Re: Are Participles Marked Temporally?

From: Moon-Ryul Jung (
Date: Fri Mar 05 1999 - 09:03:06 EST

Dear list members,

I thought that my idea might be helpful to the discussion in this thread.

George wrote:

> Time and Aspect are perhaps not as separable as they might seem.
> So how does past time sneak in on those pesky unaugmented participles??
> I would have to guess that it does so through aspect, which is in truth
> inseparable from time designation

This was a response to the following observation:
  According to Porter, when the participle appears before the main
verb, "there is a tendency for the action to be depicted as
antecedent," while when after the main verb, "there is a tendency for
the action to be seen as concurrent or subsequent." (Porter, Verbal
Aspect, p. 381)

When we discuss "tense and aspect", it would be quite helpful to state
the problem and the solution in terms of the reference time (RT). In this
case the aorist participle before the main verb introduces a partially
determined situation to which the reader is supposed to pay attention. The
time for this situation is may be determined in the context built up so far
or may be determined only after the main clause is read. When the main
clause is read, the reader would take its reference time in relation to the
situation in
question. The reference time can be set to the preparatory stage, initial
stage, body, final stage, or resulting stage of the situation (see
Nakhimovsky 1988, Computational Linguistics Vol 14, No 2), depending on
nature of the situations of the participle clause and the main clause. Why
so many? It is because the situation described by aorist participles are
the situation described by the present participle/ the perfect participle
are marked in that they refer to the body/the resulting stage of the
situation denoted by the verb itself. When the participle follows the
verb, then the situation described by the main clause is used to set up
the reference time for the situation described by the participle. I think
this analysis may explain the "general tendency" mentioned above.

To test the above hypothesis, please see if the Greek equivalents to the
following English (?) sentences make sense:

Crossing the road,

(1) they (the children) waited for the teacher to give a signal (the
reference time refers to the preparatory stage of crossing the road)
(2) they stepped onto its concrete surface as if it were about to open and
   swallow them (RT to the intial stage)
(3) They were nearly hit by a car (RT to the middle stage)
(4) they reached the other side stricken with fear (RT to the final stage)
(5) they found themselves surrounded by strangers (RT to the resulting

 Depending on the nature of the relationship between the The main verb
takes its reference time relative to this situation. But this situation is
only partially defined because it lacksdefective in that An important
property of the situation described by a clause is the relationship
the event time and the reference time.
A clause The reference time is introduced by temporal phrases or clauses or
by the
simple past clause in the case of English. Once the reference time is


Moon-Ryul Jung, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Dept of Computer Science
Soongsil University,
Seoul, Korea

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