Marking time with the passà composÃ: Toward a theory of the perfect

Linda R. Waugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


In this paper, it is claimed that PC is a unitary, but complex category. It is shown that in analyzing PC, four temporal elements must be used: the deictic zero point, the time of the auxiliary, the time of the participle, and the time of focus. Given these, there are two different formulations for PC, one based on its affinity with the simple tense-aspects (PC-1), the other based on its relation to the compound tense-aspects (PC-2). The relevance of both of these is shown through the history of PC and the existence of the passà surcomposÃ. Evidence is also brought from iconicity (compositionality). All of this demonstrates that PC-1 and PC-2 are two endpoints of a continuum with many transitional uses in between. Various examples of these transitional types are given. Thus, it is concluded that PC evidences a dynamic counterbalance between polysemy on the one hand and general meaning on the other hand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-47
Number of pages47
JournalLingvisticae Investigationes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language


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