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home > The Present Perfect in English

The Present Perfect in English
― From Semantic, Evolutionary, and Contrastive Perspectives ―

Fu Kenryo
First published:
2021 / 10 / 5
Price (in Japan only):
5,000 yen (Tax Not Included) (160 pages)


This book examines the present perfect in present-day English from semantic, evolutionary, and contrastive perspectives. Based on the related literature, the grammaticalization of the English present perfect can be elaborated by a four-stage theory suggested in this book. Stage One is characterized by "present > past" (the present overriding the past semantically) in Old English and early Middle English, covering a historical period before the 14th century. In this stage, "have" was a full verb and the semantic emphasis was on the present. In Stage Two, the semantic focus shifted from the present to the past. Stage Two lasted until the 18th century, when "a strict semantic differentiation" between the present perfect and the preterite became estabished (G?rlach, 1991, p.111). In this stage, reanalysis motivated the modification from the construction of "have + NP + past participle" to the structure of "have + past participle + NP." As a result, the new word order "have + past participle + NP" was generalized and settled down in the 14th century and later became the syntactic form of the present perfect in present-day English. Then, in Stage Three, since the early 18th century, the present perfect is once again semantically characterized by "present > past," though "have" is no longer a full verb as it used to be in OE. Finally, Stage Four is also characterized by "present < past" semantically, differing from Stage One in the way that "have" in Stage Four is a particle instead of a full verb. It is hypothesized in this book that the present perfect in present-day English is evolving from Stage Three towards Stage Four through diverse routes, such as extended current relevance, co-occurrence of the present perfect with TADs, and the “I seen it” pattern.

Fu Kenryo is a Ph.D. in Language, Communication, and Culture (English linguistics) and a full-time lecturer of English at the Faculty of Arts and Tourism in Professional College of Arts and Tourism. His research interests include usage-based studies in English linguistics, with particular focus on tense and aspect, such as the present perfect, from semantic, evolutionary, and contrastive perspectives.



Chapter 1 The Present Perfect in Present-day English

Chapter 2 The Present Perfect and Grammaticalization in English

Chapter 3 The Present Perfect and Grammaticalization in Chinese and Japanese

Chapter 4 From Narrowed Current Relevance Towards Extended Current Relevance

Chapter 5 The Present Perfect and Adverbials of Definite Past

Chapter 6 Between the Present Perfect and the Preterite: An Analysis on the "I seen it" Pattern

Chapter 7 Temporal Adverbials of Duration and the Continuative Perfect Conclusion

Appendix The Present Perfect Co-occurring with Adverbials of Definite Past in Spoken English

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