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"Vivid narrative use" and the meaning of the present perfect in spoken Australian English (1).


This article examines the use of the present perfect (PP) in Australian English using a corpus of stories told during radio chat-show programs and news reports. We find that the PP is used (i) as a narrative tense in spoken texts both with and without narrative present (NarPres); (ii) in sequences of clauses expressing temporal progression; and (iii) with some definite temporal adverbials denoting past time. Such uses are either unusual or unacceptable in other English varieties. A systematic comparison of contexts where NarPres and narrative PP are used in oral narratives reveals that the PP replaces the NarPres predominantly with verbs denoting events. Usage in news reports, where the narrative interpretation is not possible, suggests that a temporal ambiguity exists in the current interpretation of PP sentences. Analysis of lexical aspect shows that the majority of verbs used in the narrative PP are both durative and contain a process part, a fact that helps explain the sense of vividness achieved. At the discourse level, use of the PP enables the speaker to present situations as tightly connected. Such extensions in usage show a possible path for change for a category that is known to be historically unstable in its meaning

1. Introduction

English would be richer if this were possible [to say *they've come last Monday], for as it is, we cannot in a single phrase combine the two pieces of information about (i) their arrival at a specific time in the past and (ii) the current relevance of this. (Palmer 1968: 75, cited in McCoard 1978: 68)

In this article, we explore the use of the present perfect (PP) in Australian English, a variety that has become "richer" in Palmer's sense, as the present perfect (PP) is being used in contexts where other varieties of English would prefer a simple past (SP). Our data includes PP usage (i) as a narrative tense in spoken texts both with and without narrative present (NarPres); (ii) in sequences of clauses expressing temporal progression; (iii) with some definite temporal adverbials (including adverbial clauses) denoting past time.

While we find use of the SP or the NarPres in all the above contexts in other English varieties, use of the PP is not normally considered acceptable in (ii) and (iii) and is unusual in (i) without NarPres. The present article explores such uses in detail, arguing that they have arisen out of widespread narrative usage of the PP leading to ambiguities in the interpretation of sentences that contain it. To make the case and to better reveal the semantics of the PP in Australian English, we make explicit comparison between the NarPres and PP in narrative uses, comparing their distribution with adverbs and in sequences expressing temporal progression. We also examine narrative uses of the PP in relation to lexical aspect, and find that the greatest majority of verbs contain a process part (i.e., they are either activities or accomplishments). Analysis of such verb types in the PP in discourse enables us to show how a "vivid narrative" effect comes about. Ultimately, this investigation of temporal and aspectual characteristics of the Australian PP allows us to propose an explanation for its current uses.

We have used the term "vivid narrative use" to describe devices that are intended to locate hearers in a virtual present or to make them virtual observers of a virtual present speech event. Indeed, many of our examples come from chat-show programs on the radio: while the radio as a medium is limited in that it cannot replay an action or situation in front of our eyes, narrative recounts in the context of a chat-show program often strive to achieve a "verbal replay". As performers are keen to achieve an effect, they are hence more likely to make use of devices that attract and sustain their listeners' attention. The performers here include both radio presenters and members of the public who phoned the radio stations to tell their stories.

Our discussion will also (but to a lesser extent) include examples that have been taken from radio news bulletins and police media releases, where we expect a type of language that is more carefully planned (sharing features with both written and spoken language; see Engel 1999 for a discussion), and spoken quotes transcribed in newspaper articles.

Before examining examples taken from these different sources, we start, in Section 2, by briefly reviewing theories that have proposed a representation of the meaning of the standard (British) English PP as well as research that has addressed the question of the differences between the PP and perfects in other European languages. The latter has led to some possible explanations for the variety of uses that can be found across languages, and to theories addressing the question of the historical evolution of perfects. All this is relevant for the phenomenon we are investigating.

Section 3 presents a temporal analysis of the different uses of the Australian PP: in Section 3.1, we start with an overview of the distribution of tenses in our narratives corpus; in Section 3.2, we present a set of examples all illustrating narrative usage of the PP, and progressively departing from conventional usage; in Section 3.3, we look at PP usage in sequences expressing temporal progression with and without explicit marking of such progression; in Section 3.4, we discuss the use of the PP in temporal clauses, and some combinations with past locating adverbs. All these contexts reveal an extension in the range of uses of the PP. In Section 4, we examine the significant role played by lexical aspect in the phenomenon under investigation, and show how both temporal and aspectual factors combine to produce the effect intended by speakers. We conclude with an analysis of a slightly longer text to discuss the role played by other tenses and contextual elements in relation to narrative PP usage.

2. The semantics and pragmatics of perfects

Before presenting our Australian data, it will be useful to review theories that have proposed representations of the meaning of perfects in English and in other languages. We will briefly review the relevant literature here.

Early research on the English PP ascribes four different meanings to it (McCawley 1971, 1981; Comrie 1976): (i) The universal perfect or perfect of "persistent situation" (as in I have lived here for ten years); (ii) the existential or experiential perfect (as in John has been to Alice Springs); (iii) the perfect of result or stative perfect (as in Joanne has gone out); (iv) The perfect of recent past or "hot news" perfect (as in I've just spoken to James: he will come to the party).

Theories were developed in order to give a representation of the perfect that could include all these types (see McCoard [1978] and Binnick [1991] for detailed presentations of these theories).

Current theories are still divided as to how the PP should be best represented: Reichenbach's (1947) analysis is still considered useful in capturing the unique meaning of the PP, especially as it contrasts with simple tenses. In this framework, the PP is differentiated from the simple past (SP) and the present on the basis of the position of the event time (E), the reference time (R) and the speech time (S) on the temporal axis. In the case of the PP, E precedes R and S which are cotemporal (E-R,S), whereas in the case of the SP, E and R are cotemporal and precede S (E,R-S) and in the case of the present all three points are cotemporal (E,R,S).

More recent unified analyses of the Standard English PP have included further aspectual information while building on the idea that the PP expresses the "current relevance" (see Comrie 1976) of a past situation: these represent PP sentences as denoting a post-state which follows a past event. The post-state goes up to and includes the moment of speech. Moens (1987) and Moens and Steedman (1989) call this post-state a "consequent" state, Parsons (1990) and Kamp and Reyle (1993) a "result" state. Although his analysis is somewhat different, Klein (1992, 2000) talks about a "post-time" (we return to Klein's analysis in more detail below). From yet a different perspective, Portner (2003) proposes that the PP be semantically characterized, following Reichenbach, as denoting an eventuality that is dissociated from its reference time like other perfects. From a pragmatic perspective, on the other hand, a PP sentence is regarded as presupposing that the eventuality it describes is in the "Extended-Now" established by the context; it also introduces a "modal presupposition", that is, it presupposes a relation of epistemic necessity between the general question that is debated in the discourse (i.e., the topic), and its answer (Portner 2003: 500).

Others, however, have argued that no unified analysis can predict the range of uses and meanings of the PP which is thus considered to be ambiguous. Sandstrom (1993) argues for two different analyses depending on whether the VP used in the PP sentence denotes a state or an event. Declerck (1991) considers that PP sentences can have an indefinite or a continuative interpretation: in the former case, the situation denoted by the sentence does not go up to the time of utterance, whereas in the latter it includes it.

A full discussion of arguments supporting the differing views presented above is well beyond the scope of the present article, but we agree with the view that the so-called universal reading of the perfect only obtains when states are used in combination with durative adverbials, as in Jaanne has lived in Adelaide far ten years, where the state denoted by the VP can be viewed as overlapping the reference time. We follow here Bauer (1970), Dowty (1979) and more recently Portner (2003) who have argued that the behavior of states in the perfect is not different from their behavior in other contexts, and therefore that no ambiguity should be attributed to the perfect in these cases.

The question of whether the perfect denotes a completed event, and whether it is an aspect as well as a tense, has attracted very different views. At one extreme, Huddleston (1988: 77) argues that "Perfect aspectual meaning involves a situation resulting from the completion of an earlier situation ..." At another, McCoard (1978: 11) emphatically states: " ... we shall not refer to the perfect as an aspectual category: in this book, the perfect is not a marker of aspect." [emphasis in the original]. McCoard (1978:11) argues that "the 'completion' reading of a perfect is really borrowed from outside ... , " that is, from languages with a true aspectual opposition between a perfect and a "nonperfect" category.

Here, we will assume as a starting point that verbs denoting events, and in some cases states too, signal to the hearer that the eventuality in question has reached its culmination or final boundary (depending on whether the VP is telic or not). We will however discuss this point again in Section 4.

A puzzling feature of the PP in standard English that distinguishes it from its equivalent in other Germanic and in Romance languages is that combinations with definite past adverbials are not considered to be grammatical (Klein's [1992] "present perfect puzzle"). This constraint is also a peculiarity of the present form of the perfect specifically, and does not apply to past perfect and future perfect sentences, which can have two readings, as exemplified by (1a)-(2b):

(1) a. Jo had (already) left her office (when I arrived/at six). b. Jo had left her office at six and had arrived home at seven.

(2) a. Jo will have (already) left her office (when I arrive/at six). b. Jo will have left her office at six and will have arrived home at seven.

Binnick (1991) points out that PP sentences exhibit the same ambiguity: an "anterior" reading can be obtained in cases where the PP is combined with past adverbs (which are permitted as long as they are not definite; e.g., adverbs of recency like just, adverbs like before, used with experiential PPs); a "permansive" reading can be obtained in examples like Jo has left, where the situation of Jo having left is still in force at S. The only difference is that no DEFINITE adverbials are permitted with the PP. So how can we explain this somewhat odd behavior of English perfects?

Klein (1992) offers a pragmatic explanation for it, starting with the observation that past and future perfect sentences cannot be modified by two definite adverbials, as shown for instance by (3):

(3) ?At six Jo had left at three.

Indeed, (3) implies that there may be other times than six o'clock where Jo had left at another time than three. Such an interpretation is pragmatically odd as "the explicit specification of time span only makes sense if some other possible time spans are thereby excluded" (Klein 1992: 544). Returning now to PP sentences, the same pragmatic principle applies: PP sentences say something about the time of utterance (TU), not the time of situation (Tsit), and Klein introduces the notion of topic time (TT) to capture this distinction, defining it as " ... the time span to which the claim made on a given occasion is constrained." (Klein 1992: 535). Thus, sentences in the SP have their TT at Tsit, whereas sentences in the PP have their TT including the TU. Moreover, the TT for PP sentences has a definite position on the time axis (and this is also the case for the present tense). It is therefore odd to make a claim about the definite "presentness" of a situation while locating it in the past in a definite fashion at the same time. This explains the unacceptability of (3) as well as PP sentences such as John has arrived yesterday. The concept of topic time will be useful to us when we consider further comparisons between present and present perfect in Section 3.

The adverbial constraint that governs usage of the PP in English does not apply to equivalent perfect constructions in a number of other European languages (in both the Germanic and Romance families). Vet (1992) views the variety across such languages in terms of a historical progression that moves from the more conservative English PP to the Dutch voltooid tegenwoordige tijd (VTT) and finally to the French passe compose (PC), which is the most innovating of the three languages considered. In Dutch, past definite adverbials are allowed with the VTT but relation with other events is not permitted (and thus we do not find the VTT used to express narrative progression). In French, both are possible. The view here is that a true perfect changes to assume the functions of a past perfective.

Schwenter (1994) looks at varieties of South American and Peninsular Spanish, the former being more conservative with respect to the use of the perfect construction. What distinguishes the two sets of varieties is that in the latter the PP is used as a hodiernal past. Schwenter proposes that it is the increased use of the "hot news" perfect that ultimately leads to this extension. He argues that overuse of the perfect in hot news contexts has led hearers to reanalyze the form as simply marking recency.

His explanation is that the hot news perfect is different from other types of perfects because the link that is otherwise established with the time of speech "is more tenuous" and thus the past situation is presented "for its own sake and not in relation to another situation" (Schwenter 1994: 1003). This use makes the Peninsular Spanish present form of the perfect more similar to a past perfective. Schwenter also comments on the use of the PP in English, and notes differences between dialects (American English being more conservative than Scottish English); (2) he adds that the "British English Perfect has not, however, assumed the more grammaticalized hodiernal past perfective functions that its Peninsular Spanish counterpart has" (Schwenter 1994: 1019). We will see that the situation is different in Australian English, although narrative, rather than hodiernal functions seem to be the driving force behind the extensions observed in the use of the PP in this variety.

Thus perfects form a rather unstable category and tend to change over time. The result of such change has often been considered to result in an ambiguous category. The French PC for example is analyzed by most scholars as having two meanings, that of a perfect and that of a past perfective. While we do not dispute this view, we will be interested here in approaches that have given a unified representation of various stages of development of perfects, exemplified by language specific categories, as they will be pertinent to our discussion of Australian English examples.

De Swart and Molendijk (2000) argue for a unified representation of the PC and consider that a common basic representation of perfects in English, Dutch and French is adequate. Their argument can be summarized as follows: E-R,S (following Reichenbach) can be used to represent present perfects in the three languages considered. In English, we have additional constraints: (i) E cannot be in a temporal relation with a moment other than R or S, or (ii) with another event. The latter is the only constraint in operation for the Dutch VTT, and none of the constraints apply to the French PC.

With respect to the use of the PC in narrative, the analysis de Swart and Molendijk propose suggests that S and R move together: they argue that two consecutive PC sentences do not necessarily express narrative progression. The eventualities these sentences refer to can overlap, be related in a temporally indeterminate way or be interpreted as having occurred in the reverse order to that in which they are presented in the narrative sequence. What enables the hearer/reader to infer a certain order for the two eventualities is not the PC itself but rather other information such as that given by adverbials, the meaning of the VPs, rhetorical relations and world knowledge. Thus, according to de Swart and Molendijk (2000: 1), the PC has become a "temps verbal [...] temporellement neutre" (a verbal tense that is temporally neutral) (see also Ritz [2002] for arguments in favor of a unified representation of the PC).

Klein (2000) also proposes a uniform analysis of the meaning of the German Perfekt, which like the PC and the VTT can correspond to both an English PP and a SP. For Klein, there are two possible readings of a sentence in the Perfekt, but these readings are simply a consequence of a structural ambiguity: all sentences in the Perfekt have their TT either including or following the TU (noted [FIN.sub.0]), but never preceding it; they all involve the application of a temporal operator POST, whose function is "to assign post-times to the interval to which it is applied" (Klein 2000: 369). The difference between the two readings then comes from the properties of the interval to which POST is applied: (i) POST can be applied to the entire sentence, for instance with the form [SUBJ PRED], we obtain a new sentence, [POST [SUBJ PRED]]; (ii) or POST can be applied only to the VP, in which case the resulting sentence basis is [SUBJ POST PRED]. Thus, to take Klein's example, the sentence whose base form is der Stuhl umkipp ('the chair topple over'), we can interpret its Perfekt form as referring (i) to the post-time of the whole event (the chair having toppled over), or (ii) to the post-time of toppling over as applied to the chair. If the chair does not exist any longer (e.g., it has been burnt), then the only available interpretation is (i). The difference in the case of the English PP is that only (ii) is possible and, in the context just described where the chair has been burnt, we have to use the SP. This analysis enables Klein to retain a representation where S is the TT for Perfekt sentences containing a past locating adverb. It will be useful to keep this analysis in mind when we consider similar combinations in our Australian data in Section 3.2.2.

In conclusion, perfects in European languages have developed in different ways, and are all used to varying degrees in contexts where English uses a SP. In Reichenbach's framework, SP has R at E, leading to a possible analysis of these perfects as being ambiguous between two readings, one where R is at S and one where R is at E. However, as we have seen, some analyses have led to more unified representations of these perfects and to the view that R is at S in all instances of use. With regard to standard uses of the English PP, several important features characterizing its meaning and use have been identified:

(i) a PP sentence is not about the situation referred to by the VP itself; rather, it is about what lies after this situation; (3)

(ii) the time referred to, or time under discussion includes S;

(iii) combinations with definite past adverbials are not considered to be grammatical in standard British English;

(iv) the standard PP is not normally used in sequences of clauses expressing temporal progression.

The characteristics summarized under (i)-(iv), however, are of a rulebased nature and paint a simplistic picture of a reality that is far more complex and much less clear-cut. While it is important to describe what we take as "standard" usage in a way that captures the meaning of a linguistic category in a general fashion, the notion of standard itself is problematic, particularly with regard to English and its varieties. First, it is well known that PP usage differs across English varieties. (a well-studied contrast is that between American and British English; see for example Vanneck (1958), Labov and Waletzky (1967), Duskova (1967), Gathercole (1986), Meyer (1995), Elsness (1997), Biber et al. (1999), Schluter (2000) who all found less frequent usage of PP in American English than in British English as well as a different functional load in the two varieties).

Second, studies that have examined PP usage in varieties such as British English and American English, may give the impression that each of these standards is a monolith, rather than just one of many social and regional varieties used within a particular geographical space. The overwhelming majority of studies are based on a norm approximating a national standard. Even those studies based on corpora (4), while acknowledging differences in register, style and medium, do not tend to discuss regional or social variation within the national boundaries.

In British English, examples of combinations of PP with past adverbials have been noted, although they have been considered to be rare enough not to be of significance (see, for example, Trudgill (1978: 13), or Fryd (1998), who provides written and spoken media examples). Other nonstandard uses of the PP such as in radio football commentaries, aftermatch discussions on radio, radio news reports, and newspaper football reports have recently been noticed as well, although no systematic investigation of such usage has been carried out, as far as we are aware. In a newspaper editorial, McKie (2002) refers to these instances as exemplifying what he calls "the re-enactment perfect" and is worried that "the practice may spread". (5) Such concern is not new, as generally speakers display negative attitudes to change, considering it to betray "sloppiness" or "bad/ungrammatical usage". While we won't attempt here to predict the fate of the PP in any variety of English, the above comments serve to illustrate the fact that it is indeed difficult to characterize the meaning of Tim English PP in a way that is both formally precise and descriptively adequate. Linguistic change is continuous and not homogeneous-indeed, at any particular time, one may observe different "stages" of evolution of a given category in different speech communities where the same language is spoken, or across different media, styles or registers. Nonetheless, the characteristics summarized in (i)-(iv) above give us some basis for understanding some of the constraints governing standard usage of the PP in some (perhaps idealized) British English variety.

The literature covered in this section also shows that a great deal of the discussion concerning both the meaning and the evolution of perfects has revolved around comparisons between SP and PP (or their equivalents in different languages). What has been less often explored, it seems, is the relation between PP and the present. Yet, all theories acknowledge the importance of the link between event and speech time in the case of PP sentences. It is this latter relation that will be of chief interest in this article, as the Australian data we have collected so far suggests that the PP is at least as much a rival to the present as it is to the SP. We will return to the semantics and pragmatics of the PP while discussing our Australian examples, and we turn to these now.

3. The PP in Australian English

Before we examine examples in more detail, it is important to describe our corpus and give an overall view of our findings. Our spoken corpus was extracted from a total of 33 hours of radio recordings. There were two main periods of data collection, January-March 2000 and January-February 2004, although a few items were collected outside these periods. Table 1 gives an overview of the part of our transcribed corpus containing nonstandard instances of PP.

Our examples come from two types of radio stations: national and local. These stations also represent commercial and noncommercial varieties. More specifically, Triple J Radio Sydney, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation youth station, represents the national, noncommercial type. It is a station aimed at young people (15-30) and is alternative rather than popular. It generally promotes Australia and Australian values. It is considered to be an intelligent station, with programs that are not conventional or conservative. In terms of the social class it is aiming at, it is the middle class. Because it targets young people, its style is very informal. The other radio stations (96FM, 92.9FM, 94.5FM, and Nova radio station) are locally based in Perth, Western Australia and are all commercial radio stations. They aim at a wider range in terms of age in terms of class too: working class and middle class, both educated and uneducated.

We now turn to overall findings showing the relative proportion of tenses used to relate past events in narratives.(6)

As Table 2 shows, the SP is the most frequently used tense in narratives, with 57.7% of verbs relating past eventualities in this tense. Interestingly, the percentage of verbs in the PP is substantially higher than that of verbs in the narrative present, and in particular, vivid narrative usage of the PP is more frequent than usage of narrative present (21.7% and 12.6% respectively, in other words, instances of narrative PP represent 63.3% of the total number of instances of verbs in the narrative present and narrative PP combined). The percentage of verbs in the narrative PP out of all verbs in the PP amounts to 79.2%, that is, more than two thirds of verbs in the PP are used in a narrative sense in the stories told by radio presenters and members of the public on air.

A closer look at NarPres usage shows that 71% of instances of VPs in this tense denote a state (42.6% a progressive state, and 28.4% a nonprogressive state, the latter chiefly involving use of the copula be). Examples (4)-(6) illustrate these different types:

(4) HE'S STANDING right behind me. He's walked in ...

(5) IT'S quite a hot day and he's come out of the shed a few hours later

(6) ... everybody just JUMPS OUT the side ...

While verbs in narrative present in he's standing, and it's a hot day in (4) and (5) respectively refer to a state describing the background, the verb used in (6), jumps out, foregrounds the event (see, e.g., Vetters 1992). Given the predominance of NarPres usage as exemplified in (4) and (5) in our corpus, these figures suggest that it is the type exemplified by (6) that is being replaced by the narrative PP. We take a closer look at the types of events represented by PP verb phrases in Section 4.

Some tenses are not represented in Table 2 as they did not relate past eventualities. Such tenses include generic present (typically used to convey some evaluation made by the speaker) and near future (although near future in a past context can also be considered a narrative tense, we have not included it here as the number of instances was quite small, and futurity was not the concern of the present analysis).

Examples of standard use of the PP included comments made by the speaker (as in I think I'VE SAID this before), generally sentences where the topic time was clearly the time of speech (for example: no he [the speaker's dog] HASN'T QUITE PICKED UP all the subtleties of the game "'go fetch" yet, he's getting there) and PP usage in reported speech (for instance: so he'd go "Darryl, I HAVEN'T MET you, pick a card").

We now turn to the analysis of specific examples. Although it is perhaps difficult to separate temporal information from aspectual features of verbs, we address each in turn before discussing how the combination of both creates the vivid effect we are investigating.

3.1. Narrative uses: temporal analysis

In this section, we present a set of examples that illustrate progressively more marked usage of the PP, and discuss each in turn. We have used Klein's terminology (introduced in Section 2) to describe the temporal characteristics of verb forms here as the pragmatic notion of "topic time", or "time under discussion" is well suited to our examples and reflects more transparently the prominence given to the present in instances of narrative PP usage.

To begin, the following example, where a body painter describes a past experience, illustrates "standard" narrative usage:

(7) I did a friend the other day for a CD cover. He was to be all blue. So he's standing there in his shorts and I'VE DONE him, even inside his ears.

(The Weekend Australian magazine, 19.8.00)

The first two clauses make it clear that the situation described is past. The third clause uses a NarPres: the TT, is to be interpreted as being at TU and is included in the progressive state denoted by the VP. The fourth clause in the PP is conjoined to the third, and uses the same TT. We find a number of similar instances of narrative use of the PP in stories told on radio chat shows, as the next example illustrates. As mentioned above, such uses have the effect of drawing the listener in:

(8) I looked over my shoulder, he's standing fight behind me. He's WALKED in, y'know the doors that separate the classrooms, he's COME in the one behind me, they all started laughing. (Triple J radio Sydney, 28.2.00)

Again, in this example a clause in the NarPres follows a clause in the SP before a narrative PP is used. Of course, there is nothing unusual about these uses apart from the fact that--just as with the NarPres--they are characteristic of informal, conversational speech. What is noteworthy however is the number of examples in our corpus that make use of this effect in contexts where speakers of other varieties of English might use a present tense rather than a PP. The following extract describing autograph signing (also used in Engel and Ritz 2000: 134) illustrates the point:

(9) a. I'd done enough and she said, "can you sign this" and I said, "oh, okay, one final signing, I promise, and will you go away?" And she said, "yeah, yeah." So I'VE GOT a texta, (7) I'VE HELD her head straight and I'VE WRITTEN on her forehead, "Hi Mum, I've tried drugs for the first time." (Triple J radio Sydney, 29.2.00)

Compare with what is a plausible paraphrase making use, instead, of the NarPres:

(9) b. I'd done enough and she said, "can you sign this" and I said, "oh, okay, one final signing, I promise, and will you go away?" And she said "yeah, yeah." So I GET a texta, I HOLD her head straight and I WRITE on her forehead, "Hi Mum, I've tried drugs for the first time."

Comparing (9a) and (9b) we see that the narrative effect is essentially similar in cases where a NarPres and a narrative PP are used. In (9a), the PP clause is not preceded by a clause in the NarPres (thus contrasting with the pattern in (7) and (8) above) and this feels a bit odd in a past context, especially if it is part of a sequence where narrative progression is expressed. Perhaps where NarPres is used, it signals that we are going to talk about the past in a more vivid way, so a following PP is not so strange. However, if a PP follows a SP directly, it brings the PP/SP contrast to the fore rather than signaling a more vivid style. This is even more obvious when the SP and PP clauses are linked by an adverbial like then, as in (10):

(10) ... I just wanted to get out of the building as soon as possible. And THEN, about four of them HAVE COME UP to me and one guy's on crutches, and I'm thinking "well, physical assault, hello. I've never been beaten up before but why not, it'll be a great story." (Triple J radio Sydney, 7.3.00)

Here we start with a clause in the SP, followed by a new sentence in the PP introduced by the adverb then. We will return to the semantics of then in more detail in Section 3.3. What is interesting to note at this point is that the PP clause is here followed by two clauses in the NarPres. Thus we get an impression that the PP serves the same narrative function as the NarPres.

Example (11) is perhaps even further away from standard uses: we see a temporal progression from the SP to future in the past, to the narrative PP and finally to the NarPres:

(11) ... he decided that he was going to install a sensor light for the garage ... So he's INSTALLED this sensor light ... so he's PUT it in and then he[?'s] spent the next three nights trying to beat his own sensor light, tiptoeing around.... he's tiptoeing around, running one way ... (Triple J radio Sydney, 2.3.00)

Here the narrator effectively skips the installation of the sensor light: the first sentence sets the scene where the decision to install was made (and the installation itself is a future in the past); the second sentence then jumps to a time when the installation has been completed. In this way, the hearer is directed to those times that are most relevant for the unfolding of the story, while other event times (here the installation of the light) are not explicitly introduced.

Examples (7) to (11) show a progression from less marked narrative uses of the PP in informal speech (7) and (8) to uses which retain the same narrative "flavor" but extend to the point where combinations with adverbials are involved, and links with other events are made (9)-(11). Although we only recast example (9) using NarPres, (10) and (11) would also appear more standard if NarPres rather than PP were used.

It is useful at this point to give an idea of the extent with which the NarPres is used in our stories: less than half of the stories (42 out of 86) contain instances of NarPres, with only 70 clauses in the narrative PP (22%) being directly preceded or followed by a NarPres. In other words, the PP is able to introduce a narrative tone by itself, which suggests that the time of speech is indeed a salient feature of its meaning. The fact that the time of utterance is the TT, or time under discussion for both the present and the PP could explain the fact that both tenses are able to introduce a narrative tone. Examples (7) and (8) above illustrate this fact as the PP clauses are followed by a NarPres, confirming the narrative tone, but it is the clauses in the PP that are used to make the switch to the present time sphere.

If PP usage in our corpus shares some similarities with NarPres usage, how far do these similarities go? In order to try and answer this question, we will systematically compare the distribution of both tenses, starting with an examination of sequences of PP expressing temporal progression and combinations with explicit markers of such progression.

3.2. Use of the PP in sequences expressing temporal progression and combinations of adverbials

The total number of explicit adverbials not normally used with the PP in other varieties of English across our entire corpus is 48, thus representing 12.9% of all nonstandard uses of this tense. We have 60 instances of PP usage expressing temporal progression, either implicitly or explicitly in our 86 oral narratives. This figure takes into account sequences of at least two clauses in the PP expressing a progression in time (of which we have 43 instances), and PP clauses containing an adverbial signaling temporal progression such as then, the next morning, a few hours later, for instance, followed by a PP (17 instances). Example (9a) presented in Section 3.1 illustrated progression in time with no explicitly signaling: we understand that the order in which the events actually occurred is the same as the order in which they are presented (following Grice's [1975] maxim of "manner", or the unmarked relation of narration, see e.g., Asher et al. [1995]). Another example is given below, this time with explicit marking of temporal progression with the adverbial then:

(12) "And THEN HE'S TAKEN him up into his arms, he's ROCKED it and held it like it was his own child and THEN TAKEN him off to the ambulance," Mr. Fitzgerald said. [Quote from a police officer describing the rescue by a police constable of a baby from a house on fire.] (The West Australian 12.4.2000)

Then picks up anaphorically the reference time introduced by the previous clause and locates the eventuality (8) denoted by the clause of which it is part in relation to this reference time (Glasbey 1993). Thus, then refers to a time that is completely independent of the moment of speech, and for this reason its combination with a PP is not normally possible in English.

Thompson (1999) presents a discussion of the semantics of then which is very useful for our purposes here. Thompson (1999: 139) characterizes then as " ... an overt marker of time linking in tense structure." She notes that when then is in a clause-initial or clause-medial position we get a reading where the event in the clause preceding that containing then and the event in the then clause are ordered chronologically. However, if then is in a clause-final position, we interpret the second event as overlapping with the first. (9)

Thompson's semantic explanation for these two interpretations, in a Reichenbachian framework, is that the ordered reading corresponds to Reference times being linked whereas the "overlap" reading corresponds to Event times being linked. We can relate this to the restrictions that normally exist with PP usage: the Reference time being at S for all PP sentences, no ordering is possible; and as E cannot be related to other events, we cannot get a reading where there is overlap of the two events. These constraints rule out both (13) and (14) (adapted from Thompson 1999: 124):

(13) * Mary has spoken to the reporters. Then Bill has photographed her.

(14) * Mary has spoken to the reporters. Bill has photographed her then.

While, as explained above, the majority of instances of temporal progression are not explicitly marked in our corpus, then is the most common temporal adverbial combined with the PP and expressing temporal progression, with a total of 14 occurrences (out of the total of 17, the others being the next morning/day, or three hours later). All instances of PP clauses containing then have the adverb in a clause-initial or clause-medial position. Thus, if we accept Thompson's account, the reference time of each clause is linked with that of the preceding one. We noted earlier that the time under discussion being at the time of utterance in PP sentences, no ordering of reference times presented in PP sentences is normally possible. But of course if the time of utterance is to be understood in a narrative sense, it can move ahead in time as each sentence is uttered, just like in cases where a NarPres is used.

Let us therefore consider the equivalent of our then example (12) recast in NarPres:

(15) "And then he takes him up into his arms, he rocks it and holds it like it was his own child and then takes him off to the ambulance," Mr. Fitzgerald said.

As this example shows, the NarPres is perfectly compatible with then. More generally, the NarPres can express narrative progression with or without the help of adverbials.

This being said, not all examples can be recast in a NarPres: we would not expect use of the NarPres in the context of a news bulletin or a written media release. Consider the following example, together with a recast using NarPres; the text was posted on a Police Media Release Web site (10) and also broadcast on the news on the same day:

(16) a. The victim in this case is a 15-year-old Wattleup boy who was on his way to school, [...]. As he reached the steps leading to the shops he HAS BEEN TAPPED on his shoulder. As HE HAS TURNED AROUND a young man HAS PUNCHED him to the face and a wrestle/fight HAs TAKEN PLACE DURING WHICH the victim HAS DROPPED his wallet. The offender HAs GRABBED the wallet and RUN OFF, removing the money and dropping the wallet as he ran. (M. Gough, Sergeant, Police Media, 29.6.2004; 94.5fm radio, Perth, 29.6.04)

b. ?As he reached the steps leading to the shops he Is TAPPED on his shoulder. As HE TURNS AROUND a young man PUNCHES HIM to the face and a wrestle/fight TAKES PLACE DURING WHICH the victim DROPS his wallet. The offender GRABS the wallet and RUNS OFF, removing the money and dropping the wallet as he ran.

Such tense mixing is typical of spoken narratives, and we do not expect it in more carefully planned language. Studies of oral narratives have revealed patterns of use of NarPres within the complication (Labov and Waletzky 1967) of the story, which describes the sequence of events that are most important to the narrative (Fleishman 1990). What is important to note for now is that NP usage is not random, that it occurs in particular sections of a narrative, and that therefore we would not expect it in alternation with SP in factual recounts given in news bulletins. It seems therefore that use of the PP in our original example (16a) cannot be understood to be narrative; rather, the police officer seems to have selected some events in the recount in order to make them more salient. How should we represent the PP in such uses? The PP looks like it is used in the same way as the SP, and thus could be viewed as having its TT at TSit in such instances. However, there is a clear contrast between SP and PP in the above text, so the contribution made by the PP is different to that made by the SP, a difference that is not captured if we view both as having TT at TSit. One possible representation for such instances of PP usage is one where TT is at the real TU again, not a metaphorical one as in the case of our oral narratives: the writer/newsreader is telling us that we are now in the post-time of certain events having occurred in a particular sequence, thus making these events more salient.

Example (16) is also interesting from the perspective of the types of adverbials used: temporal clauses introduced by as and during which, signaling temporal simultaneity and inclusion, respectively, rather than progression.

Generally, the category of temporal clauses (introduced with the above, together with when and while) form the largest category of adverbials used with the PP with nineteen examples.

3.3. Temporal subordination

Declerck (1989) finds that the PP can only be used in when-clauses to express simultaneity on a continuative interpretation, or repetition on an indefinite interpretation, but once again we find examples in Australian English which do not strictly conform to these observations. We illustrate the phenomenon with two examples, one taken from our oral narratives (17a), and the other from our news corpus (18a), each with a recast using NarPres:

(17) a. I just [...] rang up one morning, said, "I'm not too well so I won't be in today," and went waterskiing, and got burnt. So of course WHEN I'VE CONE into work THE NEXT MORNING they said, y'know, "how're you feeling?" (92.9 FM radio Perth, 7.3.00)

b. I just [... ] rang up one morning, said, "I'm not too well so I won't be in today", and went waterskiing, and got burnt. So of course WHEN I CO into work THE NEXT MORNING they said [say], y'know, "how're you feeling"? (92.9 FM radio Perth, 7.3.00)

Here again, substitution with a NarPres works well. However, this is not the case if the text comes from a news report:

(18) a. WHEN the alarm HAS GONE OFF, the burglar HAs CLIMBED on the roof. (92.9 FM radio Perth 2.3.98)

b. ? WHEN the alarm GOES OFF, the burglar CLIMBS on the roof. (92.9 FM radio Perth 2.3.98)

If we accept Declerck's generalizations, (18a) could be interpreted either as consisting of two indefinite PP clauses (in which case, they describe a repeated set of events, i.e., when is used in the sense of whenever), or of two continuative PP clauses (both sharing S as their reference time). However, the context makes it clear that neither interpretation is possible. The events described are presented in a news bulletin; they are not repeated events, but rather are part of one single newsworthy incident. On a "continuative" interpretation, the burglar would still be on the roof at the time at which the news bulletin is being broadcast, and the alarm would still be sounding. This is obviously not the case at the time of utterance, but what could be the case is that the newsreader is presenting the events again from the perspective of TU, saying that we are NOW in the post-state of them having occurred. What has shifted is what/who the post-state applies to: it does not apply to the alarm nor to the burglar, but rather to the newsreader and the listeners who are in the post-state of these particular events having taken place. In this way, a closer connection to the speech event is made, just like with narrative uses, but with a twist: TT is at TU as with standard PP usage. We return to this possible analysis after examining combinations of the PP with definite past adverbials.

3.4. Past locating adverbs and the Australian PP

Having looked at adverbials that express some temporal relation between situations, we now turn to locating adverbials, which form the least common type of adverbial combined with the PP in our data. We have included some examples here as they do occur nonetheless, however we only find them in news reports and police media releases, and have collected thirteen examples so far.

(19) ... after a spiteful game between the two clubs on Sunday, the Lions HAVE LODGED an official complaint with the league YESTERDAY. (96 FM radio Perth, 21.3.00)

(20) Speight gunmen HAVE ALREADY MURDERED an unarmed policeman DURING A RAMPAGE THROUGH Suva LAST MONTH ... (The Australian, "Army sorry for bid to kill Speight", 13.6.00 p. 1)

Comparing PP usage with narrative present once more, we note that the latter can be used with a range of adverbs, including past adverbs such as yesterday, last Thursday, etc. as shown by the following two examples taken from newspapers where they were used as captions underneath a photograph of the situation depicted:

(21) Mr. Keating MEETS Emperor Akihito YESTERDAY. (The Australian, 23.9.1992; cited in Suwono 1993)

(22) United States President George Bush SPEAKS to workers at an army tank plant in Lima, Ohio, ON THURSDAY during a tour of the state to promote a crucial tax-cut package. (The West Australian, 26.4.03, "Determined Bush takes aim at tax-cut critics", p. 28)

Such uses are interesting as they combine information about the situation as present (the reader is viewing the photograph at the time of reading) as well as past (with the use of the adverbials). They provide a good analogy for our examples of vivid narrative PP usage: the PP provides the photograph, the adverbs specify the time location. However, as we saw in Section 1, a PP sentence is not strictly about the situation itself, but about the time that follows it. So how can we account for similarities and differences between NarPres and narrative PP?

Chung and Timberlake (1985) note that explanations for the narrative use of the present have usually involved the notion of markedness: the present tense is the "unmarked" tense, thus can be used to replace other more "marked" tenses such as the past tense. In their view, however, this does not explain the vividness that such narrative uses produce, and indeed, markedness is not enough to account for the sense of immediacy that the use of a present in the place of a past tense achieves. Chung and Timberlake (1985) offer the following explanation:

It is more reasonable to view it [the historical present(11)] as a specialised strategy for selecting the tense locus. On this view, the historical present might be characterized as reflexive tense, in that the tense locus for each event is the frame of the event, and the locus moves forward with each new frame that is selected in the narration. (Chung and Timberlake 1885:213)

The present and PP have common characteristics, i.e., they both have a TT that includes TU, and the difference could be attributed to the fact that, in the case of the PP, the "tense locus" goes beyond the frame of the event itself, and includes a post-time as well. As we will see in Section 4, if the VP denotes an event that is durational, narrative use in a context that is clearly past leads to several possibilities of reinterpretation.

Before we examine lexical aspectual characteristics of verbs in more detail, we summarize the commonalities and differences between NarPres, SP, Standard English PP (PP) and Australian English PP (AE PP) in Table 3.

As we can see from Table 3, the environments in which NarPres occurs are the same as those in which SP occurs, as NarPres replaces SP in past contexts. As the Australian English PP is also used in these contexts, there is a potential ambiguity here as to what the TT, or time under discussion is, especially where no overt signaling of narrative tone is provided by the speaker. Nonetheless, PP clauses contrast with SP clauses in contexts where NarPres would be another (more usual) substitute for such uses. If PP sentences (or narrative sequences) work felicitously as NarPres sentences, then this tells us that the PP is in some important ways like the NarPres. However, just as with examples involving use of then, combinations with definite past adverbs and the PP cannot always be recast felicitously as NarPres sentences.

Indeed, yesterday in (19) and last month in (20) cannot be understood as specifying a TT that coincides with a metaphorical TU located in the post-time of the TSit. It does not make much sense to paraphrase (19), for example as yesterday, the Lions were in the post-time of having lodged an official complaint with the league. This is partly due again to the fact that such an example illustrates planned language use (as we would normally expect in a news report), thus the vivid narrative usage common to chat shows is not expected. In addition, an interpretation of (19) in which yesterday re-specifies TU (in a past context) would be pragmatically odd as it would imply that at the real TU, the situation may be different. We are more likely to understand the sentence to mean that we are now in the post-time of the club arguing yesterday that ...

Such an interpretation amounts to having the PP do precisely what Palmer describes in the quote given at the beginning of this article. It enables us to have TU as a topic time, yet allows for further specification of TSit. Example (20) lends support to such an interpretation with the use of already (denoting a period that includes TU) and last month (locating TSit in the past of TU).

One possible way of representing the analysis proposed here for examples (19) and (20) above is to follow Klein's analysis of the perfect operator (in German) taking wide scope over the sentence: if POST is applied to a whole sentence, say (19), the club argue last night, we obtain:

[POST[THE CLUB ARGUE YESTERDAY]], with the post-state including TU

This corresponds to the paraphrase we gave for this sentence (i.e., we are now in the post-state of the club arguing yesterday that.... On a narrative interpretation, corresponding to yesterday the club are in the post-state of arguing ... , POST would have the verb in its scope as follows:

[THE CLUB[POST[ARGUE]]], with the post-state including a metaphorical TU, further modified by yesterday.

However, we said that this second representation did not correspond to an interpretation that we easily give to (19).

Of course, we do not mean that the Australian PP is used in the same way as the German Perfekt. In particular, the contrast between SP and PP is not conventionally established, and remains a stylistic effect used predominantly in oral narratives. However, we can see some similarities, and understand how things can evolve further.

In our final section, we examine the contribution made by lexical aspect to narrative uses of the PP in discourse, in order to better understand how the vivid effect comes about.

4. The contribution made by lexical aspect and contextual elements

In analyzing the lexical aspect of VPs in our corpus, VPs were classified into five classes, comprising activities, accomplishments, achievements and states (following Vendler's 1967 classification) with the addition of the class of semelfactives (see, e.g., Smith 1991). The results are shown in Table 4.

As Table 4 shows, eventive VPs are the most frequent, with activities and accomplishments representing the majority of VPs used. Indeed, together they amount 73.8% of all VPs used in the narrative PP in stories, and 71% of VPs in nonstandard uses of the PP overall. The common feature that they share is that they both contain a process part: activities are pure processes, while accomplishments also have, in addition to a process part, a telic point. Thus, they are both durative and dynamic.

Such verbs have been shown to give rise to ambiguities, for example when combined with almost (see, e.g., Parsons 1990):

(23) Joanne almost built a house = Joanne did not start/complete the building

(24) Joanne almost ran = didn't start/walked so fast it could have been a run

Such examples show that the events denoted by activities and accomplishments are complex ones, and that both their inception and completion points can be selected as being salient in some contexts. In addition, as they are dynamic, the process that they denote itself involves change with the potential for particular segments within thus to be highlighted (as seen for example with the second interpretation of almost ran).

Of course, when used in the PP, we typically understand that the event they denote is completed:

(25) Joanne has built a house.

(26) Joanne has run.

Thus, the telic point or final boundary of the event is understood to have been reached, and the sentence is about the post-time of the event. However, a second reading taking the inception point as having been reached, with the post-time being cotemporal with part of the process that follows is also possible, especially when we have a sequence of events all reported in the PP.

To make the point clearer, we analyze a slightly longer narrative, in which a caller shares a story where he was being attacked by a shark. It exemplifies Labov's "danger of death" stories, designed to elicit data that was as close as possible to the vernacular norm. It also represents well a number of characteristics that we have observed in our narratives, and shows clearly how lexical aspect, narrative usage of the PP and interaction of the PP with other tenses all combine to make the story more vivid to the listener.

The story starts with caller "D" explaining that he feeds sharks in an aquarium for a living, and that when he first started his job, he was once bitten by a three meter long female shark called "Striker". "A" and "W" rare the two radio presenters. The section transcribed below is the "complication" of the story (Labov and Waletzky 1967):

(27) D. ... you've got no idea how fast you're going through this air. You're virtually turning blue cos you're breathing that fast. And umm yeah, the big set of jaws come down and, I happened to get to the side, so I'm thinking, "Okay 'kay, I've gotta duck, I've gotta duck." And at the same time there's, it's School Holidays, there's a thousand little kids stuck to the, the glass in the tunnel. And umm, I'VE DUCKED UNDER and I'VE LOOKED BACK and, and she's GONE PAST and I'VE GONE, "Okay, that, that was all good." Another one's COME DOWN, I'VE THROWN this fish out, and he's STARTED snapping on it, and I'm like, "Ohh, Thank God for that." And then I'VE LOOKED at, at the tunnel, at the kids, and all the little eyes are just like Christmas, (12) and the, the tour guide in the tunnel's just like LOST it, she's just throwing her hands in the air. Next minute I feel my back just getting thrown around all on the bottom, just, you know, teared out of the, the, aquarium, and thinking ...

A. Ohh

D. ... heh, heh, I'm thinking, "What's going on here?" I'm thinking the instructor's JUST THOUGHT I'VE JUST DONE the hopeless job or something. So I'VE LOOKED AT him ...

A. You thought it was the instructor poking you in the back?

D. Yeh, heh, heh,

A. And it was Striker!

D. It was Striker, mate. She's TURNED AROUND thinking, umm, "That's my fish and you're not gonna hide from me," and obviously grabbed me on the back and, ...

A. Wow!

D. ... show me who her Daddy was.

Out of the thirteen VPs used in the PP, six denote activities (look used twice, look back, go [for say], think, and do). Three denote accomplishments (turn around, come down, and throw out) and four achievements (duck under, go past, lose (it), and start).

The effect created by the use of activities in the narrative PP in discourse is interesting, as they put the hearer in the middle of the situation depicted. For example, I've looked back is followed by she's gone past: here, the going past is what the speaker saw at the time, thus we do not get a sense that I've looked back denotes the post-time of a completed event. One interpretation would be that the start of the event look back had taken place, and that therefore the post-time coincides with the activity of looking itself. As go past is telic, its use in the PP is most naturally interpreted as having reached its end point during the time of the looking, adding to the impression that the looking lasted for a while. Another use of look is exemplified by:

(28) I'VE LOOKED at, at the tunnel, at the kids, and all the little eyes are just like Christmas.

Again, we are placed in the middle of what the speaker saw, as the clause following I've looked contains a stative expression involving the copula be in NarPres, presenting us with a picture of the scene.

Sentence (29) also contains an activity verb in the form of a reportive verb (13) I've gone, which cannot be interpreted as denoting the post-time of the saying as we are then presented with the content of the utterance; rather it could be again that the PP indicates that the inception point (the start of the saying) has taken place, and that the post-time includes the saying.

(29) I'VE GONE, "Okay, that, that was all good."

Telic verbs can, on the other hand, be understood as signaling the completion of the event:

(30) Another one's COME DOWN, I'VE THROWN this fish out ...

presents a succession of events, the throwing out taking place in the post-time of the coming down (but of course, as a result of the coming down, the shark WAS down at the time, so the throwing is also included in this state, and hearers build an image where the events are tightly interconnected). As post-times, rather than the events themselves are used in this sequence, we also gain a sense of fast action: as soon as one event has taken place, another one has reached completion, and so forth. The presentation of events through their post-times thus enables the speaker to achieve several effects at once, depending of lexical aspect and choice of tense in the immediate context of the PP.

Finally, with achievement verbs, as can be seen with the following two sentences, we can also get a sense of being placed in the middle of a situation:

(31) ... he's STARTED snapping on it, and I'm like, "Ohh, Thank God for that."

(32) ... the tour guide in the tunnel's just like LOST it, she's just throwing her hands in the air.

The use of start in the PP implies that the post-time coincides with the snapping, during which the speaker quotes himself using this time a NarPres I'm like.

In (32), has lost it is followed by a description of the state in which the tour guide is, using NarPres, elaborating on the loss of her cool. This description also provides evidence for the statement she's just lost it, and gives the post-time of lose a sense of duration, with the activity throw her hands in the air coinciding with it.

What perhaps distinguishes the use of the PP from the use of the NarPres in such examples, is that narrative PP is able to achieve two things at once: it signals a retrospective look onto a past situation (with the possibility of the inception of the event being interpreted as the past situation in question), while providing a post-time in which other events or situations can also be located. Thus we have tighter connections between events reported in discourse, producing either a sense that these events occurred in very quick succession (especially when telic verbs are used), or that they overlap with each other (especially with activities).

5. Conclusion

To conclude, we have proposed that narrative uses of the PP in Australian English are at the origin of a large number of "nonstandard" combinations. These include use of the PP in a past context where a switch to narrative tone has not been explicitly signaled, sequences of PP sentences where temporal progression is explicitly or implicitly expressed, and uses of the PP with various types of adverbials. We have drawn some parallels with the NarPres, and have argued that, just like the NarPres, the PP is able to introduce a narrative tone by itself, a fact that confirms the topicality of the time of utterance in uses of the PP. The difference between NarPres and narrative PP involves the former involving TT, Tsit and a "metaphorical" TU all coincide, while the latter has its TT including a metaphorical TU, but its Tsit preceding it.

We have noted a number of instances of PP sentences that could not have a narrative interpretation however, and have proposed that in such cases their TT would be better understood as being the real TU, with the perfect operator taking wider scope over the sentence. Such uses are less common in our corpus, but frequent enough to suggest that a temporal ambiguity exists in the current interpretation of PP sentences in Australian English.

Examination of verbs in the narrative PP in relation of lexical aspect has revealed that the most common class represented is that of activities, followed by accomplishments. We have argued that their common characteristic, i.e., the fact that they are both durative and contain a process part, can explain in part the sense that hearers have of being placed in the middle of the situation depicted. At the same time, sequences of telic verbs in the PP enable the speaker to convey a sense that the events related occurred in very quick succession.

What is suggested by the examples taken from our corpus is that the extension in the range of uses that has taken place may have been largely motivated by a casual style of speech. This style promotes narrative uses of the present, and appears to have extended vivid narrative uses to include the PP. The differences between NarPres and narrative PP have become less clear, and the PP appears to be replacing the NarPres in oral narratives. While no prediction can be made as to the future evolution of this category in this variety of English, the phenomenon itself is interesting both in the sense that it confirms the topicality of the time of speech in PP sentences, and in the sense that it shows a possible path for change. The question of why such usage would occur in Australian English and not other English varieties is a difficult one to answer. Part of the answer may lie in the extensive use of an informal style in Australia, in particular in the media and the radio more specifically, with presenters making use of further devices to attract their listeners' attention and to express a sense of solidarity with them. The question, however, will need further investigation, with a closer examination of the sociolinguistic and cultural factors that may be involved.

Received 20 May 2003 Revised version received 9 May 2005


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(1.) We wish to acknowledge the Australian Research Council and the University of Western Australia for funding the present research through two small grants, in 1999 and 2000 respectively. We also wish to thank our research assistants, Helen Majewski, Andrew Irvine, Karen Attfield and Nicole Barber for their help at various stages of the project. We have benefited greatly from the feedback given by two anonymous referees on an earlier version of the article as it has helped improve it in many ways. Finally, special thanks to Alan Dench for his help throughout the project; his insights as a linguist and native speaker of Australian English have been invaluable, as have been his suggestions for improving the presentation of our ideas. Any remaining errors are of course our own. Correspondence address: Marie-Eve Ritz, Graduate School of Education, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Nedlands, WA, Australia. E-mail

(2.) Ritz and Engel (i. prep.) discuss the differences between English dialects in greater detail. See also Duskova (1976), Vanneck (1958), and Gathercole (1986).

(3.) We have left our characterization deliberately vague here; the intuition behind the notion of post-state (consequent or result state) is that it is the state of an event having culminated (Moens 1987; Parsons 1991; Kamp and Reyle 1993). In the case where the VP is a state, an event associated with the state (e.g., its inception) can be substituted for the notion of culmination. While the question deserves more discussion--in particular any notion of post-state would need to be made formally more precise--the analyses developed in the present article do not depend crucially on it.

(4.) These include Elsness (1997), who examined the differences in PP usage in printed American and British English; Meyer (1995) and Schluter (2000) who used the Brown University Corpus of American English and the LOB Corpus of BE; Biber et al. (1999) who used the Longman Spoken and Written English corpus.

(5.) The full quote is as follows: "I think what is happening here is that B. and S. are reliving events so deeply stamped on their consciousness that they seem to be happening still. The tense involved here deserves a name of its own: the 're-enactment perfect', perhaps. What worries me is that the practice may spread."

(6.) We do not provide such figures for our news corpus here, but provide elsewhere percentages of use of PP versus SP in randomly selected news bulletins (Ritz and Engel i. prep.) and compare them with figures obtained from data collected in other varieties of English. These results, however, are not crucial for the purpose of the analysis presented here.

(7.) Texta is the word used to refer to a thick felt-tip pen in Australian English.

(8.) The term "eventuality" is used to refer generally to both events and states (following Bach [1986] and also Kamp and Reyle [1993], Glasbey [1993]).

(9.) Thompson (1999: 126), confirms what Schiffrin (1992), Glasbey (1993), Spejewski and Carlson (1993) also noted.

(10.) MediaandPublicAffairs.asp?MediaReleases, accessed 30.06.2004.

(11.) We consider here the terms "historical" and "narrative" present to be synonymous, following Mellet (1998:203-213) who defines narrative present as covering occurrences of the present in oral narratives and in written literary texts, the latter including fiction and historical texts.

(12.) According to a native speaker informant, the expression means that the children's eyes are wide open, as they would be at Christmas when seeing all the presents and decorations.

(13.) Reportive verbs are fairly common in our corpus, especially with go used instead of say. Reporting verbs, including say, go, think, and explain used in the narrative PP and followed by a direct quote amount to 16.5% of all verbs in the narrative PP, with 52 instances.


University of Western Australia

University of Wales, Swansea
Table 1. Description of transcribed corpus

Type of data Number of words

Narratives 19,101
News * + media releases (incident reports) 3401
Total 22,502

* News items include items selected from radio news bulletins and from
newspaper articles. Except for one example, all newspaper extracts are
quotes (i.e., transcribed spoken language).

Table 2. Tenses used to relate past situations in narratives told on
Australian radio stations

Tense Raw number Percentage

Simple past 838 57.7
Present perfect (total) 398 27.4
 (Vivid narrative present perfect) (315) (21.7)
Narrative present 183 12.6
Pluperfect 33 2.3
Total 1452 100

Table 3. Summary of environments where NP, SP, PP and AE PP can be

 NarPres SP PP AE PP

Narrative progression [check] [check] x [check]
With clause initial 'then' [check] [check] x [check]
With past adverbials [check] [check] x [check]

Table 4. Percentage of VPs by lexical aspectual classes in nonstandard
PP clauses

Types No. in % in No. in % in Total % of
of verbs narratives narratives news news total

Activities 133 42.9 14 22.6 147 39.5
Accomp 96 30.9 21 33.9 117 31.4
Semel 32 10.3 14 22.6 46 12.4
Achiev 29 9.3 9 14.5 38 10.2
States 20 6.4 4 6.4 24 6.4
Total 310 100 62 100 372 100
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Author:Ritz, Marie-Eve A.; Engel, Dulcie M.
Publication:Linguistics: an interdisciplinary journal of the language sciences
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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