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Alright, so do you mean... you would like to come up with a better description of the English grammar? A description that is not confusing or contradictory, and that is also compatible with the actual usage of the language?

That has been done already -- there are several descriptive grammar books. If you don't like them because you don't like how they use some of the terminology, then that's a minor problem that can be solved by changing some terms and using other conventions. Is that what you want to do?
rinoceronteNeither you, nor Zeno, nor Martha do not know what the aspects are, what they look like, and what they are for, because you never had the category of aspects in your grammar.
There are many linguists who have written (and are still writing) on this subject. It is still the subject of lots of debate and theory (according to the article in the image below. It was on a paid-for site, so only the first page is accessible, but the abstract gives the gist. It was published in 2002).

Here are a sampling of articles for your reading pleasure.

http://www.tau.ac.il/~landman/files/recent-papers/1066-final%20version.pdf
http://pages.cs.brandeis.edu/~jamesp/classes/cs216-2009/readings2009/Parsons.pdf
http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/verk007aspe01_01/verk007aspe01_01-x.pdf
http://www.people.umass.edu/ebach/papers/ttasp.htm

(missing image)
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KooyeenAlright, so do you mean... you would like to come up with a better description of the English grammar? A description that is not confusing or contradictory, and that is also compatible with the actual usage of the language?That has been done already -- there are several descriptive grammar books. If you don't like them because you don't like how they use some of the terminology, then that's a minor problem that can be solved by changing some terms and using other conventions. Is that what you want to do?
Yes, there is no need in writing more books. The problem, which for me is obvious, can be resolved indeed by changing several terms. After that the system will start self-adjusting and will recover quickly.

The changes:
I. Present Perfect should be changed into Recent-Past Perfect or something like that. It's what it is and has always been (being) all over the world. Actually, the vast majority of the verbs in this tense ARE past for native speakers: I have bought a car; Have you done it already? The exceptions are:

1) it has been hot for 2 hours (meaning, it's still hot). People forget or don't want to use the gerund of the lexical verb "to be" here;
2) I have known him for years. That's obedience to the stative verb rule (as we found out, the obedience existed long before the rule actually was formed by Vendler). The rule was phrased inside out. If you want to use certain verbs only in one aspect (for which I don't see any reasons), it should have been CONTINUOUS tenses for stative verbs, not vice versa;
3) I have lived here for 2 years (meaning, I'm still living here). That's the most dangerous, and represents the example of crooked consequences of misnaming the tense and having two above sentences as models to understand this tense. This sentence is exactly the grammar's gangrene, although I do realize how popular these phrases became in English language.

II. Such terms as Continuous and Progressive should be replaced with their international equivalent - Imperfect. This will give people a quick understanding of weirdness of such notion as Perfect Continuous. It's not perfect, it's imperfect. The Perfect Continuous/Progressive aspect should bear a name of Imperfect Aspect. While what we know as Continuous aspect (tenses), should be called Imperfect Moment aspect. Moment, momentum, momentane, instant... Whatever, but people should see what the principal defference between Perfect Continuous and Continuous is. It's continuity vs. moment: "I had been reading" vs. "I was reading".

III. Past Participle is not past. Actually it's as past as present. The participles should be described over the category of voice, not time.

IV. Stative verbs rule should not be followed. It has no reasons to exist, the only purpose it serves is mangling the grammar even deeper. And the non-native world (i.e., the world that has the category of aspect in its grammar) does not follow this rule, and for reasons.

Actually, that's it.
AlpheccaStarsThere are many linguists who have written (and are still writing) on this subject. It is still the subject of lots of debate and theory (according to the article in the image below. It was on a paid-for site, so only the first page is accessible, but the abstract gives the gist. It was published in 2002). Here are a sampling of articles for your reading pleasure.
Alphecca, thank you for the links.

1. The first one, ON THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TENSE-PERSPECTIVE-ASPECT
SYSTEMS OF ENGLISH AND DUTCH
, has some mysteries in the very title already. The aspect differences between two Germanic languages, which DO NOT have the category of aspects in their grammar officially? Besides, the logical chain Tense-Perspective-Aspect is completely incompresensible by me. Tense can not be on the same level with aspect, being its derivative. I bet, the author confuses tense and time.

The author uses stative verbs rule as a milestone for his further conclusions as to the system of aspects. But this rule is the main and the crookedest CONSEQUENCE of the abcense of the aspects in English grammar. You can't base your aspect theory on stative verbs rule.

Also, this phrase: The present in English is a point of time and not a stretch of time. What present? Only one "present" is a point in time in English language - Present Continuous (Progressive). Simple Present is neither a point, nor a stretch. In fact, it's an exaggerated point, expanded to the borders of the whole life (or some part of it). I speak English. It's as a point, as stretch. It's my whole life (or the bigger part of it). Stretch of time CAN be present in English language: I have been speaking English for two years, a present moment stretched into the past. Stretch of time - that's exactly what imperfect aspect is: I have been speaking...; I had been speaking...; I will have been speaking... It could be as well I spoke, and I will speak, in case if Perfect Continuous tenses represent a problem for a speaker. There are lots of "presents" in English.

2. The second THE PROGRESSIVE IN ENGLISH: EVENTS, STATES AND PROCESSES is interesting for it gives us a starting ground some English linguists approach the aspects from. It's Aristotel with his Event, Process and State verbs classification. Interesting for "event" being indeed the perfect aspect, and "process" being indeed the imperfect aspect. As to the state, I never heard of "state aspect" even in Greek language itself (although, it well may be the lack of my knowledge). If English people value Aristotel's philosophy so much, it would have been very simple and logical to allocate a separate aspect (the column in English Tenses Table) for stative aspect. It was never done. Instead, you decided to render stative verbs through Perfect aspect, which is way less native to stative verbs than Imperfect aspect, in which you forbade the stative verbs. Besides, I don't like author's idea to oppose aspect-determined tenses (Continuous, Perfect and Perfect Continuous) to aspect-indefinite Simple (Indefinite) tenses. If you want to understand the difference between aspects, you should leave Indefinite tenses aside for a while. First you should compare Continuous, Perfect and Perfect Continuous.

The author seems to be getting a correct understanding of Imperfectness, but in heavy and somewhat irrational manner: Mary has built a house... In crude terms, if Mary is now building a house, then it will be true at some time in the future that Mary has built a house. But that is incorrect, for she may never finish... That's exactly the essence of imperfect aspect: we don't know if the action had result or will have a result. We don't care. From my point of view, it can be phrased simpler: Perfect aspect represents a completed action with a result (Aristotel's event); Imperfect aspect represent a resultless (or result-disregardable) process (Aristotel's process). If you want to find some room here for Aristotel's State, I will be more than eager to listen to your ideas, but only given that you have put everything in order with Event (perfect aspect in most world's languages) and Process (imperfect aspect in most world's languages).

3. Aspectual classes and aspectual composition. It's dedicated to Vendler's classification of verbs, which I have nothing against, but which led to the whole mess in English grammar, which I do have a lot against, I have already addressed this issue quite thoroughly.

This phrase, for example, is notable:
Vendler's classification, however, turned out to bear on the linguistic theory of
aspect. Some of his criteria were well known in the literature on the opposition
between the imperfective and perfective aspect in Slavonic languages.


It's a mistake to attribute these two aspects to Slavonic languages only. Romanic languages have THE SAME aspects system, but less developed (Slavonic spread aspects onto all the possible verb's forms, while Romans start disregarding it as early as at the stage of future tenses). But the fact that Roman languages each have two past tenses (where English has only one), means they are as firmly based on aspects as Slavonic languages:

English I finished corresponds to:

French: Je finissais (imperfect); je finis (perfect)
Spanish: Yo acababa (imperfect); yo acabé (perfect)
Portuguese: Eu acabava (imperfect); eu acabei (perfect)
Italian: Io finivo (imperfect); io finii (perfect)
Ukrainian: я закінчував (imperfect); я скінчив (perfect)

Russian: Я заканчивал (imperfect); я закончил (perfect)
etc.

So, since it repeats and admires Vendler approach, I would like not to address this article.

4. On Time, Tense, and Aspect: An Essay in English Metaphysic.
The title sounds intriguing... but I wasn't able to find in the article the simplest of thruths that tense is a product of correlation between time and aspect. Instead I found a brain-twisting things like:

Mary is in New York. (STATE)
John ran (for an hour). (PROCESS)

Mary built a cabin.(PROTRACTED EVENT)

Mary found a unicorn. (INSTANTANEOUS EVENT)

Why Mary's being in New York can't be regarded as a process too? Why not a "protracted event"? How can an event be protracted? If it's protracted, it's not an event anymore, it's a process. Don't you see that by taking the marker "for' out of the sentence, the action immediately starts looking both a process and an event? Don't you agree that "building" can in certain contexts be quite an instantaneous event ("Harry Potter built a new school by a single move of his magic wand"), while "instantaneous" actions can easily be protracted ones ("Did you find the solution? - Yes. - How much did it take you? - More than an instant", "process of finding" - 16 600 000 results in Google).

This approach does not work. Everything is much simpler. The order of the approaches should be reverse: first, conform English aspect system to the international one; second, think, how to reflect the juicy Aristotel ideas in it.

By the way, pay attention to the fact, that the verb 'to finish' in the above example, being a classic "instantaneous' action, IS NOT treated as such by the rest of languages, which can easily imagine it both as an event and as a process (perfect(ive) and imperfect(ive) aspects).
Since i can't find an editing option on this forum, please, don't think that I don't know that plural nouns are not used with indefinite articles. A misprint. Thank you.
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Ok, let's suppose you are right and that all of your theories make sense. What's not clear is the purpose of your theories. How are they going to be useful, and to who? What makes your ideas and explanations more useful than the others?
KooyeenOk, let's suppose you are right and that all of your theories make sense. What's not clear is the purpose of your theories. How are they going to be useful, and to who? What makes your ideas and explanations more useful than the others?
It will simply make English grammar apprehensible. For now it is not such. Note, that I don't insist on changing the practical usage. I think, it will change itself. With these things taken into consideration you simply will be able to explain the grammar notions like that:

"This tense is called Present Perfect. Actually, in Latin, where it came from, and in other languages it's (Recent) Past Perfect. We, the English natives, erroneously decided to call this tense "present", and thus received such common usage forms like "I've known him for years", or "I have lived here for years" (meaning, I still live here). Now it's up to you to decide, whether to consider this tense what it is in the world, or stick to our English erroneous, but firmly rooted version".
rinoceronteFirst I started to raise my brow at English grammar issues when I noticed that there were virtually no theoretical English grammar books on the shelves in the bookshop. Only "Practical Grammar", "Usage of Grammar", etc. Now I know the reason - English grammar theory and English grammar usage are in the state of war.
Hi Rino:
Sorry to disappoint, but there is no "war". There is no "official" English grammar, so such a "war" is a figment. The language simply is too complex to be set out in some finite official rule base and nailed to a door like Luther's 95 theses. You persist in putting our cart (the "grammar") before our horse (the culture which forms it). Even though the horse may be a bit irrational and has some defects, it's the horse we have been given from our heritage; one that we know and love.

As an aside, I wonder why, since you seem so passionate about the subject, you don't pursue a PhD in lingustics. Then you could debate your ideas and publish them within the academic community along with the best of them.

rinoceronteI. Present Perfect should be changed into Recent-Past Perfect or something like that
The grammatical terms in English are based on the most stable of language fixtures - form. The function (actual usage), as you have too well described, is too variable to be reliable. If you wish to invent some terminology that aids in your understanding, that is fine. There are no extant practical means by which we in EnglishForward (or even elsewhere) can effect any change in the traditional definitions, even if we so desired.
rinoceronteThe aspect differences between two Germanic languages, which DO NOT have the category of aspects in their grammar officially?
Computer Scientists have been researching for many years machine production of language; faithful to what a native speaker would produce. The ganeral field is "artificial intelligence" and the sub-field is "natural language." Here is a Computer Science paper investigating the tense and aspect of English verbs.
It is baffling to me that you claim that English has no category of aspect. Are these researchers (and the large number of others in the reference list) pursuing something purely illusionary? If that's the case, perhaps the outcome will literally be vaporware.
http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~delson/pubs/INLG2010-ElsonMcKeown.pdf

Academic study is based on challenging and extending the borders of human knowledge. If there were some finite and concrete rule set inherent in the "basement" of language, such a study would be rapidly completed and put aside for other endeavours. But the state of the art in machine understanding (and translation) is still imperfect, so research is vibrant. Perhaps one day a C-3PO will be created.

I was interested in the Dutch/English comparison because I lived for a while in The Netherlands and became familiar with (but by no means fluent in) its language. The theory that the Norman invasion in 1066 was a point of departure between the two languages is fascinating. English is, and has been, incredibly influenced by historical events - infusions of culture and conquests. England was the crossroads of cultures. The Romans left little linguistic heritage; the faith of Church had far more consequence than the sword of Caesar's. English was seriously threatened by the Danish invasion; the language was rescued single-handedly by Alfred the Great. Otherwise, we would be speaking some derivative of Danish! For a very long time in history, England was a tri-lingual country, and English itself was not one of the official languages. The aristocrats spoke French; the learned and churchmen, Latin. Chaucer's Middle English of his Canterbury Tales illustrates that great confluence of French, Latin, and English. The language aggregated and subsumed its character organically from many other grammars, vocalizations and vocabularies. There was no deliberate steerage whatsoever. To comprehend English forms and grammar, you have to go back to its history.
rinoceronteIV. Stative verbs rule should not be followed. It has no reasons to exist, the only purpose it serves is mangling the grammar even deeper
The coinage "stative verb", according to my Oxford English Dictionary, originates from 1874. It is not a modern invention; the history of the concept goes back a long way. However, understanding which verbs are used statively, and when and why, is elusive. Some verbs are both stative and dynamic, the rendering by a native speaker is (and has long been) an unconscious articulation, learned from childhood. Rational codification of the usage has been a ripe subject for linguistic (philosophical) theory and debate, as evidenced by the publications earlier cited.

Your simplistic solution of "just abolish some 'rules' and change the way we speak" is the epitome of naiveté. It is like asking us to divorce ourselves from our inalienable linguistic history and culture, and sort of "pushing the reset button" instantaneously to the some 400+ million native speakers, plus 600+ million second-language speakers. And what would you propose doing about all the pre-existing English literature, writings, and recordings?

To which I answer:
It jest ain't a-gwine-a happen, nohow, no way.
African American Vernacular is also a stubbornly persistently living, thriving language, despite years of cultural and societal attempts to stamp it out. Language persists in culture; to abandon it or change it artificially would be an impoverishment in some significant sense.
Imposing and dictating a change in the course of a language would be as presumptuous as spitting into a typhoon to change the course of nature's fury.
----------------------

My last quote for you feels distinctly appropro. It's a very old rhyme, originating in the ancient wars and culture clash between the English and Scotts. They learned to live peaceably together, albeit with some compromises:

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a crooked
little house.Emotion: smile
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Hi Alphecca! What a dialogue - thoughtful, constructive, inspiring and mutually respectful. A bow.
AlpheccaStarsSorry to disappoint, but there is no "war".
Within your society, you are right, it's not seen. Once it comes outside, or once it's given a glance from the pinnacle of a third language, the flame starts blazing right away. If you don't like the word "war", try "extreme contradiction".
AlpheccaStarsAs an aside, I wonder why, since you seem so passionate about the subject, you don't pursue a PhD in lingustics.
Where? In Dnipropetrovsk? I don't feel like I have too much time ahead. I will repeat there the same things I'm saying here. What's the difference? Natives are not ready to accept all that or even to listen to it with attention (another bow towards you). Although, if it's Buenos Aires... Maybe I'll give it another thought.
AlpheccaStarsThere are no extant practical means by which we in EnglishForward (or even elsewhere) can effect any change in the traditional definitions, even if we so desired.
But that's more than enough! I have voiced it. You, as well as other keen linguists heard it and will be considering it from now on. It will get better worded, deeper thought, clearer formed. And one day it will be taken into consideration oficially. Maybe not officially. Maybe it will be done gradually. I'm only sure the language needs it, and the corrections I'm talking about, are inevitable.
AlpheccaStarsTo comprehend English forms and grammar, you have to go back to its history.
Bullseye. I bet there is huge room here for researchers. The key moment - the year(s) Past Simple was introduced in. Why did they decide to have just one simple past tense, while other nations decided to have two - for perfect and imperfect actions?
AlpheccaStarsThe coinage "stative verb", according to my Oxford English Dictionary, originates from 1874
In splitting verbs into dynamic and stative there is nothing vicious. The problem is only in forbidding them to be used in imperfect aspect (continuous tenses). Try to tell Spaniards that they should start avoiding phrases like "Yo pensaba", Italians - "Io pensavo", Portugueses - "Eu pensava", Frenchmen - "Je pensais", Ukrainians - "Я думав", Russians - "Я думал", Georgians - "მე ვიფიკრე". The reaction will be unanimous: "WHAAAAAAAAAAAT!?!?!?!?!?! WHY?????". - "Because stative verbs can't be used in imperfect aspect". - "WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!".
AlpheccaStarsAnd what would you propose doing about all the pre-existing English literature, writings, and recordings?
Read them and analyze! It's fun! Do you know, for example, that Arthur Conan Doyle at least in "Hound of Baskerville" uses "will" in conditional clauses all the time: "If you will go...", "If I will do...", etc. Just about 100 years ago. But then someone introduced that "clever" change. Who was he? Why did he do that? What were his reasons?

By the way, what writing are you going to consider standard - the one with "will" (Conan Doyle) or the one without it (Jack London and O'Henry already didn't have "will" in conditional clauses in the beginning of XXth century)?

The changes I'm suggesting, are not painful. Most people will never notice them. The only serious sacrifice will be stopping to use phrases like "I have lived" (meaning an ongoing action). You would have to get back to "I've been living".
AlpheccaStarsThere was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a crooked
little house.
The rhyme is beautiful. Just don't forget that after your language crossed all the borders (and not only language), it has been about crooking all the houses in the neighbourhood, which had been straight before...

Best regards,
AI
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