Grammatical Aspects, or cognitive variables?

Source: BBC Learning English on YouTube


Most sources say the grammatical Aspect is about the type of activity. People do not really choose between the Simple, Progressive, Perfect, or Perfect Progressive. Verbs are such or such, and require such or such language patterns. Telling the types may look much to be thinking about while speaking. ■→Merriam-Webster explains:
The grammatical Aspect is the nature of the action of a verb as to its beginning, duration, completion, or repetition, and without reference to its position in time.

BBC Learning English says in the video above that the Aspect is all about the character of the verb.

The picture here is a video screenshot to tell the types of events or activities to use with the Simple.

There are thousands of verbs in English. This here looks much to be thinking about before you speak, while you speak, and after you speak.

Click to enlarge; source: BBC Learning English on YouTube

Before we follow up on the long-term general truth that practice makes perfect, to take to a tedious and invariably inconclusive study on verb and activity types — it is not really probable for human behavior ever to get successfully sorted by rubric — let us test the teaching against a piece of poetry.

Hardly anybody learns language to read emails only, or to get weather reports, so a few lines of poetry should be fine. All verbs here are in the Simple: which would be the “long-term general truth”, which “instantaneous”, and which “habitual”?

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side…
hold them, blue to blue,
lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.
■→Emily Dickinson, The Brain is Wider than the Sky

The answer is, none. Not even one of the verbs fits in the categories as above, because the piece is a poetic metaphor. Everyday language is figurative much of the time as well, and even beginners do not expect actually cats and dogs when it rains, so it is fair to note that categories as above do not recognize some Simple usage.

Emoticon, smile

Well, people happen to say “sky is the limit” when walking on Earth. The repository here has poems by Emily Dickinson, and also USA civics. Such texts are not metaphoric. Feel welcome intellectually to exercise and test on the categories.

Full insight into the poetry book and more

Internet Archive, the free image and text repository

Feel welcome to click and use the materials in my account.

In our regular earthly reality, time and place occur together without exception. There is no time without place, or place without time. Computer virtual dimensions might isolate the two, but human grammars have not evolved in virtual realities.

The name aspect comes from the Latin word aspectus. It meant a seeing, a looking at. The way we view ourselves and the world is not always the same. We may compare Emily Dickinson’s ■→Beclouded, for the sky.

We cannot change the flow of time, but much language we make is about how we view this flow. It is us to do the looking. Grammar cannot decide if we want to say that we live somewhere, we have lived, we are living, or have been living somewhere. Grammar cannot require that we say where we had lived before we say where we moved in. We can decide to add that after.

Feel welcome to read:
■→The idea of travel in grammar.

Let us think about our real, everyday lives. We people live on Earth, we give at least psychological borders to areas in which we are, and we learn as well as remember ways to places. We happen to be at landmarks, too. We can use the words on, in, to, and at for place as well as for time, in English.

All people map cognitively. It is cognitive mapping to help us get to a place, in the shortest length of space as well as time, on our routes to school, work, or another location. We grant cognitive extents to thought and emotion as well (only it gets to be described under other labels).

Emoticon, smile

All grammar books agree that English has 4 grammatical Aspects. As there happen to be differences on particular labels, we can agree they are the Simple, the Progressive, the Perfect, and the Perfect Progressive.

The Simple would tell what we generally see that existed, exists, or we think will exist on a cognitive ground or extent.

Grammar does not need to do anything more. If we want to talk about philosophy, or on what might be a general truth, we simply chat about that.

Emoticon, smile

The Progressive would help say that something was, is, or will be in progress, in its course. To visualize this Aspect, we could picture activity or faculties in an area of a cognitive map.

The Perfect: We can use it to say what had taken place, has taken place, or will have taken place to a moment in time. The moment does not have to mark the end of the state, activity, or faculty work. We may view the course or occurrence of the activity as a way to a place.

The Perfect Progressive can work as a merger of the Perfect and Progressive, with the marker at.

If we use the Aspects as cognitive variables (if we decide on own regard or “looking”), we don’t need to divide verbs into categories, whether we mean literal or figurative language use. There is much less formal grammar to think about, when we speak or write. Feel welcome to see more over the Grammar Weblog,
■→Chapter 4. Time rambles different with different people
■→Chapter 7. Time in the mind and heart

For the Greek idea of a category and use in grammar, feel welcome to the USA Charters of Freedom: the Constitution is a “syntax bonanza”, an exceptionally rich resource. We cannot have language forms that are hundreds of years aged for modern grammar, but we can update the language form:
■→USA Charters of Freedom.