Date: Mon, 6 Dec 1993 09:44:36 CST


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