ASPECT: A GENERAL SYSTEM AND ITS MANIFESTATION IN MANDARIN CHINESE
AbstractASPECT has recently attracted much interest and attention, but it has been treated as a temporally construed verbal category. In the present study, an alternative and more accurate characterization of ASPECT is suggested. We postulate that a DIFFUSE-FOCUSSED opposition is the fundamental aspectual principle, which can have such various manifestations as HOLISTIC-RUPTURED (Chamorro), UNREALIZED-REALIZED (Mokilese), UNMODIFIED/PLAIN-INTENSIVE (Fore), UNMODIFIED/PLAIN-DIMINUTIVE (Songhai), ESSENCE-ACCIDENCE (Spanish), REMOTE-IMMEDIATE (Alabama), and IMPERFECTIVE-PERFECTIVE (Russian), depending on the language in question. Further, we adopt the common semantics of 'well-formedness' and point out that the DIFFUSE-FOCUSSED principle can better explain why and how ASPECT tends to blend with other grammatical categories such as Tense, FOCUS/Voice, ROLE and Mood.
Moreover, we examine four Aspect markers LE, guo, zai and zhe in Mandarin Chinese, indicating how they constitute an integrated semantic system formed from two manifestations of DIFFUSE-FOCUSSED: REMOTE-IMMEDIATE and NONCONGRUENT BOUNDED-CONGRUENT BOUNDED. The resultant combinations are for guo, for zhe. The Mandarin example provides reinforcement for the proposition that the fundamental aspectual principle postulated here is more powerful, and that this principle can more accurately and consistently characterize ASPECT systems in languages.
To conclude, we point out that grammatical manifestations of the DIFFUSE-FOCUSSED opposition in fact reflect how language users make sense of the real world around them. Language then must be seen more generally as a manifestation of human intelligence. Consequently, no rigid and mechanical way can accurately predict actual language usage