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Aspects of the progressive in English and Icelandic

Aspects of the progressive in English and Icelandic

Title: Aspects of the progressive in English and Icelandic
Author: Jóhannsdóttir, Kristín M.   orcid.org/0000-0002-8970-3639
Advisor: Lisa Matthewson
Hotze Rullmann
Date: 2011
Language: English
University/Institute: University of British Columbia
Subject: Merkingarfræði; Málfræði; Enska; Íslenska; Doktorsritgerðir
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11815/727

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This dissertation presents a semantic analysis of the progressive of both English and Icelandic, the only two Germanic languages that generally are considered to have fully grammaticalized progressive constructions. The progressive is an aspectual category where the focus is on a single, dynamic event being in progress at a certain time – the reference time. It is generally considered to be a sub-category of the imperfective aspect, just like the habitual aspect, and one of the descriptions typically given for the progressive is that it cannot have a habitual reading. Similarly, stative predicates are categorized as imperfective but non-progressive. Nevertheless, both habitual sentences and stative predicates occur in the progressive; they then appear to have a slightly different meaning from the one they have when they occur in the simple past/present. I argue that the subtle meaning difference between progressive and non-progressive statives and habituals is in fact an implicature. Stative verbs are shifted to being events in order to take on one or more of the prototypical eventive properties, and as events they can occur in the progressive. In such cases they usually imply dynamicity, control and/or temporariness. Habituals are essentially stative so when they occur in the progressive they too have been shifted to events, resulting in the same implicature of prototypical eventive properties, particularly temporariness. We then get the reading that the habit is temporary and it contrasts with the simple past/present that picks out a more general habit. Additionally I investigate another way to indicate that a series of events is in progress, namely the present participle progressive in Icelandic, which is a progressive construction with a presupposition for pluractionality. It usually occurs with iterative adverbials, in particular adverbs of quantity, which give additional information on the frequency of the series of events.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of doctor of philosophy in the faculty of graduate studies, linguistics, the University of British Columbia, Vancouver

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