Edyta Jurkiewicz-Rohrbacher
University of Regensburg
Elżbieta Kaczmarska
University of Warsaw
Alexandr Rosen
Charles University, Prague
Czech Republic

Parallel corpus as functional context of aspectual interpretation
– the case of Slavic biaspectual verbs in the comparative context of Finnish

Although aspect is an obligatory verbal category in Slavic, some verbs, borrowings in particular, cannot be classified as unambiguously perfective or imperfective, and may appear in contexts typical for either aspect. With time, some of them lose their biaspectual character, e.g. because the pre- fixed derivatives take over the perfective meaning, while the original lexeme becomes imperfective (Cockiewicz, 2007; Piperski, 2018). How can we determine aspectual interpretation of such verbs? The formal criterion, such as verifying the verbal paradigm, may fail due to the forms being too rare (Perlin, 2010, p. 166–167). So far, some experimental solutions were tested (Perlin, 2010; Chromý, 2014).

We approach this problem with the help of a parallel corpus (InterCorp, cf. Čermák and Rosen (2012)).1 After a brief introduction of the corpus, we examine supposingly biaspectual verbs appearing in two Slavic languages (Czech and Polish) in parallel contexts in order to find out whether the aspectual interpretation could be detected. We compare them against Finnish, a language where the aspectual value is not encoded in verbal lexemes, and the aspectual interpretation always requires a broader context, such as argument case marking, tense forms etc. In the abstract we show the problem using the Polish biaspectual verb eksplodowac´ ‘to explode’ (1).2

(1) pl
Pytania eksplodowały w głowie Harry’ego jak fajerwerki i nie mógł się
questions explodedPFV/IPFV in head HarryGEN like fireworks and not could REFL
zdecydować, które zadać najpierw.
decide which ask first
V Harryho hlavě vybuchlo otázek jako při ohňostroji, a nemohl se
in Harry’s head explodePFV questionsGEN like during firework and couldNEG REFL
rozhodnout, kterou vyslovit nejdřív.
decide which shall express first
Harryn päähän räiskähti kysymyksiä kuin ilotulitusta eikä hän
HarryGEN headILL explodeMOM.PST questionPL.PAR like fireworkPAR and.not he
osannut päättää, mitä kysyisi ensin.
be.ablePTCP decideINF whatPAR askCOND first (moment)
en Questions exploded inside Harry’s head like fireworks and he couldn’t decide which to
ask first.’3

The Czech equivalent vybuchlo is perfective. In Finnish the most likely interpretation is also perfective, due to the momentanous verbal affix -AhtA-, used to describe situations lasting for a very short time. On the other hand, the plural partitive subject kysymyksiä ‘questions’ allows marginally for an imperfective interpretation of the sentence (‘questions exploded one after another’).

On the other hand, the Czech equivalent of eksplodowac´ in (2) is clearly imperfective. However, the Finnish equivalent räjähtää still contains the momentanous morpheme -AhtA-, similarily to (1). It is important to observe that all sentences express a situation with two simultaneously happening events. While in Czech the simultaneous event is expressed with another imperfective finite form rozstrˇikovalo se ‘splatter’, Polish uses an adverbial participle obryzguja˛c, which can also denote a successive event or result, and Finnish the Instructive form of the second infinitive singoten.

(2) pl
Pierwotne światło eksplodowało, obryzgując czasoprzestrzeń czymś w
primal light explodedPFV/IPFV splatteringADV.PPLE space-time somethingINS in
rodzaju grudek budyniu.
kindLOC cludsGEN custardGEN
Prvotní světlo vybuchovalo a rozstřikovalo se v časoprostoru jako kapky jogurtu.
primal light explodedIPFV and splattered REFL in space-time like drops yoghurtGEN
Luomisen valo räjähti singoten avaruusaikaa joka suuntaan kuin
creationGEN light explodeMOM.PST splatterINF2.INS space-timePAR every directionILL as
en Primal light exploded, splattering space-time as with gobbets of junket.4

However, when the Polish biaspectual verb happens not to correspond to an equivalent with a specific aspect in the other language, Finnish as an additional language might help, as in (3). The Finnish verb contains the momentanous morpheme again and suggests a pfvective reading.

(3) pl
Eksploduje ze stłumionym hukiem blisko mojej głowy.
explodesPFV/IPFV with muffled sound near my head (pfv/ipfv)
Exploduje mi s tlumeným výbuchem kousek nad hlavou.
explodesPFV/IPFV meDAT with muffled sound bit above head
Se räjähtää vähän minun pääni yläpuolella vaimeasti jysähtäen.
it explodeMOM.3SG a.little my head.my above silently thudINF3.INS
da da Det eksploderer et stykke over mit hoved med et dæmpet knald.5
’It explodes with a muffled sound just above my head.’

Sometimes a comparison with both Czech and Finnish turns equally useful. In (4) Finnish uses a copula construction of a clearly static, thus imperfective character, which is confirmed by the use of an imperfective verb in Czech.

1See von Waldenfels (2012) for a comparison of the use of aspect in imperatives across Slavic languages, based on the Parasol parallel corpus.
2Note that due to a suboptimal number of parallel Polish, Czech and Finnish concordances including specific biaspectual Polish or Czech verbs in InterCorp, all our examples in those three languages are translations either from English (1), (2), (4) or from Danish (4). We believe that this is not necessarily a drawback, because translators from a language lacking lexical aspect are likely to use pick an equivalent without being influenced by an explicit expression of (lexical) aspect in the source language.
3J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, translated into Polish by A. Polkowski, into Czech by V. Medek, into Finnish by J. Kapari.
4D. Adams: The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, translated into Polish by A. Banaszczak, into Czech by J. Hollanová, into Finnish by Pekka Markkula
5P. Høeg: Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne (Danish original, translated into English as Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow), translated into Polish by I. Zimnicka, into Czech by R. Novotný, into Finnish by P. Talvio-Jaatinen.


Cermák, F. and Rosen, A. (2012). The case of InterCorp, a multilingual parallel corpus. ˇ International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 13(3):411–427.

Chromý, J. (2014). Impact of tense on the interpretation of bi-aspectual verbs in czech. Studie z aplikované lingvistiky / Studies in Applied Linguistics, 5(2):87–97.

Cockiewicz, W. (2007). Na peryferiach aspektu. LingVaria, 2(4):9–25.

Perlin, J. (2010). Ile jest we współczesnej polszczy´znie czasowników dwuaspektowych? Linguistica Copernicana, 1(3):165–171.