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Verbal Aspect

Tamil has a number of verbs, sometimes referred to as `aspectual verbs'They have been referred to by various names: aspectual verbs, aspect markers, aspectual auxiliaries, verbal extensions, post-verbs, intensive verbs, etc. that are added to a main or lexical verb to provide semantic distinctions such as duration, completion, habituality, regularity, continuity, simultaneity, definiteness, expectation of result, remainder of result, current relevance, benefaction, antipathy, and certain other notions.

Researchers have generally found these aspectual verbs difficult to describe in a categorical way, and not until a Annamalai 1981 has any attempt been made to treat aspect in Tamil (or for that matter, any Dravidian language) as a variable component of the grammar. This makes it difficult to give hard and fast statements about aspect in Tamil; we must recognize both the variability of usage, and that aspect is a category that is in the process of grammaticalization, that is, certain verbs are still in the process of becoming grammaticalized in Tamil.

Tamil aspect is a category that is on the road to grammaticalization. Some aspectual verbs are already fully aspectualized, others are partly aspectualized, but some are just getting started. Furthermore aspect is a variable category within the grammar of a given speaker, but is also variable across dialects and idiolects, and between literary Tamil (LT)Most examples given here are from Spoken Tamil rather than LT, but many are quoted from their LT versions given elsewhere. and Spoken Tamil (ST).

Vasu Renganathan
Sat Nov 2 21:16:08 EST 1996