Tense, aspect and relevance
The main aim of this thesis is to consider some consequences of the relevance theory of Sperber and Wilson (1986) for explaining a number of phenomena relating to verbal aspect. Chapter one introduces some basic notions relating to aspect and illustrates the interaction of aspect and tense and gives an outline of the main tenets of relevance theory. Chapter two considers the aspectual categories (simple-progressive) of English and (perfective-imperfective) of Serbo- Croat in relation to each other, and also in relation to the the classification of verbs according to the situation types they denote. Problems of defining the aspectual categories of these two languages are examined, and the suggestion is put forward that relevance theory provides the framework which makes it possible to maintain a fairly austere semantics of aspectual categories as well as to explain aspectual choice. Chapter three examines the treatment of aspectual categories in terms of subjectivity. It is argued that speakers' intuitions about the aspectual categories being expressive of subjectivity can be explained pragmatically, in terms of the notions of loose use and interpretive use. In Chapter four, I argue that in addition to the feature of completion, the semantics of aspectual categories of both English and Serbo-Croat needs to be characterised in terms of reference to particular events instantiating the property denoted by the predicate. I show how this assumption makes it possible to explain a number of uses of the English progressive. I then proceed to argue that the progressive of English and the perfective of Serbo-Croat differ with regard to completion but that they both point indexically, as it were, to a particular event instantiating the property denoted by the predicate. This assumption is shown to be crucial in explaining aspectual choice in the two languages. Although the data discussed are drawn solely from English and Serbo-Croat, the central ideas presented should carry over to Slavonic languages in general. Chapter five looks at situation type aspect in the light of Sperber and Wilson's (1986) view that conceptual information is stored in three types of entries. It is shown that the difference in the behaviour of verbs which intuitively seems to correlate with dynamicness and stativity, is best explained in terms of a three-way distinction determined by meaning postulate-like rules in the logical entries of concepts for individual verbs. I also give evidence in support of the view that accomplishment VPs fall into two classes depending on whether or not they grammaticalise completion, and I show that the grammaticalisation of completion in some predicates of this type is pragmatically explained.