Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Range of Tenses and Their Implications 3

A student no longer mine asks me whether the past perfect is a tense we actually use, and I find myself trying to defend a conceptualization of time: a past more past than past.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Range of Tenses and Their Implications 2

There was a certain sadness before in seeing myself leave in August of this year. Hard to say why. A shame I couldn't set up a somewhat-permanent place of residence here, I suppose. Now I'm in my new apartment, and it scares the shit out of me. What if I don't get it right?

It's been a while since I've seen anybody flip the fuck out, so I'm watching myself scream in the parking lot of IKEA. Too many people are asking where I am. "Goddamn! Fuck!"

A Practical Chinese Grammar for Foreigners

里 and 边 can't be used after nouns indicating geographical units.
我在中国。 O
我在中国里。 X

I can't blame the relationship I had with ——— on anything but my worst behavior. At least I have that. That was me at my worst, and that behavior was the big reason for the decline. At least I wasn't my best.

Cannot in a grammar book is synonymous with don't and must not. The same cannot be said about can and do and must.

Aspectual particles 了 (le), 着 (zhe), and 过 (guo)
了, to emphasize a completed action
着, to show a progressive action or continuous state
过, to place special stress on a certain experience in the past

是 (to be) isn't an action word, so it can't be followed by the aspectual particles above.

Am I better now?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Range of Tenses and Their Implications 1

The range of tenses that many students use: simple present (usually without the s for the third-person singular); simple past (often with the extra demonstration of pastness—for example, "Did he went there?"—and sometimes the use of the infinitive, especially when an adverb of time occurs in the sentence—for example, "Yesterday I go to my grandmother's house"); and one form of the future, what I'm inclined to call in-the-moment future—that is, the one formed with will (I: "What are you going to do this weekend?" Student: "I will see a movie"—unless you stress going to). Sometimes the students use the present progressive, but even the three- and four-year-olds in TT1, the youngest class, have been taught to say, "I stand up," as they stand up. The past progressive is almost always avoided. Instead, students usually use a series of sentences, sometimes with the aid of the coordinating conjunction and—"I ate, and you came in"—although often it's hard for them to keep the tense consistent when they're going on about what was happening when something else happened. This is understandable when you consider that one thing started before the other; thus, usually "I ate, and you come in."

In this usage, time has only three distinct zones—the past, present, and future—and the grammar's concentration is on whether an action is finished or not. English, however, can be less concerned with completion and more concerned with space away from the present, however the present is conceptualized. The present perfect is a good example of how the present can continually be recontextualized to include one's life and to point out possibility and intention. Consider the difference between He's done a lot in his life and He did a lot in his life, between I never saw that movie (and now I can't) and I've never seen that movie (but I still could).

I notice that I don't think about whether an action is finished. Instead, I think about how close both spatially and temporally I am to the doing. The present perfect, to go back to it, demonstrates the past's effect on the present, their continual relationship.