Essays on Time-Based Linguistic Analysis

By Charles-James N. Bailey | Go to book overview

6
What Grammarians Haven't Been Doing Right or Unriddling Analytical Paradoxes

1. Preliminaries

The quite opposed forces of

1a. We shall return (resolve)

and

1b. Shall we return? (a mild suggestion)

are suggestive of much more startling reversals in marked categories and environments to be presented later. An inquiring and systematic mind will look for an explanation of this and other reversals--e.g. why unmarked tag questions reverse the negativity of the inflected verb in the pre-tag. Until W. Mayerthaler ( 1980; 1981; etc.) ground-breaking theory predicting reversals in marked categories and environments, it was not realized that reversals are general and systematic. A marked category in an unmarked environment is unmarked in a marked environment; and vice versa. Double reversals (yielding what look like unreversed phenomena) occur not only in overmarked categories and environments but also when a marked environment and a category which (in it) is marked come together in a form.

It is expected that the thorniest problems of the English verb system--uses of the be gonna posterior1 (including past-posterior was/were gonna), of the be-and

____________________
1
That English has posterior modalities rather than futures is argued on a number of grounds in Bailey ( 1992a: 84). (One can hardly avoid deploring the barbarism used by some writers for one of these posteriors: futurate. The violation of Latinate formational principles is a bit less acute with Jespersen's futuric. Futuritive is still better. Posterior is right, since past-posteriors and posterior- posteriors exist in parallel with present-, past-, and posterior-anteriors and exochronous-anterior modalities.) The English posteriors are listed in the Appendix.

Markering is different from markedness in that the former refers to the perceptible form, while the latter has to do with internal character; what is more-markered has an extra perceptible element or process as compared with what is less-unmarkered. See n. 5. Markedness is not conceptualized in terms of frequency or difficulty; it has got the developmental definition discussed in the Prologue (Ch. 1).

Progressive modalities generally add no markedness to their non-progressive equivalents. However, progressives are marked when serving as variants of exochronous forms-generic uses of stative verbs and in examples like Make sure that they aren't doin' any harm and If/When we're doin' the dishes, . . . Note also the overmarked posteriors exemplified in She'll (She's gonna) be doin' that tomorrow (where even a stative is allowed to be progressive, as in We'll be knowin' about that

-201-

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