The imperfective-perfective contrast in Middle Indo-Aryan

Ashwini Deo


This paper examines the distribution of two morphological paradigms inherited from Old Indo-Aryan in Middle and New Indo-Aryan languages – the Old Indo-Aryan Present (labeled PRES) and the Past Participle (labeled PERF). It is argued that these forms, contra standard assumptions, do not realize the present and past tenses, but rather the imperfective and perfective aspects with no tense specification. This hypothesis provides an explanation for the puzzling occurrences of the Present and the Past Participial forms with past and future reference in Middle Indo-Aryan. It also makes sense of some distributional patterns of these paradigms in New Indo-Aryan. This, in turn, supports the idea that the Middle Indo-Aryan proto-system that gave rise to the New Indo-Aryan languages was an aspect-based system with no present-past distinction.

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