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LINGUIST List 23.2309

Mon May 14 2012

Diss: Scottish Gaelic/Lang Documentation/Semantics: Reed: 'The Semantics of Grammatical Aspect: Evidence from Scottish Gaelic'

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Date: 13-May-2012
From: Sylvia Reed <slreedemail.arizona.edu>
Subject: The Semantics of Grammatical Aspect: Evidence from Scottish Gaelic
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Institution: University of Arizona
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Sylvia L. Reed

Dissertation Title: The Semantics of Grammatical Aspect: Evidence from Scottish Gaelic

Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation

Subject Language(s): Gaelic, Scottish (gla)

Dissertation Director:
Heidi Harley
Andrew Carnie

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation presents a theory of grammatical aspect in which perfects
and prospectives form a sub-group separate from perfectives and
imperfectives. I claim that aspects in this sub-group display a number of
similar semantic and syntactic behaviors because of the way in which they
relate event and reference times. While perfectives and imperfectives
situate these times in inclusion relations, perfects and prospectives
separate event time from reference time. This effectively creates an
interval, homogeneous with respect to the eventuality, that can be
interpreted as a state. The separation of the times in these aspects also
means that modification of the interval between these times is possible, as
is modification by adverbials like 'since' that cannot occur with other

These claims are supported by the morphosyntax and semantics of aspect
particles in Scottish Gaelic, with additional data from English. I
investigate six particles in Scottish Gaelic, focusing on four I claim to
mark various aspects and one I claim to be simply a preposition. I argue
that in addition to two inclusion aspects, perfective and imperfective
(expressed via a synthetic form and by 'a'', respectively), Scottish Gaelic
shows four distinctions of precedence aspect--two retrospective ('air', 'as
dèidh') and two prospective ('gu', 'a' dol do'). I provide a
neo-Reichenbachian analysis of these particles within event semantics. In
each case, the particle is an instantiation of an Aspect head that
existentially quantifies over an event and places its runtime in a relation
to reference time. I also argue that the particle 'ann', which seems to
appear with both verbal and nominal material, is not an aspect particle but
a preposition. Its appearance in the same linear position as the aspect
particles belies its distinct syntactic structure.

Overall, the data indicate the benefit of a view of grammatical aspect in
which the basic time relations of reference time within, before, and after
event time delineate groups of aspects rather than individual distinctions.
This view of aspect is a more cohesive alternative to one in which aspects
that may actually be very similar are taken to exist in separate categories.

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