External reviewer: Professor Bergljot Behrens, University of Oslo

Abstract

Event conceptualisation and aspect in L2 English and Persian: An application of the Heidelberg-Paris model

The present project investigates the impact of the grammaticalised progressive on event conceptualisation in English and Persian. It applies the Heidelberg–Paris framework using single event descriptions for analysis at the sentence level and story re-narrations at the discourse level. The empirical data test the hypothesis that the progressive has an impact on information selection and discourse structuring in event conceptualisation in terms of infrequent endpoint encodings and language-specific patterns of perspective-taking in structuring discourse. Languages lacking the grammaticalised progressive clearly show different effects.

There are system-based similarities/differences in aspect between English and Persian. They have the progressive in common but differ with respect to the imperfective–perfective distinction. This difference is manifested as an increase in the use of the progressive in English. In contrast, the Persian system with two aspectual non-past forms which are possible for expressions of ongoingness leads to decreased use of the particular dāštan-progressive.

The key finding for the single, motion event descriptions is that the dāštan-progressive in Persian shows less frequent endpoint encodings, like in English, as compared to languages lacking the progressive. However, the imperfective bare mi-form is associated with frequent endpoints while English shows no such association because the progressive must always be used.

In narratives, differences emerge again due to the different typology. When the uses of the progressives in re-narrations are differentiated for clause type, the progressive in English is used equally in main and sub-clauses, though more dominantly in sub-clauses in Persian. These sub-results speak about differences in perspective-taking between these L1s.

The analysis of the complexities involved in aspect establishes that the bare mi-form in Persian can denote ongoingness in cases where the progressive is obligatory in English as it has no optional verb form. Consequently, the typological difference of the absence/presence of the imperfective-perfective categories leads to a significant increase in the use of the progressive in English, which results in a cross-linguistically different, and L1-specific, patterns of perspective-taking in the narrative discourse in English and Persian. Thus, despite the fact that the L1s have the progressive aspect, their principles of use differ as they are dependent on the relevant aspectual system.

Relating the results to linguistic relativity and cross-linguistic influence, the study shows that owing to the grammatical category of the progressive in common, event conceptualisation is similar in English and Persian in terms of infrequent endpoint encodings in single motion event descriptions, despite the overall typological difference. However, L1-related influence on the principles of use of the progressive in L2 English is considerable in the narrative discourse of the advanced L2 users of English as they seemingly proceed from the principles of use in L1 Persian towards those in L1 English.