ABSTRACT

The basic reason for the recognition of aspectual categories seems to be the contrast which is recognizable in so many languages, however diversely it is manifested, between what may be seen as punctual or undivided as opposed to what is extensive or durative, whether in time or space. 1 Distinctions are perhaps most easily grasped from a temporal viewpoint in accordance with which a threefold set of stages or phases of uninterrupted acts, activities, events, processes, and states may be singled out and labelled the inceptive or beginning phrase, the progressive or continuing phase, and the terminative or ending phase. Interrupted and resumed acts, activities, etc. may be termed iterative. "Habitualness" is a category often recognized in grammatical literature but it does not seem necessary in general terms to distinguish it from iterativity. (See, however, 3.9.6.)Durativeness is not only progressive but also, for example, perfect (as in "He is wearing his new suit", i.e. having put on his new suit, he is still in the state of having done so), cognitive ("He knows his French"), timeless or gnomic ("The earth travels round the sun"), etc. Such enduring states are seen from varying standpoints of changelessness. The grammatico-semantic representation of events and processes as indivisible and without extent is non-aspectual; at least as far as Arabic is concerned, aspect is a matter of duration, of (spatio-) temporal continuity and flow, and interruptions thereto. As such it contrasts with its locative counterpart, tense, and it is to this contrast that we shall first turn. For the time being, suffice it to say that the language especially grammaticalizes stative (in particular, perfect (participial) state), aspects progressive, and habitual (/iterative). Although other aspectual categories to which we refer are regularly discernible, it is to those just mentioned that we shall perforce devote most of our attention.