Perfect and pluperfect: what is the relationship?

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    Recent work on tense has investigated the relationship between the perfect and the pluperfect in some detail. In his book on tense Comrie (1985: 78) looks at a wide range of languages and concludes that 'the perfect is... radically different from the absolute-relative tenses [pluperfect and future perfect - RMS], and should not be given a uniform treatment with them'. A similar position is adopted by Dahl in his wide-ranging survey of tense and aspect systems. Dahl (1985: 144) proposes 'to treat the PLUPERFECT as a separate although not necessarily an independent category [from the perfect - RMS]'. Comrie and Dahl give a number of arguments for treating the perfect and the pluperfect quite differently in a cross-linguistic approach to tense.

    In a separate paper, Bouscaren et al. (1982 a), an analysis of the present perfect is proposed within the framework of the theory of Enonciation (cf. Culioli, 1978; Guillemin-Flescher, 1981). Their account, like that of Comrie, denies that there is a straightforward parallel between the present perfect and the pluperfect

    I shall try to show here that the arguments given by Comrie, Dahl (1985), and Bouscaren et al. do not stand up to careful scrutiny. I believe that the differences they bring to light between the perfect and the pluperfect follow from independent considerations. Demonstrating this involves reanalysing a number of issues in the theories of tense and aspect.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-34
    Number of pages34
    JournalJournal of linguistics
    Publication statusPublished - 1989


    • Perfect
    • pluperfect
    • tense


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