Colorado Research in Linguistics

Document Type

Working Paper


The English Present Perfect (PrP) conveys the notion of perfect aspect in the syntactic representation of an event. However, when aspectual systems are viewed from a cross-linguistic perspective, it is seen that the perfect parameter interacts with a perfective parameter to distinguish several underlying event structures. It is argued that variation along the perfect and perfective parameters in the temporal domain can be explained using cognitive principles that have correlates in the spatial domain. Using this analysis, it is proposed that the PrP is a polysemous form with two possible cognitive representations, sometimes coded differently in languages, and that it combines componentially with other aspectual and tense forms of English. A third cognitive representation is argued to attach to the PrP, but to be a consequence of lexical aspect or a formal perfective component. Finally, no convincing evidence is seen for non-componential (idiomatic) reading of the PrP.



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