French language, although it may not appear to be so for native speakers, is not a simple language. However, learning a foreign language never appears to be simple. Without tense, no language has a meaning and we are incapable of discerning whether some this happens, was happening, is happening or has happened. The study of French tense has been expanded and explored on a number of levels to better understand the root or semantics of the language but the most important reason for this is that is helps us better understand the complexities of teaching. The ability to conjugate verbs so that the inflect the correct tense is something taken for granted by a native speaker and to find similarities and contrasts between two languages helps us to understand why learning a new language so semantically different can be difficult. The French verb conjugations dramatically alter the meaning of a sentence. As with all linguistic debates, the presence of a Language Acquisition Device and the purpose of it, is always present. The fact that the environment into which an individual is socialized drastically changes their ability to learn a foreign language is also apparent. The French semantic climate is one that acquired linguistic proficiency can support, but can a person in an entirely different language root be able to acquire that knowledge or do they have to learn it? In this case it can be argued that the complex structures of a language are internalized from a young age and then the learner attempts to apply the same principles of learning to another language from a different root.
Tense is given to denote the time at which something happened, is going to happen or is happening. Without this mechanism we are not able to make much sense of what is going on. In the spoken language we refer to simple present, future and past tense and then of course, there are the ‘perfect tenses’. Aspect is given as part of the relationship between tenses and aspect. The way in which we view the tense depends on what you are speaking about in relationship to the tense provided. Generative semantics believes that semantics is central to the transformation of sentence structures. The writers writes in this book that the semantic representation occurs in three layers: propositional, modal and performative. The scope of book is dedicated purely to the French tense. Where French is used, it is as a comparison of the meaning of inflection and tense so that it shows the meaning of. The French has numerous ways and this begins with verb. The verb in French is conjugated from a ‘root’ which is either triliteral or quadriliteral and vowels are deleted and inserted to create inflections for the various tenses. Unlike the English, French verbs are inflected for number, gender and mood. The majority of case assigners in French are visible at the propositional layer, that is the agreement of verbs occurs in the first part of the sentence and the book agreement with the verb is dependent on the hierarchy in the sentence. Where French is used in comparison it is only to explain and clarify the point. What we intend to do is highlight the complexities of the language that include the root extraction of the verb, the conjugations that occur depending on tense, mood and aspect. We seek to clarify that the difficulties of the semantics of tense and aspect are tantamount to the complete meaning of the language. In other words, unlike the French we know so well, the French is entirely dependent on the verb. The verb is the word that reflects mood, aspect, tense and even number. This means that in order to understand a sentence, one has to understand the complex and sometimes subtle changes in the root verb. The root or stem of the verb is either triradical or quadriradical meaning that when the vowels are removed there are three consonants left behind that constitute the root. So in terms of the semantics f the tense and aspect, it can be said that the semantics of a sentence are entirely dependent on how the verb is conjugated. If the verb is not properly in agreement with the subject or auxillary, then the sentence is quite literally meaningless. Section three of course, deals with the past tense, which contains the verb in the simplest form and only changes marginally while section four deals with future tense which enforces that the verb be conjugated already to its nominal form. The words themselves receive a prefix that changes the meaning of the tense already presented.
As far as terminology is concerned, aspect poses a more complex question. The book explains that tense relates the time of the situation referred to some other time, whereas aspects are different ways of viewing the internal temporal constituency of a situation.
The tense invariably tells us when the activity occurred while the aspect allows us to interpret the event from another angle. One the writers studied the learning of aspect and tense in African students and her explanation for aspect surrounds the linguistic crux of language acquisition and the difficulties in transcribing language: “The expression of time is universal, whereas the means of expressing time are language specific. Hence the acquisition of a foreign language always involves the acquisition of different linguistic means to express time.” Therefore in any language, aspect is marked differently but also has a number of properties: it is prevalent in the explanation of temporal relationship between an occurrence in relationship to another event (progressive) and in what state it occurred (stative). The complications of time and aspect are also seen in what book explains is “density”. This means that while time can be shown in present, past and future, it is also dense.
The French language come from the Proto-Indo-European language tree however and have some imperative differences from the English trees and we are focusing forthwith on the essential aspects and aspect relationship, given that the French expression of aspect and tense are diabolically different to the English. French is so complex in its acquisition, the presence of a language acquisition device, cannot be ignored in the context of learning aspect and tense. This is especially true when considering that verb conjugation is something that appears to be an inherent skill in children from a young age. Verb conjugation being essential to the production of tense and tense markers and to summarize the intent of the book, we look specifically at how tense and aspect are shown in here.
The verb in the past tense is in its simplest form an has to be conjugated with respect to the pronoun. The pronouns include singular, dual and third, second, third and collective masculine and feminine. The first section explains how the root is extracted; it takes into account the triradical and quadriradical nature of the root. When the root is found by deletion of vowels, it is not a word at all, it is merely a skeleton upon which new words can be built. The other part of the book is dedicated to the present tense and the complexities that arise from pronoun agreement in order to ascertain what the formal word will become. These insertions can be either literal phonemes or symbolic phonemes. In this sense, the phoneme inserted into the root is not always a letter, but a symbol. Section five is dedicates to the exploration of mood in French language. Indicative; Subjunctive; Jussive; Energetic and Imperative are the five moods, but they are not always visible in the perfective tense. These moods are important because they are not a feature in the English language and also add to the meaning of the sentence. The book talks about the nominal and verbal sentences and the difference in verbal agreement depending on whether or not there in a conjoined NP. It describes sentences structure but fails to elucidate the key aspects of sentence structures. It further explains case assigners such nominative, dative and accusative cases, this does not have a direct bearing on tense or aspect but is an essential part of the entire sentence.
In the French language the pronoun changes but the verb conjugation does not. Specifically the verb has a prefix and a suffix with each conjugation when it is added to the appropriate pronoun. The verb shows inflection of number, gender, person and mood, making it far more complicated than French.
In French nominal inflections are used to convey tenses, moods and aspects. Essentially the root does not change but inflection is shown by the deletion or insertion of vowels. Most roots have a three letter root. These are the triradical (trilateral) verbs and are the most common, containing three consonants as the root. When a basic verb is conjugated to the various tenses, it is derived, meaning that the original is slightly modified. The rule in French verb conjugation is therefore the system of root extraction where all vowels are removed to leave a ‘stem’ of all consonants. The root is always extracted from the third person singular masculine form of the verb. This also means there is no infinitive as there is in English. This would leave either 3 consonants (triradical) or four (quadriradical).
We have already conjugated this verb in the past tense, showing the major changes that occur when the verb is conjugated, but in the present tense the verb the process of deletion and insertion occurs in agreement with the pronoun. Compare this then with the English conjugation: In the above table we see that the French verb is conjugated only once and the pronoun is the only thing that changes. Radicals refer to the consonants left after extraction occurs.
In French, two structures occur: nominal and verbal sentences. Nominal occurs where the subject precedes the verb and in verbal sentences the verb precedes the subject.
The verb forms are extremely different from English where the vocal inflection generally denotes where the emphasis of the sentence is. Aspect is reflected in the French sentence by inflection of the verb and by specific verb forms rather than being in its perfect format. This makes the learning of the French language extremely difficult especially for a Germanic language speaker.
One cannot find a possible way in which tense and aspect can be separated even though it is expressed differently in French as it is in English. Although this was never intended as a comparative analysis, what the use of French as a comparative tool does do, is allow us to see how aspect and tense are inter-related. The tense and aspect are shown in the verb itself and are mutually related, giving it transitory, durative, inchoative and progressive meaning. It is also temporally loaded, meaning that time is shown in the verb processing. It can be postulated that sentences do not necessarily have to have aspect to be meaningful, making the presence of tense the most important aspect of the morphological structure.
The verb forms with the vowels removed will depend on the type of aspect you wish to show. This means that the verb holds the key to the performance of aspect. It also has the ability to express: number, gender, tense and mood. The key to the tense-aspect relationship in French is therefore almost totally reliant on the case of the verb. I can conclude therefore that tense and verb have a close relationship in French as well as any other language, even though aspect in not essential to the understanding of a sentence. The semantics of tense and aspect in French, although not expressed in the same way as other languages might be, as important to the language as it is to another.