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date: 20 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Tense and aspect are two important properties pertaining to the way events are viewed in relation to speech time. Chinese lacks “grammaticalized” tense but makes clear aspectual distinctions. Unlike English, Chinese verbs are “tenseless”, i.e., the verb form remains the same no matter when the event happens. Event time may be inferred with an explicit time adverb or aspectual marker, or rely completely on the context for temporal reference. However, two aspectual viewpoints are distinguished: perfective vs. imperfective. For perfective marking, the default perfective le marks an event as actualized, and the experiential guo requires the additional notion of discontinuity. For imperfective aspect, the preverbal progressive zai signals the ongoing of an action; the durative suffix zhe converts a dynamic verb into a durative state. Also discussed is the functional contrast between the perfective le as an aspectual suffix and the sentence-final le as a discourse particle.

Keywords: aspect, perfective le, durative suffix zhe, experiential guo, tense, progressive zai, sentence-final le

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