Some Developments in the Semantics of the English. Progressive ...

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Some Developments in the Semantics of the English. Progressive ...

Revista Estudios Ingleses 17 (2004)

simple forms could express duration at that time and expanded

forms were used to denote perfectivity. For this reason,

Jespersen feels that the notion of duration has to be reformulated

(1909-1949: IV, 178). In connection with this, Elsness

uses the term “general duration” to describe the kind of duration

expressed by OE beon/wesan + -ende as opposed to

the limited duration that the cluster expresses in ModE (1994:

7). (note 3)

According to other scholars, however, the periphrasis already

expressed limited duration in OE, especially in combination

with certain temporal expressions or adverbials of time. Words

such as oð or oððæt (=‘until’) contributed to signal the limit of

duration or persistence, as in (6):

(6) he þæs heriende and feohtende fifti3 þintra, oð he hæfde ealle

Asiam on his 3eþeald 3enyd

‘He harried and fought [kept on harrying and fighting] for fifty

winters/years until he had compelled all Asia into his dominion’

(cf. Strang 1970: 351).

If limited duration was present in OE beon/wesan + -ende,

it should have constituted quite an original use, at least in

this period. Nevertheless, there seems to exist agreement on

the fact that the periphrasis expressed duration above other

things (cf. Curme 1913: 172; Mossé 1938: i, §281; Strang

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