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

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Item Metadata Höche, Silke 2010-06-23T15:53:07Z 2010-06-23T15:53:07Z 2010-06-23T15:53:07Z
dc.description.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.
dc.subject tense
history of English
tense-aspect continuum
functional and ecological motivation
distinctive collexeme analysis
dc.title What about 'be about'? Walking the tightrope between tense and aspect
dc.type Working Paper
dc.identifier.citation Höche, Silke. (2010). "What about 'be about'? Walking the tightrope between tense and aspect."

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