What about 'be about'? Walking the tightrope between tense and aspect

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Title: What about 'be about'? Walking the tightrope between tense and aspect
Author: Höche, Silke
Abstract: While there is an abundance of literature discussing the future constructions will and be going to V (e.g. Wekker 1977, Comrie 1985, Gries & Stefanowitsch 2004, Hilpert 2008) as well as a remarkable body of studies of the aspectualizing constructions begin to V and start to V (Freed 1979, Brinton 1988, Duffley 2006), little has been said about the pattern be about to V. Common reference grammars describe be about to V as a future construction on a par with be going to V. The latter is often used to paraphrase the former, suggesting semantic-functional overlap. The present study analyzes be about to V as a construction falling in between futurate and aspectualizing forms. First, diachronic data retrieved from the OED show that while be about to V underwent a development as a future form similar to the much-described emergence of be going to V, more recently be about to V has taken on characteristics associated with start/begin to V. Next, a distinctive collexeme analysis of synchronic data taken from the BNC is presented. Be going to V, be about to V and start to V are discussed with respect to semantic and aspectual characteristics of verbs which are significantly associated with each construction. In conclusion, be about to V is best described as a construction profiling the lead-up section to the onset of an event and thus fits neatly into the tense-aspect ecology of the grammar of English.
Citation: Höche, Silke. (2010). "What about 'be about'? Walking the tightrope between tense and aspect."
Date: 2010-06-23

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