is
represented by a point on that line, labelled S
(mnemonic for 'speech time'). Several things are
intentionally left unspecified. One of them is whether
the time line is bounded at either the left or the right,
including whether it bends to form a circle. While this
is an important philosophical issue, it does not seem to
be relevant for the grammaticalisation of time.
Similarly, conceptualisations of time as cyclic are
found in all cultures, but on a macroscopic scale
which does not have a bearing on tense distinctions.
Furthermore, the diagram does not represent the flow
of time - that is, it does not indicate whether S (or,

11

Ego) moves along a stationary time line, or whether


time flows past a stationary reference point S (or,
Ego). This

is

another important

philosophical

question, but again it does not seem to play a role in


the analysis of tense as a linguistic category. However,
many of these culture-specific conceptualisations of
time are metaphors that are important sources of time
expressions across languages.
The basic orientation point for temporal-deictic
distinctions is represented by the speech situation S
projected onto the time line; that means this is always
the primary point of reference (R0). One of the extralinguistic

presuppositions

for

an

utterance

is

constituted by the speaker's consciousness of the


relation of the speech situation S to the reported
situation E (mnemonic for 'event') along the time line.
A past situation is therefore located in the time before
and not including the present moment, a future
situation (a prediction, imposition, or an instance of
pre-planning) is located in the time after the present
moment, and a present situation, whether continuing
or repetitive, is located in the time that includes the
present moment, regardless of whether it encompasses
a shorter or longer stretch of time. This concept of

12

time, which relates a situation to the time line, is


essential to the linguistic category of tense.
It is interesting to note that a further parameter
that

could

theoretically

be

posited

for

tense

distinctions - that of a specific location in time, or a


specific

time

lapse

does

not

seem

to

be

grammaticalised as tense. In those cultures which care


about, and are able to capture, very precise location in
time and very fine distinctions of time, these are
usually expressed using existing grammatical patterns
and the appropriate lexical items which may be
combined with mathematical expressions in order to
gain precision (e.g. 10.45 am on Friday, 9 June 2006;
nanosecond; 10-6 seconds). On the other hand, in
cultures which lack the technology to capture precise
temporal locations, or attach little value to precision
in temporal location, such precision may not be
attainable even lexically.
In grammar, tense is a verbal category which
relates the time of a narrated event to the time of the
speech event. In many languages the concept of time
is expressed not by the verb but by other parts of
speech (temporal adverbials or even nouns, for
example).

Time

is

frequently

13

perceived

as

continuum with three main divisions: past, present,


and future. The past and future times are defined in
relation to the present time (now). Past tense refers to
any time before the present time, and future tense
refers to any time after the present. Not all languages
perceive this relationship as a linear one, nor do these
categories characterize all possible times. Tense, then,
is a grammatical expression of time reference. The
correlation between tense and time is not necessarily
one-to-one; languages do not recognize as many
oppositions of tense as they have conceptions of time.
The English language has past, present, and future
times, but only a past and a nonpast opposition of
tense.
past: Mary drank milk.
present: Mary is drinking milk.
future: Mary will drink milk.
Grammatical tense may not equal real time:
They are going to the cinema tonight.

14

That will be $5.00, please. (At a grocery


check-out line.)
In the first sentence, the verb form that usually
indicates present time is here used to indicate future
time. In the second sentence, the verb form usually
indicating future time is here used to indicate present
time. Generally, the past form of the verb refers to
past time, to a narrated event prior to the speech
event. However, in English the grammatical category
of tense relates to the ontological concept of time in a
binary opposition: past versus nonpast. Nonpast tense
is considered unmarked for tense and thus can
comprise present, future and even past times. With
the

exception

of

some

problematic

modal

constructionssuch as would in John said he would


go tomorrow, in which would is grammatically a past
tense of will but is used to indicate future timethe
past tense indicates only past time and is thus said to
be

marked

with

respect

to

tense.

Other

grammatical categories, such as mood and aspect,


may add another dimension to the time reference,
further specifying the action as definite or indefinite,
completed or not completed, lasting or nonlasting.

15

1.2. Expressions of 'tense'

Linguistically, location in time can be achieved


in many different ways ranging from purely lexical
to grammatical. Lexically composite expressions
involve slotting time specifications into the positions
of a syntactic expression, e.g. the English five
minutes after John left, 10-45 seconds after the Big
Bang, the day before yesterday, last year. This set is
potentially infinite in a language that has linguistic
means for measuring time intervals. Lexical items
include items such as: the English now, today,
yesterday. The range of time distinctions captured
through single lexical items is necessarily smaller
than that which is possible using lexically composite
expressions, as it depends on the stock of items listed
in the lexicon in the given language. Grammatical
categories represent the set of grammaticalised
expressions of location in time, that is the set of
tenses in the given language. This set is the smallest
of the three, with a finite number of synchronically
listed items (tense values).

16

In order to be regarded as a (grammaticalised)


tense, the expression of location in time has to be
integrated into the grammatical system of the
language. In contrast, a lexicalised expression of the
location in time indicates its integration into the
lexicon of the language, but does not entail any
necessary
grammatical

consequences
structure.

for

the

language's

Grammaticalisation,

as

opposed to lexicalisation, of the location in time,


correlates

with

two

parameters:

obligatory

expression and morphological boundness. The very


rough rule is that a tense is grammaticalised if its
morphological expression is obligatory even if the
information carried by the exponent is redundant.
For example, in the English sentence Last year I
bought a new car "the choice of a tense other than
the simple past would make the sentence anomalous,
although the information that the event took place in
the past is expressed unambiguously by last year".
Morphological boundness is perhaps a slightly more
problematic criterion, which is not necessary in
itself.

17

Tense is typically a morphological category of


the verb, or verbal complex, and it can be expressed
either by verbal inflection (on the main verb or the
auxiliary - as in English), or by grammatical words
adjacent to the verb. It can also be analysed as a
grammatical category of the clause.

1.3. The status of 'tense' as a feature

Tense is often assumed to be a 'morphosyntactic


category' or 'morphosyntactic feature'. Tense is one of
the most frequently cited examples of a prototypical
inflectional category, seen as having relevance to
syntax.
To be 'relevant to syntax' means being involved
in either syntactic agreement or government. In many
familiar languages the feature 'tense' encodes regular
semantic distinctions and is an unquestionable
inflectional category. However, it is not required by
syntax through the mechanisms of either agreement

18

or government: syntax is not sensitive to the tense


value of the verb. Therefore, the familiar instances of
the feature 'tense' are morphosemantic, but not
morphosyntactic.

Thus,

tense

is

typically

morphosemantic feature. In a dependency approach


to syntax, which implies asymmetrical marking, it can
be argued that tense, aspect, mood and polarity are
primarily features of the verb.

1.4. The values of feature 'tense'

One of the parameters that is often regarded as


contributing to tense distinctions is the distance in
time at which the situation referred to is located from
the reference point. In languages which code different
degrees of remoteness, these are usually labelled as
different tenses. Since temporal distance is relevant
only with respect to the parameters of 'before' and
'after', we find distinctions of temporal distance only
among past tenses and future tenses. Although the
degrees of remoteness are usually referred to as

19

tenses, alternatively, this parameter could be seen as


an expression of a different category, say 'remoteness'
or 'distance', which is orthogonal to the category of
tense. The tense system of a language results from a
selection of the following distinctions identified with
the three semantic primitives: the time of speech (S),
the time of the event (E), and the reference point (R).
To sum up, tense meanings that are possible in human
language result from the possible arrangements on
the time axis of the three primitives (S,E,R) plus the
multiplications

of

this

set.

Tense

values

are

grammaticalisations of particular tense meanings or


distinctions.

20

CHAPTER 2: THE CLASSIFICATION


OF TEMPORAL ADVERBS

2.1. Definition

Adverbs represent the part of speech or word


class that is primarily used to modify a verb, adjective
or

other

adverb.

Adverbs

can

also

modify

prepositional phrases, subordinate clauses and can


also complete sentences. Adverbs are traditionally
regarded as one of the parts of speech, although the
wide variety of the functions performed by words
classed as adverbs means that it is hard to treat them
as a single uniform category.
Adverbs typically add information about time
(rarely, frequently, tomorrow etc.), manner (slowly,
quickly, willingly) or place (here, there, everywhere) in
addition to a wide range of other meanings.
An adverb that modifies an adjective (quite sad)
or

another

adverb

(very

carelessly)

appears

immediately in front of the word it modifies. An

21

adverb that modifies a verb is generally more flexible:


it may appear before or after the verb it modifies
(softly sang or sang softly), or it may appear at the
beginning of the sentence (Softly she sang to the
baby). The position of the adverb may have an effect
on the meaning of the sentence. As a general principle,
shorter adverbial phrases precede longer adverbial
phrases, regardless of content. In the following
sentence, an adverb of time precedes an adverb of
frequency because it is shorter (and simpler): Dad
takes a brisk walk before breakfast every day of his life.
A second principle: among similar adverbial phrases
of kind (manner, place, frequency, etc.), the more
specific adverbial phrase comes first: She promised to
meet him for lunch next Tuesday. Bringing an
adverbial modifier to the beginning of the sentence
can place special emphasis on that modifier. This is
particularly useful with adverbs of manner: Slowly,
ever so carefully, Jesse filled the coffee cup up to the
brim, even above the brim.
In what it concerns temporal adverbials, they
help us locate in time certain situations and they also
have

great

contribution

to

the

aspectual

interpretation of the sentence. Temporal adverbials

22

also called time adverbs describe when the action of a


verb is carried out.
2.2.

The

classification

of

temporal

adverbials
Temporal adverbials can be classified as it
follows:
A)

locating adverbials (Smith, 1978/1991)


or frame adverbials (Bennett & Hall
Partee, 1972);

B)

duration adverbials;

C)

completive adverbials (Smith, 1991)


or containers;

D)

frequency adverbials.

A) Locating adverbials/Frame adverbials refer to


intervals of time which are used to bound or frame
the temporal locations of events or of Reference Time
(Bennett&Partee, 1978). There are two types of such
adverbials: interval large intervals of time, and point
small intervals of time. The interval referred to by
such adverbials is called the frame interval. Since

23

interval frame adverbials refer to large intervals of


time, these intervals typically temporally contain not
only the event(s) of the sentence containing the
adverbial, but also, by default, the events of the
succeeding sentences, until some new frame-interval is
established. The frame-intervals referred to by point
frame do not generally have this property because of
their small size. Frame adverbials mirror the three
possible

temporal

relations

just

like

tense:

simultaneity, anteriority and posteriority. According


to the time of orientation they indicate, frame
adverbials are grouped into three classes:
a) deictic adverbials which are oriented to the
time of utterance and which are represented by the
expressions such as: now, today, last Thursday, last
month, this week, tomorrow, next month, the day after
tomorrow, a year ago etc. The adverbials in this class
refer to some specific time span which is related to
some other specific time span (ST), but most of them
give only the maximal boundaries of the time span(s)
in question (Klein, 1992). They are also known as
anchored adverbials.
b) The second class is that of anaphoric
adverbials which include time expressions that relate

24

to a previously established time: until, till, in the


morning, on Monday, at night, early, before, in a
fortnight, at breakfast, three months later, in June,
already etc. These also deal only with the maximal
boundary of the time span in question.
c) Referential adverbials refer to a time
established by clock or calendar: at four, April 9, in
1976 etc.
The last two classes are unanchored; these
adverbials are not anchored to the time of utterance,
but to another orientation point.
Regarding their form, frame adverbials can be:
a)

simple including expressions such as:


now, yesterday, tomorrow;

b)

complex

exhibiting

two

types

of

complexity. Firstly, they consist of two


or several concatenated adverbs such
as:

tomorrow

evening,

yesterday

morning at eight oclock being taken as


single units in temporal interpretation
and establishing the interval of time
within which the described action is
asserted to have taken place.

25

E.g.: Sally came to me last Friday


morning.
In this example, the complex adverbial
in

conjunction

with

the

tense

morpheme specifies RT/ET. Secondly,


complex adverbials may be made of a
preposition and a nominal.

In this

case, the whole group forms one


constituent syntactically, but each part
of the group has different functions
semantically, the preposition creating a
relation between the time of the
situation (ET) and the RT, and the
adverb together with Tense specifying
the RT.
E.g.: Grandma finished knitting the
pullover before last Wednesday.
B) Duration adverbials are used to say that: a)
an event or a situation is continuing, stopping or is not
happening at the moment (E.g.: He still lives in New
York. / They couldnt stand it anymore. / It isnt dark
yet.). Still is used to say that a situation continues to
exist up to a particular time in the past, present or

26

future. Still is put in front of the main verb and


after the verb when the main verb is to be(E.g.: We
were still waiting for the elections results. / My family
still live in China. / You will still get tickets if you hurry.
/ Lauras mother died, but his father is still alive.). In
negative sentences, still can be used after the
subject and before the verb group in order to express
surprise or impatience (E.g.: They still havent given
us the keys. / She still didnt say a word. / It was well
after midnight and he still wouldnt leave.) Still can
be used in the beginning of a clause with the similar
meaning of after all or nevertheless (E.g.: Still,
she is my sister, so Ill have to help her. / Still, its not
too bad. We didnt lose all the money.) ; b) something
has happened sooner than it was expected to happen.
In this case already is put in front of the main verb,
excepting the situation when the main verb is to be
and already is placed after the verb (E.g.: She had
already bought the drinks. / I have already met them. /
The guests were already coming in. / John was already
in bed.). Already can also be used to emphasize that
something is the case, for example when someone else
does not know or is not sure (E.g.: I am already aware
of that problem.). Already is not normally used in

27

negative sentences, but can be used in negative


if/clauses (E.g.: Show it to him if he hasnt already seen
it.). Already can be put either in the beginning or in
the end of a clause for emphasis (E.g.: Already he was
calculating the profit he could make. / Ive done it
already.); c) Yet is used in the end if negative
sentences and questions to say that something has not
happened or had not happened up to a particular
time, but is or was expected to happen later. (E.g.: We
havent got the tickets yet. / Have you joined the
literature club yet?). It can also be used in the
beginning of clause having the similar meaning to
but (E.g.: I dont miss her, yet I do often wonder
where she went.); d) Any longer and anymore are
used in the end of the negative clauses to show that
the past situation has ended and does not exist now or
will not exist in the future (E.g.: I wanted the job, but I
couldnt wait any longer. / Hes not going to play
anymore.) In formal English, we can use an
affirmative clause with no longer or no more.
They are placed at the end of a clause or in front of
the main verb (E.g.: He could stand the pain no
more. / He no longer wanted to buy it.)

28

Duration adverbials also include expressions


like: for five years, since 2001, all the evening, at noon,
half a day, a few weeks, always, all night long,
throughout, from Monday to Friday etc.
This type of adverbials indicates the duration of
the described event (the length of time that is asserted
to take being specified) and locate a situation in time.
This means that duration adverbials have aspectual
value, being compatible with atelic sentences and odd
with the telic ones.
Whenever the situation type features and the
adverbial features are compatible, the standard
interpretation of the adverbial is to locate the
situation within the stated interval. Whenever telic
events occur in the context of duration adverbials,
there is a clash between the aspectual properties of
the situation type and the aspectual properties of the
adverbials.
Taking into account Moenss ideas, De Swart
says that the contextual reinterpretation is possible by
coercion, a process that would yield an eventuality of
the appropriate type, which then can combine with
the durative adverbial to result in a bounded process.
Instantaneous atelic eventualities (semelfactives) in

29

the scope of durative adverbials and durative telic


verb constellations are reinterpreted as atelic/durative
in the context of durationals. The felicity of an
aspectual reinterpretation strongly depends on the
linguistic context and knowledge of the world.
Since is an indefinite adverb. The inclusive
since adverb is a duration adverb that shows
sensitivity to the aspectual make-up of the situation
type, measuring the entire time span of both
homogenous
homogenous

(states
(events)

and

activities)

eventualities,

and

non-

occurring

exclusively with the present perfect tense:


I have been in London since Tuesday.
In what it concerns the other duration adverbs,
we cannot talk about a sensitivity of theirs to the
aspectual feature of the eventuality as they occur with
both homogenous and non-homogenous eventualities.
C) Completive adverbials / Containers are also
known as adverbials of the interval (Smith, 1991)
including expressions such as: in four days, within
three hours etc. They are used in order to locate a
situation/eventuality at an interval during which the
event is completed. Completive adverbials are telic,

30

being compatible with telic eventualities and odd to


atelics as the following examples show:
Bill drew a rabbit in twenty seconds.
Jill wrote an article in five minutes.
Jennifer believed in Santa in half an hour.
The

interval

within

which

the

situation

occurred or took place is denoted by containers which


are well formed with events. The situation in the last
example is an atelic one, imposing an ingressive
interpretation to the entire sentence, the adverbial
referring to an interval elapsed before the beginning
of the situation and not to an interval during which
the situation occurs. The last example may be
reinterpreted as telic in the context of the completive
adverbial, ascribing a natural point to the eventuality.
A possible reading for this could be:
After half an hour, Jennifer began to believe in
Santa.
In what it concerns the sentence Jennifer
believed in Santa in half an hour., the eventuality is
taken as inchoative which is an achievement and has
the ingressive interpretation that standardly occurs
for achievements.

31

D) Frequency adverbials are used to tell how


often something occurs or is done. Adverbs of
frequency are often used with the present simple
because they indicate repeated or routine activities.
For example, They often go out for dinner. Here are
some of the frequency adverbials: always, often,
frequently, seldom, rarely, usually, sometimes, never, on
Wednesday, every year/century/summer, whenever,
daily, monthly etc. With words like daily, monthly,
weekly we know exactly how often something happen
as they describe definite frequency. On the other
hand, words like often, seldom, usually, always give us
an idea about frequency but they don't tell us exactly
and they describe indefinite frequency.
Adverbs of definite frequency, like all adverbs
of definite time, typically go in END position.
Most companies pay taxes yearly.
The manager checks the toilets daily.
Sometimes, usually for reasons of emphasis or
style, some adverbs of definite frequency may go at
the FRONT.

32

Every day, more than five thousand people die on


our roads.
Adverbs of indefinite frequency mainly go in
MID position in the sentence. They go before the
main verb (except the main verb "to be"):
We usually go shopping on Saturday.
I have often done that.
She is always late.
Occasionally, sometimes, often, frequently and
usually can also go at the beginning or end of a
sentence:
Sometimes they come and stay with us.
I play tennis occasionally.
Frequency adverbials provide the information
that contributes to the temporal location of a
situation

(Smith,

1991).

They

indicate

the

recurrent pattern of situations within the reference


interval and reinforce the notion of repetition:

33

He is late to school every day.


We never went to the zoo in winter.
These sentences express a series of individual
events, which taken as a whole create a habitual state.

34

CHAPTER 3: THE CATEGORY OF


ASPECT

3.1. The Definition of Aspect


In English, verbs have different forms to
indicate continuousness, completeness, and time.
Time can be expressed by tense whether present, past
or future. On the other hand, continuousness can be
expressed by the progressive aspect of the verb
whereas completeness can be expressed by the
perfective aspect of the verb. Aspect is related to 'the
manner' in which the verb is considered "complete"
or "in progress."
Huddleston and Pullum (2002) define tense as "
a system where the basic or characteristic meaning of
the terms is to locate the situation, or part of it, at
some point or period of time." On the other hand,
they define aspect as "a system where the basic
meanings have to do with the internal temporal
constituency of the situation." In fact, the features of
tense and aspect are interrelated.

35

Freed (1976) defined Aspect as a notion of


Time, distinct from Tense, that refers to the internal
temporal structure of events and activities named by
various linguistic forms.. in terms of such things as
inception, duration, completion... The definition
suggests that Tense and Aspect, as functional
categories that delimit the lexical category Verb,
merge/interconnect in more ways than one. The two
categories are not only related morpho-syntactically
(Aspect like Tense is realized by verb inflections and
auxiliaries) but also semantically. The definition says
that both Aspect and Tense partake of the notion
Time but in distinct ways. The verbal category of
Aspect and the verbal category of Tense are tightly
related as they both pertain to the domain of time.
Lets consider the following pair of sentences:
Mary wrote a letter.
Mary was writing a letter (when the doorbell
rang at five oclock).
Both sentences describe a situation of Mary
writing a letter. The difference between the sentences
in is not in terms of Tense (both are in the past tense)
but in terms of Aspect. The first sentence presents the
situation as a whole, as completed, as closed, while the

36

second one presents only some internal phases/stages


in the development of the situation; we do not know
for sure when Mary began writing the letter or
whether she finished writing it we only know that
her writing was unfolding in Time when the doorbell
rang/at five oclock.

3.2. Features of the Aspect


Aspect predicates about the size of a situation
(the whole of it or only parts of it) while the
contribution of Tense is to locate that situation in
time. Both Tense and Aspect pertain to the domain of
Time as situations, irrespective of their size, occur in
time.
On the other hand, aspect is not a deictic
category, but rather informs us about the contour or
quality of the event/state as viewed by the speaker at a
given moment in time (reference point). The term
aspect was imported into the Western grammatical
tradition from the study of Slavic grammar in the
early nineteenth century, it being a loan translation
from the Slavic term vid which is etymologically
cognate with the words view and vision , hence the

37

term viewpoint aspect has been widely adopted in


current

literature.(Smith

1991).

In

traditional

grammars, the notion Aspect is restricted mostly to


the perfective -imperfective distinction expressed by
inflectional morphemes on the verb or by special
function morphemes within a verbal complex. The
perfective provides a holistic, summarizing or unifying
view upon the situation described in the sentence,
while the imperfective is concerned with the temporal
constituency of a situation which is presented as
divided up into internal phases, there being no concern
for the whole situation. In Comries own words
another way of explaining the difference between
perfective and imperfective meaning is to say that the
perfective looks at the situation from outside, without
necessarily

distinguishing

any

of

the

internal

structure of the situation, whereas the imperfective


looks at the situation from inside, and as such is
crucially concerned with the internal structure of the
situation, since it can look backwards toward the start
of the situation and look forwards to the end of the
situation, and indeed is equally appropriate if the
situation is one that lasts through all time, without
any beginning and without any end. In English, the

38

opposition perfectiveimperfective has not been fully


grammaticized, but the opposition non-progressive
progressive is compatible with it. Progressive aspect is
signalled by distinct morphological marking: be ing
(E.g. He is/was singing). Perfective aspect (also called
simple / indefinite aspect) is rendered by the simple
temporal form of the verb with no distinct
morphological marking (E.g.: He sang).
In current literature, the modern concept of
Aspect reflects a double life. It is still used to
refer

to

the

presentation

of

events

through

grammaticized viewpoints such as the perfective and


imperfective, (viewpoint/grammatical aspect), but
lately the use of the term has broadened to include the
inherent

temporal

themselves,

the

structuring
internal

of

the

event

situations

structure

or

Aktionsart; this is known in current literature as


situation-type aspect . The term situation-type
aspect1 (Smith, 1991) will be employed to refer to the
classification

of

verbal

expressions

into

states,

activities, accomplishments, achievements (introduced


by Vendler, 1957/1967) and semelfactives (introduced
by Smith 1991)
1

39

The situation types differ in the temporal


properties

of

dynamism,

durativity

and

telicity

(boundedness). These are the temporal properties of


the situation types:
a)

states are static, durative: love Susan,


know the answer, live in London, be
widespread, enjoy life;

b)

activities are dynamic, durative, atelic:


laugh, stroll/walk in the park, push a
cart, drink beer, swim, run;

c)

accomplishments are dynamic, durative


and telic: build a house, walk to school,
learn French, drink a bottle of beer,
smoke a cigarette;

d)

Achievements

are

dynamic,

telic,

instantaneous: win the race, reach the


top, find a watch, recognize a friend,
discover a treasure, arrive, leave;
e)

Semelfactives

are

dynamic,

atelic,

instantaneous: tap, cough, knock, hit,


flap a wing, hiccup, slam/bang the door,
kick the ball.

40

From this perspective, Smith (1991) defines


Aspect as the semantic domain of temporal
structures

of

situations:

Both

viewpoint

(or

grammatical) aspect and situation type aspect convey


information

about

temporal

factors

such

as

beginning, end and duration, hence they interact in


language. The aspectual meaning of a sentence is a
composite of the information from both components.
Situation-type

aspect

and

viewpoint

aspect

or

grammatical aspect are realized differently in the


grammar of a language; they differ in their linguistic
expression:
a)

viewpoint/grammatical aspect is signalled


by a grammatical morpheme; it is therefore
distinguished as an overt category;

b) situation-type aspect (eventuality type) is


signalled by a constellation

of

lexical

morphemes. Situation/eventuality types are


distinguished at the level of the verb
constellation (i.e. the verb and its arguments
(subject and objects)) and the sentence. The
situation types play a role in the grammar of
a language, although they lack explicit
morphological markers (Smith, 1991). Since

41

situation types are not `grammaticized` by


contrasting morphemes (i.e. have no single
grammatical marker), situation type aspect
could be taken to exemplify the notion of a
covert category. Situation types play a role in
the grammar of a language, although they
lack explicit morphological markers. (Smith,
1991).

CONCLUSIONS

42

The goals of language instruction include


teaching

students

to

use

language

accurately,

meaningfully, and appropriately, so grammar is a


necessity which cannot be ignored.
Among the grammatical points, the topics of
tense and aspect as well as of time adverbs may be
considered difficult as they cover a vast area. Despite
the high degree of complexity, this issue can be
integrated successfully in the educational process as
long as the teacher takes into account wider
developments in the field of language teaching and
looks

at

language

primarily

as

means

of

communication and places the learner in the centre of


all classroom processes. In the past teachers tended to
concentrate on how learners spoke and wrote instead
of focusing on what they wanted to express. This is a
result of a constant preoccupation with accuracy, that
is why trainers used to correct any mistake.
Nowadays our opinion is that learners need to
experiment

with

language

when

trying

to

communicate, and this involves taking risks. Most


linguists agree now that errors are not only inevitable
but even a desirable part of the learning process. This
view does not excuse errors but it does serve as a

43

reminder that we should give credit to fluency, for


successful communication, as well as for accuracy.
In the three chapters of my paper I have tried
to make a theoretical overview of the categories of
tense and aspect and of the temporal adverbials. The
first chapter deals with the Category of Tense, more
specifically with its definition(s), expressions, with its
status as a feature and with the values of feature
tense. Chapter 2 The Classification of Temporal
Adverbs defines and classifies temporal adverbials.
The last chapter The Category of Aspect presents
definitions of the aspect as well as some of its features.
Anyway, the theoretical and practical training
of

the

teacher,

his/her

knowledge

about

the

developments in second language acquisition, in


applied linguistics etc. represent essential elements
that are relevant in the educational process.

REFERENCES

44

Elements of English Morphology, Ilinca


Criniceanu, Editura Fundaiei Romnia
de Mine, Bucureti, 2007;
Elements of English Sentence Semantics,
Alexandra

Cornilescu,

Editura

Universitii Bucureti, Bucureti, 1986


The Parameter of Aspect, Carlota Smith,
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht,
1991;
Toward the Logic of Tense and Aspect in
English, Michael Bennett & Barbara Hall
Partee, Bloomington: Indiana University
Linguistics Club, 1978;
Tense,

Bernard

Comrie,

Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1985;


Tense, Time Adverbs, and Compositional
Semantic

Theory,

David

Dowty,

Linguistics and Philosophy, 1982;


Aspect Shift and Coercion, Henriette De
Swart, 1998;
The Cambridge Grammar of the English
Language, Rodney Huddleston, Geoffrey

45

K. Pullum, Cambridge University Press,


2002;
The Philosophical Review, Verbs and
Times, Zeno Vendler, Duke University
Press, 1957.

46