When (im)perfective is perfect (and when it is not)

Olga Borik


The goal of this paper is to discuss some meaning correspondences (and/or clashes) between the perfective/imperfective aspectual contrast in Russian and various interpretations of a perfect in English. While a detailed comparison between perfect and (im)perfective, even in only two specific languages, is a project that clearly extends beyond all imaginable page limits for a single paper, I hope to demonstrate here some tendencies which might facilitate further (and deeper) theoretical and empirical studies of these two highly debated grammatical categories. In particular, the paper will show that there is a clear split between perfective and imperfective aspect in the non-past tense with respect to expressing perfect meanings and there is also a split between different existential meanings of the perfect in the sense that some of them correspond to the perfective aspect and some of them are only rendered by the imperfective aspect in Russian. Given this empirical picture, one of the theoretical questions that emerges from this study is what kind of repercussions the observed generalizations might have for a (universal) grammatical theory of tense and aspect.


perfect; perfective; aspect; Russian; English

Full Text:



Altshuler, Daniel. 2013. There is no neutral aspect. Proceedings of Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 23: 40-61.

Avanesov, Ruben I. 1982. Istoričeskaja grammatika russkogo jazyka. Moskva: Nauka.

Boogaart, Ronny. 1999. Aspect and Temporal Ordering: A contrastive analysis of Dutch and English. The Hague: Holland Academic Graphics.

Borik, Olga. 2002. Aspect and Reference time. PhD thesis, Utrecht University.

Borik, Olga. 2006. Aspect and Reference time. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Borik, Olga & Gehrke, Berit. to appear. Imperfective past passive participles in Russian. Proceedings of Formal Description of Slavic Languages (FDSL-12). LangSci Press.

Borik, Olga & Reinhart, Tanya. 2004. Telicity and Perfectivity: Two Independent Systems. Proceedings of the Eighth Symposium on Logic and Language (LOLA): 13-34.

Bybee, Joan, Perkins, Revere & Pagliuca, William. 1994. The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Comrie, Bernard. 1976. Aspect. An Introduction to the Study of Verbal Aspect and Related Problems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dowty, David. 1979. Word Meaning and Montague Grammar. Dordrecht: Reidel.

Demirdache, Hamida & Uribe-Etxebarria, Miriam. 2000. The primitives of temporal relations. In Martin, Roger, Michaels, David & Uriagereka, Juan (eds.). Step by Step: Essays on Minimalist Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik, 157-186. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Iatridou, Sabine, Anagnostopoulou, Elena & Izvorski, Roumyana. 2001. Observations about the Form and Meaning of the Perfect. In Kenstowicz, Michael (ed.). Ken Hale. A life in language, 189-238. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Forsyth, James. 1970. A Grammar of Aspect: Usage and Meaning in the Russian verbs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gorškova, Ksenia V. & Haburgaev, Georgy A. 1981. Istoričeskaja grammatika russkogo jazyka. Moskva: Vysšaja škola.

Grønn, Atle. 2003. The Semantics and Pragmatics of the Russian Factual Imperfective. PhD Thesis, Oslo.

Kamp, Hans & Reyle, Uwe. 1993. From Discourse to Logic; Introduction of Model‑theoretic Semantics of Natural Language, Formal Logic and Discourse Representation Theory. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Klein, Wolfgang. 1994. Time in Language. London: Routledge.

Klein, Wolfgang. 1995. A time‑relational analysis of Russian aspect. Language 71‑4: 669‑695.

Knyazev, Juri P. 2007. Grammatičeskaja semantika. Moskva: Jazyki slavyanskix kul’tur.

McCawley, James D. 1971. Tense and time reference in English. In Fillmore, Charles J. & Langedoen, Terence D. (eds.). Studies in Linguistic Semantics, 97-113. New York: Holt, Rinhart and Winston.

McCoard, Robert W. 1978. The English Perfect: Tense Choice and Pragmatic Inferences. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

Mittwoch, Anita. 1988. Aspects of English Aspect: On the Interaction of Perfect, Progressive and Durational Phrases. Linguistics and Philosophy 11: 203-254.

Moser, Amalia. 2003. Tense, Aspect and the Greek Perfect. In Alexiadou, Artemis, Rathert, Monica & von Stechow, Arnim (eds.). Perfect Explorations, 235-252. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Nedjalkov, Vladimir P. 1983. Typology of resultative constructions. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Padučeva, Elena V. 1996. Semantičeskie Issledovanija: Semantika vremeni i vida v russkom jazyke. Semantika narrativa. Moskva: Jazyki russkoj kul’tury.

Pancheva, Roumyana. 2003. The Aspectual Makeup of Perfect Participles and the Interpretations of the Perfect. In Alexiadou, Artemis, Rathert, Monica & von Stechow, Arnim (eds.). Perfect Explorations, 277-306. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Paslawska, Alla & von Stechow, Arnim. 2003. Perfect Readings in Russian. In Alexiadou, Artemis, Rathert, Monica & von Stechow, Arnim (eds.). Perfect Explorations, 307-362. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Reichenbach, Hans. 1947. Elements of Symbolic Logic. London: Collier-MacMillan.

Reinhart, Tanya. 1986. “States, events and reference time”, Lecture given at the MIT Lexicon project.

Reinhart, Tanya. 2000. Reference time. Talk given at Language in Use Symposium, Utrecht.

Schoorlemmer, Maaike. 1995. Participial passive and aspect in Russian. PhD Thesis, Utrecht University.

Smith, Carlota. 1991/1997. The parameter of aspect. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Šaxmatov, Aleksej Aleksandrovič. 1925/1941. Sintaksis russkogo jazyka. Leningrad: Učpedgiz.

Tatevosov, Sergey. 2015. Severing imperfectivity from the verb. In Zybatow, Gerhild; Biskup, Petr; Guhl, Marcel; Hurtig, Claudia; Mueller-Reichau, Olav & Yastrebova, Maria (eds.). Slavic Grammar from a Formal Perspective, 465-494. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Vinogradov, Viktor V. 1947. Russkij jazyk (grammatičeskoe učenie o slove). Moskva: Učpedgiz.

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM
Copyright (c) 2018 Olga Borik