Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter (A) September 11, 2021

Aspectual pairing and aspectual classes in Abui

  • František Kratochvíl ORCID logo EMAIL logo , David Moeljadi , Benidiktus Delpada , Václav Kratochvíl and Jiří Vomlel


This paper describes the aspectual classes in Abui, a Papuan language of the Timor-Alor-Pantar family. Abui innovated a system of aspectual stem pairing, realized by consonant mutation, vowel grading, and rime mutation. Although stem pairing is widespread (about 61% of the verbs alternate), about 38% of our 1,330 verb sample are unpaired and immutable. Abui verbal stems combine with aspectual affixes, adverbs and auxiliary verbs, whose distribution is used here together with the stem types to describe aspectual classes, which are understood as lexicalizations of transitional possibilities of lexical items (e.g. inchoative-stative vs. inchoative-gradual.inchoative-stative). The paper takes the bidimensional approach to aspect distinguishing between properties associated with the perfective-imperfective system and other aspectual marking (cf. Sasse, Hans-Jürgen. 2002. Recent activity in the theory of aspect: accomplishments, achievements, or just non-progressive state? Linguistic Typology 6(2). 199–271). Combining the features of both types of aspectual marking, we construct in a bottom-up fashion the aspectual classes in Abui and also show that these may be further refined if contextual features such as valency or degree of change (affectedness) were included. A characteristic feature of the Abui system is the elaborate system of stative-inchoative verbs sensitive to scalar and change properties (e.g. instant vs. gradual). Abui telic verbs show sensitivity to the properties of the resulting state and are formally associated with stem alternation.

Corresponding author: František Kratochvíl, Department of Asian Studies, Palacký University, Olomouc, Czech Republic, E-mail:

Funding source: Czech Science Foundation

Award Identifier / Grant number: 20-18407S


We gratefully acknowledge the hospitality of the Abui community and in particular of the families of Timoteus Lanma and Vinsen Yetimauh, our Abui teachers. George Saad, Marian Klamer, Joseph E. Emonds, Boban Arsenijević, and Joanna Sio have offered important insights on this paper during its various stages. Finally, we thank the anonymous reviewers as well as the editors of this issue Thera Crane, Johanna Nichols, and Bastian Persohn for their valuable input.

  1. Research funding: This research was supported by the Czech Science Foundation grant 20-18407S Verb Class Analysis Accelerator for Low-Resource Languages – RoboCorp.

  2. Author contribution: F. Kratochvíl was responsible for the drafting of the paper and the Abui analysis. B. Delpada contributed his linguistic expertise of a native speaker of Abui and co-authored earlier drafts of this paper. V. Kratochvíl and J. Vomlel developed an automated system to explore Abui aspectual classes and D. Moeljadi developed means to extract aspectual data from the corpus. The details of this workflow will be reported in a separate publication.


Baerman, Matthew & Greville G. Corbett. 2012. Stem alternations and multiple exponence. Word Structure 5(1). 52–68.10.3366/word.2012.0019Search in Google Scholar

Beavers, John. 2011. On affectedness. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 29(2). 335–370.10.1007/s11049-011-9124-6Search in Google Scholar

Bickel, Balthasar. 1997. Aspectual scope and the difference between logical and semantic representation. Lingua 102. 115–131. in Google Scholar

Bybee, Joan. 1985. Morphology. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.10.1075/tsl.9Search in Google Scholar

Dahl, Östen & Viveka Velupillai. 2013. Perfective/imperfective aspect. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds.), The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. in Google Scholar

Dryer, Matthew S. 2013. Position of tense-aspect affixes. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds.), The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Available at: in Google Scholar

Embick, David. 2012. Contextual conditions on stem alternations. In Irene Franco, Sara Lusini & Andrés Saab (eds.), Romance languages and linguistic theory 2010: Selected papers from ‘Going Romance’ Leiden 2010, vol. 4, 21–40. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.10.1075/rllt.4.02embSearch in Google Scholar

Kennedy, Christopher & Louise McNally. 2005. Scale structure, degree modification, and the semantics of gradable predicates. Language 81(2). 345–381.10.1353/lan.2005.0071Search in Google Scholar

Klamer, Marian. 2014. The Alor-Pantar languages: Linguistic context, history and typology. In Marian Klamer (ed.), The Alor-Pantar languages: History and typology, 5–53. Berlin: Language Science Press.10.26530/OAPEN_533875Search in Google Scholar

Klamer, Marian & George Saad. 2020. Reduplication in Abui: A case of pattern extension. Morphology 30. 311–346. in Google Scholar

Klamer, Marian, Antoinette Schapper, Greville Corbett, Gary Holton, František Kratochvíl & Laura C. Robinson. 2017. Numeral words and arithmetic operations in the Alor-Pantar languages. In Marian Klamer (ed.), The Alor-Pantar languages, 329–365. Berlin: Language Science Press.Search in Google Scholar

Kratochvíl, František. 2007. A grammar of Abui: A Papuan language of Alor. Utrecht: LOT.Search in Google Scholar

Kratochvíl, František. 2011. Discourse-structuring functions of Abui demonstratives. In Foong Ha Yap, Karen Grunow-Hårsta & Janick Wrona (eds.), Nominalization in Asian languages. Diachronic and typological perspectives, 757–788. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins.10.1075/tsl.96.26kraSearch in Google Scholar

Kratochvíl, František. 2014a. Differential argument realization in Abui. Linguistics 52(2). 543–602.10.1515/ling-2013-0072Search in Google Scholar

Kratochvíl, František. 2014b. Number in Abui and Sawila. In Marian Klamer & František Kratochvíl (eds.), Number and quantity in East Nusantara, vol. 1, 123–151. Canberra: Asia-Pacific Linguistics.Search in Google Scholar

Kratochvíl, František & Benidiktus Delpada. 2015. Degrees of affectedness and verbal prefixation in Abui (Papuan). In Stefan Müller (ed.), Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, 216–233. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.10.21248/hpsg.2015.13Search in Google Scholar

Merrill, John Thomas Mayfield. 2018. The historical origin of consonant mutation in the Atlantic languages. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley Dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Moens, Marc & Mark Steedman. 1988. Temporal ontology and temporal reference. Computational Linguistics 14(2). 15–28.Search in Google Scholar

Persohn, Bastian. 2017. The verb in Nyakyusa: A focus on tense, aspect, and modality. Berlin: Language Science Press.Search in Google Scholar

Saad, George. 2020. Abui. In Antoinette Schapper (ed.), The Papuan languages of Timor, Alor and Pantar, vol. 3, chap. 5, 267–346. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.10.1515/9781501511158-005Search in Google Scholar

Sasse, Hans-Jürgen. 2002. Recent activity in the theory of aspect: Accomplishments, achievements, or just non-progressive state? Linguistic Typology 6(2). 199–271. in Google Scholar

Tatevosov, Sergej. 2002. The parameter of actionality. Linguistic Typology 6(3). 317–401.10.1515/lity.2003.003Search in Google Scholar

Tenny, Carol Lee. 1987. Grammaticalizing aspect and affectedness. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dissertation.Search in Google Scholar

Vendler, Zeno. 1967. Verbs and times. In Zeno Vendler (ed.), Linguistics in philosophy. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.10.7591/9781501743726-005Search in Google Scholar

Verkuyl, Henk J. 1972. On the compositional nature of the aspects. Dordrecht: Reidel.10.1007/978-94-017-2478-4Search in Google Scholar

Veselinova, Ljuba N. 2013. Verbal number and suppletion. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds.), The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Available at: in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2021-09-11
Published in Print: 2021-09-27

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 1.3.2024 from
Scroll to top button