September 26, 2012
In this paper, we discuss different types of verbal aspect in three varieties of Sorbian, Standard Lower and Upper Sorbian and Colloquial Upper Sorbian. There are basically two formally differentiated aspect oppositions in Sorbian, the Slavic opposition of perfectivity, expressed by stem alternations (prefixation, suffixation and suppletion) and thus grammatically derivative, and the opposition of aorist and imperfect, expressed by inflection. These two types are, however, restricted in their distribution, as modern Lower Sorbian lacks the inflectional type completely, and Colloquial Upper Sorbian uses it only with auxiliaries, modal verbs and some verbs of speech. Even in Standard Upper Sorbian the independence of the two oppositions is rather relative, as only the second and third person singular have different endings for the two grammemes, whereas in all other persons formal differences between imperfect and aorist are expressed, if at all, only by stem alternations, dependent on the opposition between the imperfective and the perfective stem. Therefore, even in Standard Upper Sorbian we have a clear differentiation between perfective and imperfective only outside the synthetic past tense, e.g. in the analytic l‑ past or in the future, while the imperfect is linked exclusively to the imperfective and the aorist to the perfective. While the functions of the stem-based aspect opposition are in the Standard languages of the common Slavic type, Colloquial Upper Sorbian has an idiosyncratic aspect type based functionally on an opposition of grammaticalized telicity. The reasons for the special characteristics of verbal aspect in the varieties of Sorbian in formal as well as in functional respect essentially go back to language contact with German. The ILA model of the interaction of the lexicon with aspect serves as a theoretical base for the following presentation.