The grammatical aspect of the verb

27 07 2012

The grammatical aspect of the verb  is the development of action indicated by a verb. It is referred to as  perfective or imperfective  aspect of a verb. In many languages it is a separate category, in some languages coexists with the category of time.

The Indo-European languages show a gradual trend to abandon the system of aspect in favor of that of time: in particular the greek, from Homeric texts on, presents the consolidation, at least in the indicative tense of the opposition present-past by the use of the augment; on the other hand  it retains,  particularly at the early stage, the distinction between imperfective aspect (made in the present and in the past with the imperfect) and perfective (made with the theme of the aorist, which is usually an indicative projected into the past, but in other ways it is indifferent to the notion of time). It is not exactly a perfect aspect, which initially does not indicate the past, but the status or outcome resulting from action. To this are added the aspectual dual opposition modes of action: inchoative, ingressive, etc. iterative. The comparison allows to attach language to the system to a phase caucasian unitary, in which the determination of the time, such as verbal category, had minor or minimum relief. While some languages, for example Latin language, have almost exclusively time category , the Slavonic languages developed considerably  the aspect category. Systematically opposing the  imperfective aspect to the perfective.

 In Italian the notion of the ‘movement’ can be found in the beginning (starting, ingressive aspect), in its development (travel, walking,  linear or durative or imperfective aspect), or in its termination (to arrive, arrive at, punctual, terminative and perfective or conclusive aspect) etc.. Within the conjugation sometimes  there is a distinction. 

 In Finnish, for example,  the expression of aspect is different, because the verb lacks the formal distinctions of it. The aspectual meanings
depend on the formation of the discourse structure, namely, on the semantic backbone of the utterance (Kangasmaa-Minn, 1984:84; Tommola, 1990).

The opposition of imperfective /perfective aspect for transitive verbs is marked by the alternation of partitive and accusative cases of noun (Kangasmaa-Minn, 1984:84-86; Tommola, 1990:351-353; Nelson, 1998:157-159, etc.).
The noun in partitive or accusative is the direct object in such utterances. So the meaning of imperfective / perfective aspect is manifested by the case alternation of the direct object, e.g., Hän auttoi minua kuivaamaan astioita (partitive):
Hän auttoi minua kuivaamaan astiat (accusative) “He helped me to dry the dishes: He helped me with drying the dishes”
(Tommola, 1990:359). The same opposition of imperfective /perfective aspect is observed in such sentences as Minä pesen autoa (partitive): Minä pesen auton (accusative) “I am washing a car: I have washed the car”; Minä syön kalaa (partitive): Minä syön kalan (accusative) “I am eating a fish: I have eaten the fish”. The finite verb is not directly involved in aspect marking.