Date: Mon, 6 Dec 1993 09:44:36 CST
From: salikoko mufwene mufw[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU
Subject: Re: some U.S. "Midland" regionalisms
It's been very informative following your native postings on stative verbs
inflected in the progressive. In the early 1980s, while writing a short
monograph "Stativity and the progressive" (Indiana U. Linguistics Club, 1984) I
disputed the common claim that stative verbs are not used in the progressive
and argued that with the exception of a handful of verbs such as "consist,"
most stative verbs have progressive uses. Not only verbs such as "feel,"
which are presented as exceptions, but also verbs such as "believe, trust,
hate, love, like," which are commonly not discussed at all. I then faced the
problem of how to define the meaning of the progressive, zealously
questioning that it meant 'activity in process'. I tried to convince myself
then that it means 'transient duration'. Recently, I have been toying with a
disjunctive characterization (being more skeptical of "significant
generalizations!") in terms of 'process' or 'transient duration', assuming
that the unmarked condition for most stative verbs is unspecified duration.
I'm still not sure how close I am to being accurate, but it seems to me that
for verbs that stand high on the scale of stativity the progressive
expresses some marked interpretation. There is variation among the verbs
themselves regarding the distance between the unamarked and the marked
interpretations, e.g., "I'm trusting Paul (more and more)" vs. "Ed was loving
Mary (last summer)" vs. "Carla is feeling wonderful." I didn't suspect as
much variation among speakers regarding which marked constructions where
(un)acceptable to whom and when. It's so much more informative when some go
beyond data-producing and conjecture an explanation.
Salikoko S. Mufwene
Linguistics, U. of Chicago
s-mufwene[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]uchicago.edu