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The notion of current relevance in the Thai perfect(*).


This paper examines the notions of anteriority and current relevance in the Thai grammatical perfect marker leew (grammaticalized from the lexical verb `finish'). Cross-linguistic studies of the grammatical category perfect or anterior have raised uncertainties about the importance of the notion of current relevance in characterizing this category (Klein 1992). This study examines the use of the Thai perfect in natural spoken discourse in order to determine its relation to the cross-linguistic prototype "prior action currently relevant" (Dahl 1985; Bybee et al. 1994). The use of the perfect is analyzed in relation to the Aktionsart of the predicate, its use in narrative grounding, and semantic and pragmatic uses in context. The notion of current relevance is found to be crucial in characterizing the basic meaning of this morpheme, while the notion of anteriority is found to be a reflex of the use of the perfect in context. Findings are discussed in terms of the cross-linguistic prototype category perfect or anterior, and a new typology of the category perfect in the languages of the world is suggested.

Studies of the perfect, present perfect, and past perfect markers in many languages have demonstrated that the notion of "current relevance" is essential in characterizing the perfect as a cross-linguistic category. However, "current relevance" itself remains a vaguely defined notion. As Klein (1992) points out, "it is not clear how to determine the `relevance'. If no criterion is given, a current relevance analysis can hardly be falsified; it is always possible to find a reason why the event is still of particular relevance to the present" (1992: 531). I will argue that the meaning of the perfect goes beyond the temporal-relational notion of anteriority: in Thai, the meaning of the perfect marker, leew, crucially depends on the notion of current relevance. It is the purpose of this study to unpack the notion of current relevance by examining the uses of the Thai perfect in natural spoken discourse. We will examine the relationship of this morpheme to the cross-linguistic prototype suggested by previous cross-linguistic studies (Dahl 1985; Bybee et al. 1994), show that the basic meaning of this morpheme includes the notion of current relevance, and suggest further research on typological differences among language-specific instantiations of this category.

The previous literature on the Thai morpheme leew proposes a range of grammatical and meaning categories -- from adverb to past tense, perfective, completive, or perfect. This study will use the current cross-linguistic research on the grammatical categories of tense, mood, and aspect, as well as the current research on narrative discourse as a framework to investigate its basic meaning, and to elucidate the ways in which it is used as a resource in natural spoken discourse. By looking at the uses of the perfect in context, we will paint a clearer picture of the meaning of "current relevance" in this language.

Recent studies comparing tense and aspect markers from a wide range of languages provide the theoretical framework for the current investigation. Of particular relevance is Andersen's distributional bias hypothesis, which predicts the distribution of aspectual markers in relation to inherent verbal semantics (Andersen 1989, 1993; Andersen and Shirai 1994; Shirai and Andersen 1995). We will also investigate the use of the perfect in narrative using the framework of "grounding" (Givon 1982; Hopper 1979; Labov 1972; Reinhart 1984) to compare the use of the perfect in Thai to its use in previously studied languages. Finally we will compare the Thai perfect to the prototype category postulated in previous studies: Comrie's (1976, 1985) work on tense and aspect, which postulates and describes the nature of temporal categories; Dahl's (1985) survey investigating the meanings and uses of tense and aspect morphemes in an attempt to discover cross-linguistic prototype categories; and Bybee et al.'s (1994) proposed universal diachronic grammaticalization pathways, which suggest that the source semantics of a morpheme provide it with residual semantic meaning, even late in grammaticalization, explaining its synchronic distribution of uses at several points along the pathway. These recent studies facilitate the investigation of language-specific instantiations of grammatical categories of tense, mood, and aspect.

1. The study

The study investigates the following research questions:

1. What is the basic meaning of this morpheme?

2. What are the specific semantic uses and discourse functions associated with leew, and how do these coincide with cross-linguistic grammatical categories of tense and aspect?

If leew is indeed a perfect, then its basic meaning should mark a situation that occurs prior to reference time, and its semantic uses and discourse functions should roughly correspond to those found cross-linguistically for this grammatical category. We can start by delineating several hypotheses based on previous findings in the literature:

i. According to the distributional bias hypothesis (Andersen 1989, 1993; Andersen and Shirai 1994; Shirai and Andersen 1995) perfective and imperfective markers tend to cooccur with verbs whose inherent semantics are congruent with the meaning of the grammatical aspect: since leew is hypothesized to mark neither perfective nor imperfective, it would not show a clear tendency to occur with any particular verb type.

ii. Perfect markers tend to have a backgrounding function in narrative in many languages, while the perfective tends to have a foregrounding function: as a perfect, leew will tend to occur in the background clauses of narrative, while foreground clauses should tend not to be marked by leew.

iii. Aspectual markers (perfective and imperfective) counteract the inherent semantic aspect of the verb (Aktionsart) by imposing a perspective on the proposition as a whole. As a perfect, leew should not impose an external (bounded) perspective when it cooccurs with a nontelic verb (i.e. a verb that has no endpoint inherent in its semantics) (Andersen and Shirai 1994).

iv. As a member of the cross-linguistic category "perfect" or "anterior," leew will have a basic or prototype meaning of "prior situation currently relevant."

There has been some debate in the literature over the relationship between the sentence-final particle leew and its intersentential counterpart. In a previous study (Howard 1997) I found that leew has separate functions associated with its separate fixed positions: in the verb-phrase-final position it functions as a perfect; between clauses it functions as a sequential connective. In that study, it was first necessary to determine which position each token of leew in fact occupied. Since the verb-phrase-final and the sentence-initial position are contiguous and thus difficult to distinguish in rapid natural speech by syntactic criteria alone, phonological information about clause boundaries was used to differentiate them. The data were divided into intonation units (IU) yielding the following clausal positions (see Iwasaki 1996 for a description of intonation units in Thai).

(A) VP-final: leew occurs at or near the end of an IU.

(B) Interclausal: leew occurs

a. at the beginning of an IU,

b. between two independent clauses in an IU which contains a paratactic construction.

In order to explore these hypotheses, a corpus of natural spoken data of various discourse types was collected together, and the meaning and use of all tokens of VP-final leew were examined. Table 1 contains a summary of the types of data used,(1) and the number of tokens in each data set.
Table 1. The data

Title Type No. of clauses

"Pear Story" elicited narrative 1,673

"Earthquake 3" stranger-stranger 1,200

"Earthquake 4" stranger-stranger 333

"Job interview" formal hotel job 274
 interview in

"Parent-teacher" parent-teacher 1,400
 conference in

Total 4,800

 Tokens of leew

Title VP-final Interclausal = total

"Pear Story" 26 74 = 110

"Earthquake 3" 49 99 = 148

"Earthquake 4" 4 45 = 49

"Job interview" 4 34 = 38

"Parent-teacher" 21 80 = 101

Total 104 342 = 446

In order to determine which aspectual meanings in the interpretation of a given utterance are contributed specifically by the grammatical morpheme leew, it is necessary to isolate other possible sources of aspectual meaning within the context. According to Andersen (1995), many coinciding factors could account for the temporal reference in any given utterance, and one must be careful to assign meaning to a morpheme like leew only if it is inherent in the morpheme's semantics and not if it can be derived from other contextual variables. The temporal readings could be found in any of the following: grammatical aspect inherent in the morpheme; the inherent lexical semantics of the verb; temporal adverbials; other information in the discourse context of the utterance (such as arguments, discourse structure, etc.); pragmatic information available to speakers of the language and within their cultural knowledge.

2. Thai language: a sketch(2)

2.1. Thai language

Thai is basically an SVO language. Grammatical morphemes are unbound, and affixation is limited to a small number of lexical infixes. The simple, active clause follows roughly the following order:

(C) (Subject) + (AUX) + VERB + ([PRT.sup.x]) + (Object) + ([PRT.sup.X])3

We also find alternate word orders (OSV, VOS) expressing topicalization and left-dislocation.

The structure of the verb phrase is rather complex. Thai is a so-called verb-serializing language: in one clause, several auxiliaries and particles that are homophones of a semantically related main verb may occur along with the main verb. They serve the function of aspectual, modal, temporal, or directional markers and prepositions. Auxiliaries and particles are classified as preverbs or postverbs, that is, there are constraints on their placement in relation to the main verb. Several directionals and other auxiliaries may occur in a string after the main verb. In the following example, I have glossed the directionals and particles following the main verb, win, as the lexical items with which they are homophones:(4)
 (1) khao win tron pay yccn klap khaw pay
 3P run straight go return go-home enter go
 `he ran straight back.'
 (Thepkanjana 1986)

Thepkanjana has demonstrated that these are strictly regulated regarding their placement relative to one another based on semantic classifications. The order is as follows (Thepkanjana 1986):


2.2. Thai tense

Thai does not have grammatical tense; however, there are many ways to express temporal relations, including a combination of adverbial phrases of time, discourse context, inherent semantics of the verb, and aspect markers (see Meepoe 1996a, 1996b). Some of the literature (Dahl 1985; Schmidt 1992) states that Thai has future tense, which is marked by ca:
 (2) diaw ca khcc tua
 soon FUT ask body
 `I will have to be excused soon.'

ca is also used as a modal or hypothetical marker (Schmidt 1992: 96; Kanchanawan 1978) that includes future in its meaning, and it can be used to express intention, volition, decision, or plan, as in the following example:
 (3) thaa fon tok chan ca may pay ronrian
 if rain fall 1P FUT NEG go school
 `If it rains I (don't/won't) go to school.'

While it is clear that the meaning and use of ca need to be better understood, we will here treat it as a modal marker, and not a future tense.

2.3. Thai aspect

Aspectual markers in Thai are preverbal auxiliaries, postverbal particles, or verb-phrase-final particles. Here is a list of aspectual markers with their basic functions and position in the verb phrase:
(E) Auxiliaries:
 kamlan (kamlan + V): progressive
 kheey (kheey + V): experiential

(F) Postverbal particles:
 yuu (V + [NP] + yuu): imperfective
 leew (VP + leew): perfect ("old anterior")
 maa (VP + maa): directional/continuous
 pay (VP + pay): directional/completive

3. Perfect, perfectives, and current relevance

3.1. Aspect in the languages of the world

The task of finding cross-linguistic categories of tense, mood, and aspect has proved difficult due to the variety of uses and interpretations afforded by the language-specific instantiations of these categories. However, in the past two decades a number of researchers have conducted studies that compare language-specific tense, mood, and aspect categories in a broad sample of languages, facilitating postulations of a small set of typological semantic and grammatical categories (Bybee and Dahl 1989; Bybee et al. 1994; Comrie 1976; Dahl 1985). This section reviews this literature with a focus on the perfective aspect and the perfect, the two grammatical categories usually used to characterize leew.

According to Comrie (1976) the most basic aspectual distinction in languages is perfective vs. imperfective: a speaker uses the perfective to express an outside view of a situation, and the imperfective to express the internal temporal constituency of a situation. The perfective presents the situation as a whole, from the outside, and is defined as follows: "the whole of the situation is presented as a single, unanalysable whole, with beginning, middle and end rolled into one; no attempt is made to divide the situation up into the various individual phases" (1976: 3). In contrast, the perfect does not enter into these aspectual distinctions, it "relates some state to a preceding situation (and) indicates the continuing present relevance of a situation" (1976: 52).

Bybee and Dahl (1989) found that the most commonly expressed notional-grammatical categories of tense, mood, and aspect in the world's languages were perfective, imperfective, progressive, future, and past perfect. They argue that the category "perfective" represents a family of related concepts, with the following prototype definition:

A perfective will typically denote a single event, seen as an unanalyzed whole, with a well-defined result or end-state, located in the past. More often than not the event will be punctual, or at least will be viewed as the transition from one state to its opposite, the duration of which can be disregarded (Dahl 1985: 78).

This core meaning, or prototype manifestation, corresponds with Comrie's definition of the perfective as presenting a situation as an unanalyzed whole. On the other hand, the perfect or anterior is characterized by Bybee and Dahl as describing a situation that is "viewed from the perspective of -- or described as being relevant at -- a later point in time, most typically the point of speech" (1989: 67).

Bybee et al. (1994) state that the basic meaning of the perfect (which they term "anterior") is a past action that is relevant to the current reference time, while the semantics of a perfective do not include the current relevance interpretation: "The anterior signals a past action that is relevant to the current moment" (1994: 62).

Thus aspect -- the perfective/imperfective contrast -- is used by speakers to express a speaker's perspective on the temporal constituency of a situation. The perfect, or anterior, does not signal a perspective on the temporal constituency of a situation but relates that situation as being relevant to another moment or another situation. In its most prototypical manifestation the perfect signals that a prior situation is relevant in some way to the moment of speech.

3.2. Previous treatments of leew

There does not seem to be much agreement in the existing literature as to how the morpheme leew should be characterized. It has been analyzed as a temporal adverbial, a completive marker, a perfect/anterior, and a perfective marker.

Warotamasikkhadit (1972) has argued that leew is a temporal adverbial, translated as `already', that functions much like other temporal adverbials. According to his transformational account leew may occur either before the verb phrase or verb-phrase-finally, as can other adverbs, without changing its meaning. However, others treat leew differently in each of its positions. Scovel (1970) analyzed sentence-initial leew as `and then', while sentence-final leew is a perfective marker -- more specifically, a postverb marking the completion of a situation or signaling a change of state. Schmidt (1992) also differentiates the two, pointing out that the VP-final leew could be translated as `already', whereas sentence-initially it must be translated as `then':
 (4) a. maa kat dek thii nii leew
 dog bite child at this already
 `The dog bit the child already.'


 (4) b. leew maa kat dek
 then dog bite child
 `Then the dog bit the child.'
 (Schmidt 1992: 25; glosses are cited from the original)

Schmidt compares the functions of leew to those proposed for the Chinese gram le, by Li et al. (1982): le marks a past situation with current relevance when it occurs sentence-finally and marks the perfective aspect when it occurs postverbally. Schmidt claims that leew in its verb-phrase-final position functions as a perfect, while in its pre-verb-phrase position it is a perfective (1992: 43-45).

While both Scovel and Schmidt argue for treating leew differently in each of its syntactic positions, Scovel (1970) argues for treating verb-phrase-final leew as a perfective. According to his analysis, leew emphasizes the occurrence of a situation at a point in time, rather than over a period of time. When leew is used with stative verbs, "we are viewing the situation at the point of time at which the change of state occurred" (1970: 107). According to this analysis, it is this focus on a point in time that gives leew-marked situations the implication that they occurred in the past.

In a similar analysis, Sindhvanandha (1970) claims that VP-final leew marks the completion of a situation, but that it can refer to any absolute time frame (past, present, or future). Sareechareonsatit (1984) concurs that it can refer to any time frame but explicitly specifies that leew does not mark completion, but a change of the entire situation. For example, in the following sentence she characterizes leew as a perfect marker, which marks a change of state, or a new situation or condition (1984: 208-209):
 (5) nuan kin khaaw leew
 Nuan eat rice ANT
 `Nuan has eaten.'

She claims that his example "should read as `Nuan has changed from the state of not having eaten to the state of AT LEAST HAVING BEGUN eating' not `Nuan has finished eating'" (1984: 208; emphasis added).

Boonyatispark's (1983) treatment of VP-final leew is the most complete and accurate to date and overlaps partially with both Scovel and Sareechareonsatit. According to her, "leew indicates that a crucial amount of some activity has been carried out, a crucial point of a situation has been reached (not necessarily a completion point) at the time of reference" (1983: 158). She gives the following example, which has three interpretations:
 (6) khao khat rccnthaaw khuu nan leew
 3P polish shoe pair that ANT
 1. `He has polished that pair of shoes.'
 2. `He has started polishing that pair of shoes.'
 3. `He is about to polish that pair of shoes.'
 (1983: 164)

Her analysis and translation of this example are an attempt to explain why accomplishment verbs may be interpreted in the following three ways when marked by leew: (1) completed; (2) inchoative; (3) imminent. She states that with achievement verbs, leew generally marks a completed situation, and with state verbs it marks the arrival of a new situation. She also points out that leew may indicate a state resulting from the completion of a dynamic situation. Her claim that leew is a perfective is based on her analysis that it focuses on a crucial point in the situation and thus "views a situation from the outside," (1983: 158). Her claim that leew is not a perfect is based on the fact that leew-marked situations do "not always have continuing relevance at the speech time" and that they cannot always be translated by the English perfect (1983: 161-162), as in the following example:
 (7) khaw maa thun leew le kc Pcck pay Piik
 3P come arrive ANT and so leave DIRgo again
 `He arrived and then went out again' (1983: 161).

At the same time, she describes leew as "relating (a situation) to the situations immediately before and after it" (1983: 158).

Most researchers claim (Sareechareonsatit; Thepkanjana 1986; Dahl 1985; Schmidt 1992, etc.) that leew is a perfect marker. Furthermore, Dahl specifies that "V + aux. leew" is the perfect marker, without making a claim as to the function of leew in other positions. In Dahl's analysis of this morpheme, he points out that the responses concerning leew on his TMA questionnaire only marginally place it within the "perfect" category, indicating that it doesn't neatly fit the prototype (1985: 130).

It seems that those studies that treated leew as a perfective or as a marker of completed situation were partially correct in their description of its situated interpretation, or use in a certain context. However, it is my analysis that verb-phrase-final leew is a perfect marker that signals the current relevance of a situation. A closer look at the ways that TMA markers are used, in section 4, sheds light on the types of relevance that a situation may have to another when marked by the perfect.

4. Thai perfect leew is an old anterior

4.1. leew's cooccurrence with semantic predicate types

The inherent lexical aspect of the predicate with which leew cooccurs, as a conveyor of the natural aspectual characteristics of the situation being described, may be the most crucial contextual variable in determining which meaning a grammatical marker of tense or aspect itself contributes to the situated interpretation of a given utterance. One way to explore the hypothesis that leew is a perfect rather than a perfective is to examine its distribution with these various verb types. According to the distributional bias hypothesis (Andersen 1989, 1993; Shirai and Andersen 1995), speakers will "tend to use past or perfective inflections more with accomplishments and achievements than with states or activities" (Shirai and Andersen 1995: 747). In other words, grammatical aspect morphemes tend to be used with verbs whose inherent semantics are congruent with their meaning. If leew were indeed a perfective marker, the distributional bias hypothesis would predict a tendency for it to occur more frequently with telic verbs (achievements and accomplishments) than with nontelic verbs. On the other hand, if leew is a perfect, as we hypothesize, its distribution will not reflect this congruence, and it thus will be more evenly distributed.

According to Vendler's (1967) classification of lexical aspect, there are four main semantic predicate types to be considered: state, activity, accomplishment, and achievement. These four types can be characterized in terms of the semantic features +/- punctual, +/- telic, and +/- dynamic (Andersen and Shirai 1994). A situation with the feature "punctual" has no duration, the feature "telic" describes a situation with a natural inherent endpoint, and the feature "dynamic" means that the situation described by a predicate requires energy in order to persist. This is summarized in Table 2, from Andersen (1991).
Table 2. The semantic features "punctual," "telic," and "dynamic"

 State Activity Accomplishment Achievement

Punctual - - - +
Telic - - + +
Dynamic - + + +

State verbs such as want describe a situation that simply exists: it is durative, requires no energy to be maintained, and has no INHERENT endpoint. While a state can begin and end through a change-of-state, the endpoints of a state are not part of the state proper. All other predicate types are dynamic and thus require a constant expenditure of energy to be maintained. Activity verbs such as work are durative and dynamic and have no inherent endpoint: these are situations that are maintained through energy and do not have a set goal or terminus that defines their endpoint. Like activities, accomplishment predicates such as paint a house are also durative and dynamic, but unlike activity verbs, they do have a necessary endpoint: one cannot have "painted a house" without having finished the job. Achievement predicates such as win refer to a situation that has no duration, but they often imply some activity that led up to that moment. In the case of win, the verb refers to the moment at which a change of state occurred after some period of playing (for a fuller discussion of these predicate types see Robison 1993).

Table 3 shows the distribution of predicate types that cooccur with VP-final leew. In contrast to the distribution of a perfective, this distribution shows that VP-final leew actually tends to cooccur more often with nontelic verbs (59% with states and activities) than with telic verbs (41% with accomplishments and achievements). This distribution is similar to the general distribution of verb types in Thai spoken discourse. Coding of verb types in a smaller sample of the data shows the general distribution of state, activity, accomplishment, and achievement verbs. The occurrence of verb types in the first 118 clauses of the Pear Story data and the first 104 clauses of the Earthquake 3 data were coded, and the results are shown in Table 4.
Table 3. Predicate types co-occurring with VP-final leew

Predicate type Number Percentage

State 38 41.8
Activity 16 17.5
Accomplishment 13 14.3
Achievement 24 26.4
Total 91 100
Table 4. General distribution of predicate types

Predicate type Number Percentage

State 71 32
Activity 61 28
Accomplishment 38 17
Achievement 52 23

Total 222 100

As Table 4 indicates, state and activity verbs occur more frequently than telic verb types in their general distribution in Thai spoken discourse. The similarity between leew's distribution and the general distribution of verb types indicates that leew's distribution does not reflect the significant congruence with telic verbs that would be predicted for a perfective marker. The perfect in Thai, then, as opposed to perfectives, is distributed more evenly between aspectual verb classes.

4.2. leew, and grounding in narrative

Another way to explore the hypothesis that leew is a perfect rather than a perfective marker is to look at its use in the foreground and background of narrative. It is fairly well established that most languages with the aspectual distinction between perfective/imperfective tend to mark foreground clauses with the perfective (Hopper 1979; Givon 1982). Based on this work, if leew is indeed a perfective, then it should be prominent in narrative foreground clauses. The data examined in this study contain a rich sample of narratives -- stories in which the events are told in the same order that they actually occurred (Labov 1972).(5) All narrative clauses in the corpus were coded as foreground or background according to the criteria outlined below, and we compared the use of leew in each of these categories.

A number of scholars have used the terms foreground and background to distinguish two basic types of clauses in narrative: the foreground provides the main storyline, while the background provides information necessary to the interpretation of that storyline. The foreground/background distinction allows the speaker (or writer) to express real-world events in different ways, marking different paths through the story and providing different backdrops. It also allows the listener (or reader) to process a complex flow of information, differentiating the linear sequence of events from "commentary and supportive information which add texture but not substance" (Hopper 1979: 220). Given the important function of foreground and background in narrative, languages use a range of devices, including aspect, to distinguish them.

Foreground clauses move the reference time of the narrative forward, are chronologically sequenced, and focus on the events rather than states or descriptions. This linear ordering of events in the foreground leads to their construal as bounded, unitary occurrences: thus, they are marked in many languages with the grammatical perfective (Hopper 1979; Reinhart 1984). Each clause coded as foreground (1) is part of a narrative -- at least two events represented in iconical order, but not necessarily juxtaposed in the discourse; (2) moves the reference, time forward; (3) cannot be switched with other narrative clauses without changing the sequence in which the events actually occurred.(6)

Around this foreground narrative skeleton we find the flesh, or background of the narrative, which provides commentary and supportive information on the main storyline. It consists of events and states that are simultaneous with, or outside of, the story's ongoing timeline but are necessary for the interpretation of the foreground. It provides information about ongoing circumstances, motivations, and characteristics of the story's situations (Reinhart 1984). Due to this nonsequential temporal constituency, the narrative background tends to be marked with imperfective aspect, and compound tenses, such as the perfect (Hopper 1979). Clauses coded as background included descriptions of characters, objects, circumstances; ongoing states or processes; out-of-sequence events; indefinite/presentative constructions;(7) subordinate clauses; negated clauses; habitual or regularly occurring (i.e. nonunitary) events.(8)

Based on the cross-linguistic evidence cited above, we expect foreground clauses to be predominantly marked by the perfective aspect, if the language has such a grammatical marker. Because background clauses give information that is relevant to the interpretation of the events in the foreground (Reinhart 1984), and events that are presented out-of-sequence as they become relevant to the ongoing narrative action, perfect markers are often found to have a backgrounding function. We can thus hypothesize that if leew does the work of a perfect in VP-final position, it will tend to occur in background clauses of narrative. Table 5 shows the number of tokens of VP-final leew that occurred in background versus foreground clauses.
Table 5. VP-final lEEw in background versus foreground clauses

 Pear Story
Data narratives EQ 3 EQ 4

Background 24 33 4
Foreground 3 2 0
Total 27 35 4

Data Interview Parent-teacher Total

Background 4 21 86
Foreground 0 0 5
Total 4 21 91

VP-final leew occurs almost exclusively outside of the narrative foreground: 85 of 91 tokens were found in the background, as is typical of a perfect or anterior marker. Out of a total of 1075 foreground clauses in all data sets, only five contained VP-final leew, so this morpheme does not serve the foregrounding function of perfectives.

The following segment, taken from the Earthquake interview data, exemplifies the use of leew in narrative background clauses:

(8) Pam is telling Tina that the earthquake damage in her house didn't seem very bad to her, because her sister cleaned up the apartment before she woke up:

 02 maa duu
 come look
 `(I) came to look,'

 03 kc yannan huh huh huh
 so that-way
 `it was all right huh huh huh.'

 04 [right arrow] phcwaa phiisaaw khaw lon maa khliin
 because older-sister 3P DIRdown DIRcome clean
 liaplccy leew
 completely ANT
 `because (my) older sister, she had come down
 to clean it all up.'

In line 4, leew is used to mark a situation that is out of sequence with the ongoing narrative timeline -- a typical job of anteriors and perfects in the languages of the world. However, not only does leew mark events that are out of sequence, but it more generally marks the relevance of a situation to the ongoing narrative, as in the following example:

(9) The narrator has been describing his reaction to the Northridge Earthquake. In particular, he was surprised that Southern Californians were so terrified after the quake.






Here the narrator uses the perfect (line 5) to mark background information about why he was surprised at the reaction of the Californians. This clause expresses a stative situation that began prior to and continued at reference time.

In the preceding sections, then, we have shown that leew does not behave like a perfective, but like a typical perfect. The distributional bias hypothesis predicts that a perfective cooccurs more frequently with eventive predicates, and cross-linguistic evidence predicted that foreground clauses would be marked with a perfective. However, leew cooccurs frequently with all verb types and was shown to be used in narrative as a backgrounding device that marks situations that are prior to, and relevant to, the ongoing events in the narrative timeline. These two sources of evidence indicate that leew conforms to the prototypical parameters of the cross-linguistic grammatical category of perfect or anterior.

As we saw here, the Thai perfect is used in the typical ways described for its grammatical category across languages. It is used in narrative to break the narrative timeline and to mark events that are out of sequence, as well as to mark relevant background information that aids in the interpretation of narrative events. However, much of the data on the perfect in previous literature comes from spoken narrative texts or isolated sentences. In the next section we will examine the uses of leew in other types of natural spoken discourse, which will show us a broader range of uses for the perfect, and which argues for the importance of the notion of relevance to the basic meaning of this category, as well as arguing against a purely "temporal anteriority" definition.

4.3. The uses of leew

This section focuses on the ways in which leew is used by speakers of Thai in different contexts. The uses described here are "what speakers intend and hearers infer in particular contexts" (Anderson 1982: 230). We will define and categorize different uses according to what a hearer may interpret an utterance containing leew to mean. This interpretation, or use, arises from a combination of the basic meaning of leew with other elements in the context. It is important to note which notions the elements of the context may contribute to a given use of the perfect, and how this interacts with the basic meaning of the morpheme to give rise to such an interpretation. After examining these uses-in-context, the basic meaning of the Thai perfect can be postulated.

Determining the uses of aspectual markers in different languages has facilitated cross-linguistic comparisons of these categories. Dahl (1985) conducted one such comparative study, in which it appeared that VP + leew marginally conformed to a universal prototype category "perfect." A closer look at the uses of the perfect leew serves as an exposition of the ways in which this morpheme conforms to and departs from such a prototype.

The uses of verb-phrase-final leew fit the prototype category of perfect or anterior. According to Dahl's (1985) cross-linguistic study of the uses of the perfect in many languages, the most prototypical uses of the perfect are (1) the perfect of result, as in "he has already read this book"; (2) the perfect of recent past or hot news, as in "the king has died"; (3) experiential /existential, as in "have you ever met my brother?"; and (4) current relevance as in "you can't go yet because you haven't brushed your teeth." Bybee et al. (1994: 62) propose that the basic meaning of the anterior is a past action that is relevant to the reference time, and that the most typical uses are (1) anterior; (2) anterior continuing; (3) experiential; and (4) perfect of result.

In this corpus, VP-final leew is used in some of these prototypical ways, displaying a conformity to the cross-linguistic category, while differing from the prototype in other ways. We find the following semantic uses: perfect of result, completive, anterior, anterior continuing, state exists, present imminence, and negative attained state (its pragmatic use as "emphatic" will be discussed in section 4.3.8). Table 6 shows the number and percentage of all tokens that were coded for each use.
Table 6. Number and percentage of tokens for each use

Use Number of tokens Percentage

Perfect of result 10 11
Completive 5 5.5
Anterior 32 35.1
Anterior continuing 17 18.7
State exists 20 22
Negative attained state 4 4.4
Present imminence 3 3.3

Total 91 100

4.3.1. Perfect of result. A perfect of result occurs in contexts that convey that a state of affairs resulting from a preceding situation exists at reference time. Dahl gives the example, "he has already read this book" and notes that, in contrast to a resultative construction (e.g. "the book is read"), this use of the perfect "puts more focus on the event than the state." This interpretation is available when leew occurs with telic (achievement or accomplishment) verbs, leew occurs with the achievement verb yut `stop' in the following example:

(10) Tina is describing what she wanted to say to people who were panicked after the Northridge Earthquake, before she knew how bad the damage was:
 01 Tina: thammay khaw teekt<s>uu</s>n
 why 3P frightened
 `Why (are/were) they scared?

 02 kc nccn tcc si
 so sleep continue DIR'V
 `Go on sleeping!'

 03 [right arrow] man yut leew
 3P stop ANT
 `It has stopped!'

In lines 2-3, the speaker is quoting herself as having encouraged others to go back to their normal activities -- sleeping -- after the earthquake. Line 3 is the reason for such a directive: the state of affairs at the narrative reference time is back to normal as a result of the fact that the earthquake had already stopped, therefore it is safe to go back to sleep. The perfect-of-result interpretation is only possible when leew occurs with a verb that includes a natural endpoint: the combination of this endpoint with the perfect meaning that some part of the situation is prior to or relevant to reference time provides the implicature that the entire situation occurred before reference time. The discourse context, where this statement is given as a justification for the speaker's directive to go back to sleep, allows for the interpretation that the state of affairs resulting from this prior event is relevant to the narrative reference time.

4.3.2. Completive. Some utterances that contain VP-final leew may have a completive interpretation, meaning that the situation is carried out thoroughly and completely prior to reference time. In these utterances leew is found with an accomplishment verb, and usually with mention of the quantity or extent at which the situation would be considered thoroughly complete. In the following example it occurs with the accomplishment verb tem `fill', and with the quantity to be filled, pckket khaw `his pockets':

(11) The narrator is telling how the pear-picker fills his pockets with pears before climbing out of the tree.
 01 [right arrow] S2 phcc tem pckket khaw leew
 when fill pocket 3P ANT
 `When (he) has filled up his pockets,'

 02 khaw kcc tay lon maa
 3P so climb DIRdown DIRcome
 `He climbs down.'

In line 1, the narrator refers to the fact that the pear-picker fills his pockets completely before climbing down. This interpretation comes from the combination of the perfect with the natural endpoint of an accomplishment verb and statement of the extent of the activity. The when clause provides the reference point at which this thoroughly completed situation holds. The temporal dependency between thoroughly filling his pockets and climbing down allows for an interpretation of relevance between the two situations.

This use differs from a perfect of result in the sense that the completive situation is carried through to its fullest extent, while the perfect of result refers to a state of affairs resulting from a prior completed situation. In the perfect of result, the relevance is between a resulting state of affairs and another situation, whereas the completive marks relevance between a thoroughly completed event and another situation. In both cases, the implicature of "prior to reference time" comes from the combination of the verb's natural endpoint with the perfect's meaning of "current relevance"; the nature of the relevance is provided by the context.

4.3.3. Anterior. The anterior use refers in a more general way to a situation that is prior to and relevant to reference time, which corresponds with Bybee et al.'s (1994) meaning label "anterior." This use is available when the perfect cooccurs with activity, accomplishment, and achievement verbs.(9) This use was often found when leew cooccurs with the grammatical particles maa and pay, which denote direction toward or away from the speaker respectively, as well as aspectual properties (see section 2 above). When using leew in this way, the speaker is not expressing the thorough completion of a situation at reference time and is focusing not on the result of a preceding action, but on the temporal anteriority of some part of the situation and its current relevance. In example 12, the anterior use is shown with an activity verb:

(12) This narrator of the Pear Story film is describing the farmer's method of picking the pears.
 01 [right arrow] S5 leew phcc kep maa leew
 conj when pick DIRcome ANT
 `And when (he) has picked (some),'

 02 kc say lon pay
 so put DIRdown DIRgo
 `he puts them in the basket.'

Here the speaker is referring to an activity, picking some pears, which is prior and relevant to the action of putting them in the basket. The speaker is not referring to the completion nor the result of that activity. The activity verb kep provides no inherent endpoint, so the implication that the entire situation takes place before reference time is not as clear as with the telic verbs. Nor is there explicit mention of a certain quantity that is completed before reference time. The directional marker maa `towards the speaker' carries an imperfective aspectual meaning, which affords the defeasible implication of noncompleteness. The when clause again sets up a temporal dependency between the situations in lines 1 and 2: here, some picking occurs before the reference point at which `he puts them in the basket'.

Example 13 below shows an anterior use with the accomplishment verb lon maa `come down':

(13) The narrator of this story has just described a man who is picking "peaches" (he has mistaken pears in the film for peaches).






Note that in line 2 the speaker has already mentioned the fact that the pear-picker came down the ladder. After a brief pause, the speaker repeats that fact, this time marked by leew, in line 3. It marks the temporal anteriority of this situation to the NEXT one described in the following clause; it also marks `having come down the ladder' as relevant to the action of `putting them in the basket'. Here leew is backgrounding the situation it marks: the foreground of the narrative is given in lines 2 and 4. If line 2 were foregrounded, there would be no need to mark temporal anteriority to the situation in the succeeding clause, because foreground events are by nature sequential. For this reason, we can assert that the backgrounding function of the perfect, along with its meaning of current relevance, is more crucial in its use here than is the temporal-relational meaning. As we saw above, the grammatical morpheme combines not only with the Aktionsart of the verb to yield a given interpretation, but also with other elements of the discourse context -- in this case, structure of narrative foreground versus background helps to provide the interpretation.

4.3.4. Anterior continuing. Another use that Bybee et al. (1994) proposed as a core element of the cross-linguistic perfect category is the anterior continuing. This is the use that Dahl (1985) called the "universal perfect" or "perfect of persistent situation," but which he found to be relatively infrequent in his sample of languages. This use signals a continuous situation that began prior to and continues at the reference time; it is usually employed when reporting the extent to which an ongoing situation has progressed (its duration, for example). This use is found in my data when leew cooccurs with activity and state verbs, grammatical markers denoting imperfectivity -- the progressive (kamlan), the imperfective (yuu), or the continuous marker (maa) -- and often with a quantified time expression. The following is an example of its cooccurrence with an activity verb, the continuous marker maa, and the noun phrase ki pii `how many years' in line 1:

(14) In a job interview, the interviewer is asking about the interviewee's training, job experience, and history. She has just told the interviewer where she studied and when she moved to Bangkok to start working.



The continuous or imperfective marker along with explicit reference to a duration of time contribute the meaning that the situation has continued for a length of time, while leew contributes the notion that the duration of time began prior to and persists up until the reference time. 4.3.5. State-exists. The "state-exists" use, which was not a core use of either Dahl's or Bybee et al.'s prototype category for perfect/anterior, is the second most commonly found use of leew in my data, representing 22% of the total.(10) When leew cooccurs with state verbs, its interpretation is similar to the anterior continuing use: that a "state is begun before reference time and continues after reference time" (Bybee et al. 1994: 318). While the anterior continuing use refers to a situation that continues up until reference time, the cooccurrence of leew with a state verb indicates a state that begins prior to and holds at reference time. This combination does not indicate a state that previously held and no longer holds.

In line 2 of the next example leew cooccurs with the state verb too `be mature', which can be paraphrased `she is already mature':

(15) The teacher is asking a student's father whether or not he knows that his daughter has a boyfriend:
01 father: may waa ?a khap
 `she didn't tell me'
02 [right arrow] phcwa khaw too lew
 because 3P mature ANT
 `because she is already mature'
03 ?ayu yiisip kwaa lew ha
 be(age) twenty more.than ANT HON
 `(She)'s already more than twenty.'

State verbs in Thai that are unmarked for temporal reference indicate that a state currently holds. However, a speaker uses leew with states that are important and relevant to the ongoing discourse, similar to Li et al.'s (1982) description of the Mandarin perfect, le, which marks a currently relevant state.

4.3.6. Negative attained state. With state verbs, the perfect marker does not refer to states that no longer exist. However, when the clause is negated leew can be used to indicate that a situation that held previously no longer holds. In this use leew cooccurs with the negative marker may and can be translated as `not any more'.

(16) A teacher is explaining to a student's father that the student is not fulfilling the required coursework as quickly as her friends.




In line 2, the speaker combines negation with leew to show that her friends have already completed their requirements to take certain courses, that they no longer have to take those courses. Here leew, in combination with clausal negation, should be read `not any more'. We can draw a parallel between this interpretation and that of a state-exists: the two uses describe a state of affairs that exists at the reference time. In this case, the state of affairs that exists is the state of not having to take those required courses.

4.3.7. Present imminence, leew can also be used when a situation is imminent and relevant to the ongoing discourse. Some call this the immediate future or future anterior. Anderson (1982) found that this use of the Mandarin perfect le was closely related to the perfect of result and negative attained state `not any more', under what he terms the "attained state." Because this use appeared only three times in this data, the circumstances and restrictions of its use are unclear: it cooccurs twice with the irrealis/future marker ca and once with the verb pay `go'. It is possible that leew signals that the state of preparing to begin a future action is discernible at reference time. This use occurs in line 2 in the following example:

(17) Patty is describing the difficulties that she and her friends had finding parking on campus after the earthquake. One friend arrived at class only twenty minutes before it would end, because she had been looking for parking. Patty explains:




In this example, the future marker ca contributes a sense of futurity, while leew brings the future situation into the reference time: together they provide the interpretation that the situation is about to happen. As noted above, the presence of ca (FUT) is not necessary for the availability of this interpretation: one often hears this use with the verbs pay (roughly `[I/you/he] is out of here') and maa (meaning roughly `[he/she/it] is coming').

4.3.8. Using leew as emphatic. Beyond the semantic notions of current relevance and anteriority, the Thai perfect is also used pragmatically to mark emphasis, often with state verbs. This pragmatic use overlaps with the semantic uses. It is important to define more clearly what we mean by "emphatic" here. The speaker could simply choose to use the bare state verb in order to convey that a state exists: so why does the perfect occur with these verbs? Since the speaker chooses to use leew, it is helpful to understand the specific function of this use. Li et al. (1982) discuss an emphatic use of the Mandarin perfect, which is described as correcting a wrong assumption or emotive affirmation (see also Anderson 1982). In the following example leew's presence marks essentially emotive affirmation of the fact that a "D" is indeed a bad grade:

(18) A student's father is being informed by two teachers about his daughter's poor grades.
01 FT: ncc nuu khu nun ?a
 letter `D' be one PRT
 `The letter "D" is a one.'(11)
02 father: lu ha
03 [right arrow] MT: nun nia kc yee lew
 one PRT so be.bad ANT
 `One, (that)'s bad!'

In line 3, the speaker emphatically affirms the fact that a grade of one is indeed bad. Note that the temporal reference is not the most important factor in understanding the use of the perfect here: a grade of one is characteristically bad, it did not simply enter into the state of being bad prior to reference time. The more crucial element of the perfect's meaning here is the current relevance of the state to the topic being discussed. leew is also used emphatically when a situation exceeds the speaker's or hearer's expectations, as in line 2 of the following example: Patty expresses her surprise that prices were so high after the earthquake:

(19) Patty is telling about her friends who went to the store just after the Northridge Earthquake.
01 Patty: suu khee ma ki yaan.
 buy only NEG much type
 `(They) only bought a few things'
02 [right arrow] sip lian pay leew
 ten dollar DIRgo ANT
 `(it was) already ten bucks!'

In line 2, Patty describes a state that began exactly at reference time -- when they bought a few things. The fact that this state exists at the stated reference time is surprising: the bill reached a total of ten dollars earlier than expected. This use is similar to the use of the English adverb already, by which leew is often translated.

The emphatic can also correct an interlocutor's wrong assumption, as in the

following example, which was coded as a state-exists use as well as emphatic. In line 4, Eve disagrees with Tina's assertion that the Thai and Japanese languages have similar politeness phenomena and uses leew emphatically to contradict her:

(20) Eve has been trying to explain that Japanese is a difficult language to speak, because it requires the speaker to be aware of different levels of politeness. Tina tries to assert that Thai is similar in that way.





In lines 2-4, the speaker disagrees with her interlocutor that the Thai language is similar to Japanese in terms of politeness phenomena. In terms of temporal reference, line 4 describes a state of 'being polite' that started before and continues at reference time. The existence of this state at the reference time is opposed to the interlocutor's stated assumption: in other words, Thai speakers are able to be polite with less effort than Japanese, as opposed to the interlocutor's statement that they are similar. This is perhaps related to exceeded expectations that we saw in example 18: Thai language is considered polite at an earlier juncture than the interlocutor expected.

Thus we find leew emphatically marking emotive affirmation, the correction of a wrong assumption, and exceeded expectation (surprise).

4.3.9. Summary and discussion: uses of leew. In this section we have examined the ways in which leew is used in context, and how these utterances are interpreted. We saw that the particular interpretation of these utterances depends on leew's cooccurrence with certain elements, including the inherent aspectual semantics of the verb, time and quantity expressions, and other grammatical particles. Its placement in the context of discourse is also important -- sequential placement in relation to other turns and other speaker moves, as well as its placement and function in narrative. While the temporal meaning of the perfect is often emphasized in its analysis across languages, these data show that the purely temporal relation of anteriority to reference time is defeasible in certain contexts. This highlights the importance of the meaning of "current relevance" in the Thai perfect.

In order to examine the interaction of the perfect with different contextual elements, we should look more closely at its uses across contexts. Table 7 presents the semantic uses of leew in combination with each of the verb types.(12)
Table 7. Uses of lEEw with semantic verb types

Use State Activity

Perfect of result
Anterior X
Anterior continuing X X
Negative attained state X X
Present imminence X(a) X(a)
State exists X

Use Accomplishment Achievement

Perfect of result X X
Completive X X
Anterior X X
Anterior continuing X(a)
Negative attained state X(a) X(a)
Present imminence X(a) X(a)
State exists

(a.) Use not found in this corpus but mentioned in previous literature.

Note that the temporal notion of a situation "prior to reference time" found in the "perfect of result" and "completive" uses occurs only with telic verbs. Nontelic verbs, on the other hand, interact with the perfect to describe a situation that has "current relevance" at reference time. Table 8 above summarizes the uses and other contextual elements with which leew was seen to cooccur. Again, in this table we note that the common thread among these uses of the perfect is the notion of current relevance.
Table 8. Contextual elements in the uses of lEEw

Use Verb type expressions

1. Perfect of result accomplishment,
2. Completive accomplishment, quantity/extent
3. Anterior activity
4. Anterior continuing state duration
5. State exists state

6. Negative attained state state
7. Present imminence state

Use morphemes

1. Perfect of result

2. Completive pay(directional)

3. Anterior pay (directional),
 maa (directional),
 set `finish'
4. Anterior continuing imperfectives

5. State exists

6. Negative attained state may (negative)

7. Present imminence ca

In the next section, we will discuss a basic meaning for this morpheme that can account for this synchronic distribution of uses. We will then discuss how leew fits with established prototype categories that have been cross-linguistically established for the perfect or anterior in languages of the world.

5. Discussion

5.1. The basic meaning of leew

The prototypical meaning of the perfect or anterior marker in languages of the world can be characterized as "prior situation currently relevant" (Bybee et al. 1994). Some researchers find the notion of "current relevance" to be clumsy and ambiguous (Klein 1992). However, without a notion of "relevance to reference time" we cannot account for the uses of leew found in this corpus. The meaning of the perfect in Thai cannot be limited to anteriority, because we find that the implicature of temporal precedence can be canceled out in certain contexts, while the notion of the relevance of a situation to the reference time always holds.

leew's use with accomplishment verbs is an interesting case. It is expected that the combination of a grammatical morpheme that denotes temporal anteriority with a verb that has an inherent endpoint would result in the interpretation that the situation has been carried out to its endpoint -- it no longer holds. However, as Boonyatispark (1983) points out, accomplishment verbs may be interpreted in the following three ways when marked by leew: (1) completed; (2) inchoative; (3) imminent:
(21) khao khat rccnthaaw khuu nan leew
 he polish shoe pair that ANT
 1. `He has polished that pair of shoes.'
 2. `He has started polishing that pair of shoes.'
 3. `He is about to polish that pair of shoes.'
 (1983: 164)

The implicature of completion can be canceled out, as can the implicature of anteriority. She provides a basic meaning for this morpheme: "leew indicates that a crucial amount of some activity has been carried out, a crucial point of a situation has been reached (not necessarily a completion point) at the time of reference" (1983: 158). A "crucial" amount, in this case, means the aspect of the activity that is relevant at the reference time. So, in the case of the completed interpretation, the completion of the situation is relevant; in the case of the inchoative interpretation, the beginning of the situation is relevant; in the case of the imminent interpretation, the imminence of the situation is relevant. The common thread among these interpretations is that the situation being described is somehow relevant to the reference time.

Indeed, when we examine leew's use with bare verbs, we see that the notion of temporal anteriority comes as an implicature, and that the notion of relevance to the reference time is more central to the basic meaning. With the nontelic verbs -- states and activities -- the situation is most often interpreted to hold at reference time:
(22) a. too leew
 mature ANT
 `(she)'s mature already.'
 b. tuan leew
 warn ANT
 `(I')m warning (you).'

States can also be interpreted as imminent, though never as past states. When leew occurs with the negative marker, the utterance is interpreted as referring to the current state of affairs in which a situation does sot hold. With telic verbs -- accomplishments and achievements -- their combination with leew gives the implicature that the situation is prior in time. However, this implicature can be canceled: accomplishments may be interpreted as "in progress," and achievements can be interpreted as imminent, though this is rare.

As we have shown in this paper, the Thai perfect conveys a sense of current relevance more crucially than it does a sense of temporal anteriority. What does it mean to say that a situation is relevant at reference time, then? Perhaps the meaning of "current relevance" as presented in previous literature has been vague and abstract, but it is central to understanding this grammatical category, and leew, as a member of it. There are many ways described in the literature that a situation can be relevant to the reference time. Li et al. (1982) describe some of the ways in which the Mandarin perfect le conveys a "currently relevant state": (1) the state is a changed state; (2) it corrects a wrong assumption; (3) it reports progress so far; (4) it determines what will happen next; (5) it is the speaker's total contribution to the conversation at that point. Slobin and Aksu (cited in Anderson 1982) describe the basic meaning of the Turkish perfect as a situation that is "new for an unprepared mind," which leads to uses that convey emphasis, surprise, exceeded expectations, hearsay, and inference.

In our data, we saw that the meaning of current relevance was crucial to the use of the perfect in many ways. When used with telic verbs, the current relevance sense of the perfect means that a prior situation is (i) complete and the resulting state of affairs is relevant at reference time (perfect of result); (ii) completed to its fullest extent, as a relevant step before beginning the next situation at reference time (completive use); (iii) relevant to other situations mentioned in the discourse in a number of ways (relevant background to narrative events [backgrounding function], relevant in the sequential context of a conversation or argument [emphatic use], etc.); (iv) so close at hand that its imminence is relevant. Whatever the relevance of the situation may be, its current status as relevant at reference time is the most basic, while notions of temporal anteriority depend on context.

This leads us to the conclusion that the best characterization of the Thai perfect's basic meaning will approach Boonyatispark's definition. The Thai perfect leew indicates that a relevant part of the situation holds at reference time. We can call this a "currently relevant situation." 5.2. Verb-phrase-final leew's relationship to the prototype perfect/anterior

The uses described above correspond well with both Dahl's (1985) and Bybee et al.'s (1994) cross-linguistic category "perfect/anterior." The only core use from these prototypes that does not occur in the use of the Thai perfect is the experiential/existential (as in "have you ever met my brother?"): this meaning is provided in Thai by the experiential marker kheey. In other ways, leew extends beyond the margins of Dahl's prototype perfect category: it shows the range of core notions that Dahl describes, but also other uses such as "state exists" and "present imminence." However, while the basic meaning of the cross-linguistic prototype category is most accurately characterized as "past situation currently relevant," the basic meaning of the Thai perfect is "currently relevant situation."

6. Summary and conclusion

The consideration of the contextual uses of the Thai perfect has shown us that a situation marked by leew is brought into the moment at reference time, marking its current relevance. The context in which aspect markers function includes more than just the cooccurring elements in a syntagmatic frame. We must include broader levels of context in order to understand a speaker's purpose in using the perfect. By examining the use of leew in extended narrative, we saw that it is used as a backgrounding device: further investigation of narrative data should show us how speakers use the perfect to display their stance and perspective on a given situation. By examining the discourse over several speaker turns, we saw that a speaker can use the perfect as marking emphasis -- to correct a wrong assumption, to show emotive affirmation, and to show that the situation exceeds expectations. Formal-relational definitions of the category perfect emphasize the anteriority of one event in relation to another. leew's marginality in the cross-linguistic prototype category can be explained by the fact that its basic meaning crucially includes a notion of current relevance, which can be expressed of prior situations, imminent situations, and current states-of-affairs, while the implicature of temporal anteriority can be canceled out. Whereas Bybee et al.'s (1994) cross-linguistic grammaticalization pathway shows that anteriors often evolve into perfectives or past tenses,(13) perhaps a perfect that is used emphatically, such as leew, will show this alternative development. This suggests that there may be typological differences in the grammatical category of perfect markers: further research on cross-linguistic uses of the perfect in natural spoken discourse may lead to a typological differentiation between perfect markers that encode a temporal-relational meaning, versus perfect markers that develop emphatic uses and crucially include the notion of current relevance.

University of California, Los Angeles

Received 25 October 1999 Revised version received 28 February 2000


(*) I would like to express my appreciation to Roger W. Andersen, Shoichi Iwasaki, and Russell Campbell, whose guidance during all stages of this study have greatly helped. Much gratitude is also extended to those who collected, transcribed, and translated this corpus of data and generously allowed me to use it: Supa Chodchoey, Amy Meepoe, and especially Shoichi Iwasaki. Also, thanks to Amy Meepoe for her partnership and teamwork throughout the project. I would also like to thank my fellow students in Roger Andersen's graduate seminar on tense, mood, and aspect at UCLA in 1995. This material benefited from many fruitful discussions at the Southeast Asian Linguistic Society in May of 1996. Finally, I greatly appreciate the insightful comments of the anonymous reviewers and the Assistant Editor of Linguistics, Ann Kelly. However, I must claim sole credit for all remaining errors. Correspondence address: Department of Applied Linguistics, University of California, Los Angeles, P.O. Box 951531, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1531, USA. E-mail:

(1.) Shoichi Iwasaki provided the materials for this study. They included Thai Earthquake Conversations 3 and 4 (collected by Shoichi Iwasaki, transcribed and translated by Amy Meepoe, funded by Pacific Rim Studies Program, UCLA, Principle Investigator Iwasaki); Hotel Job Interview and Parent-Teacher Conference (collected by Shoichi Iwasaki, transcribed and translated by Amy Meepoe); "Pear Story" narratives (collected, transcribed, and translated by Supa Chodchoey).

(2.) Thanks to Amy Meepoe, who helped me to construct this account.

(3.) Parentheses indicate optional clausal elements; AUX is a model verb or aspectul auxiliary; PRT is any grammatical particle including tense/aspect, directionals, question particles, politeness particles, etc.

(4.) The data were transcribed phonetically, thus phonetic realizations of some words may vary. For example, the reader will note that the long vowels are often reduced in fast speech: thus leew is sometimes realized as lew (the latter is, nevertheless, treated as the same morpheme in this study). Abbreviations in the glosses consist of the following:
1P = first person singular pronoun
1Pp = first person plural pronoun
3P = third person (singular/plural) pronoun
"name"(1P) = speaker's name used to refer to first person
ANT = anterior
CMPL = completive
CONT = continuative
DIR = directional
DIR'V = directive intensifier
EMP = emphatic marker
EXP = experiential
FUT = future tense/modal
HON = status particles
IMP = imperfective
NEG = negator
POS = possessive
PRT = conversational and pragmatic particles
Q.PRT = question particle

(5.) According to Labov's (1972) work on the structure of narrative, the term "narrative" refers to a text that expresses a succession of real-world events in the same order in which they actually occurred; a "minimal narrative" contains at least one temporal juncture between two sequentially ordered events (1972: 360). Labov's "narrative clauses" recapitulate events in iconic order, thus cannot be reversed without changing the meaning of the narrative; they correspond to what we will call the foreground of the narrative.

(6.) Nonfinite dependent clauses were not counted as either foreground or background; verbs of saying and thinking could be counted as narrative foreground if they meet the above criterion. The contents of direct quotes were not coded as foreground unless they contained an independent narrative sequence. Subordinate clauses, such as phcc clauses (`as soon as, when'), were mostly coded as background, according to criteria 3. This is congruent with Schiffrin's analysis of when clauses in English (1981: 52), but not with Reinhart's claims that when clauses and some subordinate clauses may be foreground (1984: 796, 807).

(7.) For example, `there was a boy leading a goat by': mii dek cuun phe? maa would be coded as background (see Iwasaki and Horie n.d. for a description of presentative constructions in Thai).

(8.) The fact that the background is so broadly defined should not present a problem when we examine the number of foreground clauses that are marked with leew. However, when observing the occurrence of leew in background, it is important to qualitatively examine the ways in which it is used there, rather than relying solely on quantification.

(9.) Of course, we can imagine a case in which a state verb might be used with the perfect to refer to a prior state that is currently relevant. However, none of the tokens of the perfect with a state verb in this corpus referred to such a situation. Instead, as we will see below, leew with a stative verb refers to a present, not a prior, state of affairs.

(10.) This should not lead us to claim that a state-exists use would be its most common use in any set of data. It is possible that the genres and topics of the data examined here bias speakers toward the use of certain semantic verb types. For instance, the parent-teacher conference provides a large number of state-exists uses, perhaps because the occasion involves evaluation of the student, which necessarily requires reference to characteristics of the student with stative predicates.

(11.) ncc nuu is a letter in the Thai alphabet. As a grade it is equivalent to a "D."

(12.) The present imminence use is very rare in this corpus, though one often hears such a use in spontaneous talk in Thai. This use often occurs in discussing activities that are about to commence. For example, it is used to note that a bus is approaching, or that one is about to step out the door, etc. Thus, one finds this use as people are moving from one activity to another. However, in this corpus the speakers were recorded within one activity and not at times when they were moving between activities. This may explain the low frequency of the present imminence use in this corpus.

(13.) As an anonymous reviewer reminds us, the scope of a grammatical morpheme may affect its diachronic development as well. Such an argument may be made for the Chinese perfect le: its syntactic position is also outside of the verb phrase, while a homophonous morpheme le that occurs next to the verb has developed into a perfective. Bybee et al. (1994) show that the grammaticalization of anteriors into pasts or perfectives is accompanied by a shift in their expression properties to being more closely bound to the verb (1994: 80-81). Perhaps it is the maintenance of this broad scope (the entire VP) for the Thai perfect that has facilitated its semantic development of this broad range of uses.


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Publication:Linguistics: an interdisciplinary journal of the language sciences
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Date:Mar 1, 2000
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