The toneless aspect mark -guo is generally viewed as a perfective marker with experiential function. It appears to be subject to a number of semantic constraints, such as discontinuity, repeatability or recurrence, reversibility, and indefinite reference. This article demonstrates that ‘experiential’ is only one of the three main local functions of -guo. Crucial to the determination of the local function of a -guo clause is the boundedness of the verb constellation: ‘experiential’ (atelic situation, typically Activity verbs), ‘deresultative’ (telic situation, typically Accomplishment and Achievement verbs), and ‘ex-habitual’ (stative verbs). We will first elucidate these three local functions and clarify various semantic constraints of -guo before examining a small corpus of 300 -guo sentences to ascertain the distribution of its local functions in authentic texts. Then we will analyze how these functions are manifested in other languages. The evidence suggests that -guo is untypical as a perfective marker; rather, cross-linguistically the lexico-grammatical exponents of the experiential, deresultative, and ex-habitual functions suggest that -guo behaves more like a perfect marker, hence the ‘perfective paradox’. This paper is intended to be a contribution to general and contrastive aspectology. Copyright © 2011 John Benjamins Publishing Company.
CitationLi, D. C. S. (2011). ‘Perfective paradox’:A cross-linguistic study of the aspectual functions of -guo in Mandarin Chinese. Chinese Language & Discourse, 2(1), 23-57.
- Contrastive aspectology