Aspectual variation in Lithuanian copular constructions

Rolandas Mikulskas
2015 Lietuvių Kalba  
In this article an attempt is made to pinpoint all possibilities of expressing aspectual meanings in Lithuanian copular constructions. The author departs from the tradition of distinguishing only perfective vs. imperfective aspect in Lithuanian. Instead, in testing various possibilities of expressing aspect in the constructions under discussion, the relevant meanings are chosen from a wider range of aspectual grams established in recent typological work on aspect.Until now the aspect of copular
more » ... e aspect of copular constructions had remained an understudied and underdescribed topic not only in Lithuanian. This is because the main concern of linguists has been with general problems of predication (or identification) in equative structures. Researchers (mainly of the formal persuasion) have based their accounts on copular sentences where the copula "be", more specifically its present tense form, is taken to be the default case. Of course such 'default' copular constructions deliver an unproblematic aspectual meaning, that of imperfective state. Empirically, however, present tense (or zero) copulas are the default instance only in the case of identificational equatives, for identity statements typically assert general truths that are 'timeless' or 'omnitemporal'. As this research has shown, the remaining types of copular constructions have a much wider potential for choosing the desired aspectual meaning. First of all, the functional−structural properties of these constructions and the contexts in which they are used provide much more space for aspect−tense variation in their copular verbs than in the default cases of identificational equatives. Secondly, the aspectual properties of the copular construction can be changed externally by introducing, at clausal level, specialized adverbials or periphrastic aspectual constructions, such as jau 'already', du kartus 'twice', buvo be-tampąs, bet... 'he was about to become, but...' etc.; in this case the aspectual interpretation of the copula is coerced in line with the overall aspectual profile of the construction. Thirdly, the range of aspectual meanings in the copular constructions becomes even wider if we take into account other copulas than "be", viz. those of dynamic or locative origin. The typological research of recent decades in this field (Stassen 1997; Pustet 2003) has shown that cross-linguistically it is not unusual for copulas to be grammaticalized from different lexical sources. One may reasonably suppose that one of the motives for including new lexemes in the class of copulas was the need of expressing relevant aspectual meanings in the predication of identity, i.e. in various types of copular constructions. So languages tend to have, in addition to their main copula, a small number of verbs that can qualify as copulas and that mainly serve the needs of aspectual expression in their constructions. In Lithuanian these copular verbs are tapti, pasidaryti / darytis 'become', virsti 'turn into', likti 'remain'. Depending on their tense and syntactic environment, 'dynamic' copulas can express ingressive, progressive or habitual aspect. The copula likti denotes continuation of the profiled situation, as does the prefixed form tebe-būti (tebe-(nebe-) being the usual marker of (phasal / aspectual) continuative meaning in Lithuanian).In the article due attention is also paid to the aspectual properties of the different types of copular constructions. In his earlier works the author has provided a new classification based on the idea of type instantiation, developed by Ronald Langacker (1991). In the second section of this paper these types are briefly passed in review, but the classification is updated and enriched with new discussion. The main idea behind the new classification is that all types of copular constructions are treated as instantiations of one archetype, that of the identity relation. What distinguishes these constructional types is the syntactic class of their predicative complements (adjective vs. noun) and additionally, in the case of predicative nominals, their referential properties. Before turning, in the fourth section, to a discussion of concrete aspectual meanings as expressed in different types of copular constructions, the author first makes a brief excursion, in the third section, to the typology of strategies for encoding predicatives as defined in Leon Stassen's comprehensive typological study on intransitive predication (1997). This seemed necessary as one may suspect that variation in this domain of morphosyntactic encoding is to a great extent motivated by the need of expressing additional aspectual meanings in the constructions under discussion.
doi:10.15388/lk.2015.22627 fatcat:iofniumfdnhufgxrggyorubufq