Discontinuous Past
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Discontinuous Past

Discontinuous past is a category of past tense of verbs argued to exist in some languages, especially in West Africa and Polynesia,[1] which carry an implication that the result of the event described no longer holds.

In English the past simple tense carries no such implication; the sentence "I put it on the table" could be used whether the object is still there or has been removed. But in some languages, such as the Bantu language Chichewa, the recent past tense would carry a definite implication that the object in question is no longer there.[2] In this sense a discontinuous past carries the opposite implication of a perfect tense, which in its main usage implies that the result of the action still holds: "I have put it on the table" implies that the object is still there.

In terms of morphology, in many languages discontinuous past tenses are derived from the pluperfect tense.[3] Another common source of discontinuous past tenses can be tenses which denote the remote past.[4]

Imperfective past tenses can also have a discontinuous implication, such as the English "I used to live in London", which carries the implication that the speaker no longer lives there.[5] One author uses the term "decessive" for this usage.[6]

References

  1. ^ Plungian, Vladimir A. & Johan van der Auwera (2006). "Towards a typology of discontinuous past marking." Sprachtypol. Univ. Forsch. (STUF), Berlin 59, 4, 317-349.
  2. ^ Kiso, Andrea (2012). "Tense and Aspect in Chichewa, Citumbuka, and Cisena". Ph.D. Thesis. Stockholm University, p.119-121.
  3. ^ Squartini, Mario (1999): "On the semantics of the Pluperfect: evidence from Germanic and Romance", in: Linguistic Typology 3.1, 51-89.
  4. ^ Plungian & Auwera, p.333ff.
  5. ^ Plungian & Auwera, p.323.
  6. ^ Cable, Seth (2015): "The Tlingit Decessive and 'Discontinuous Past'". Ms. University of Massachusetts.

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