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Can aspect be marked by a non-inflecting word (‘auxiliary particle’)?


This feature covers all grammatical aspects (internal temporal constitution of event/action/state) and aims to capture phonologically free elements that do not inflect (i.e. change form depending on person, number and other categories of the core arguments). These markers are often described as ‘particles’ in the literature, but are also analyzed under other labels. We are interested in grammatical marking, i.e. dedicated, productive and obligatory marking.


  1. Look up the section on aspect marking in the grammatical description.
  2. Consider all marking of aspect, e.g. not only perfective.
  3. If you do not find any non-inflecting phonologically free aspect markers, code as 0.
  4. If there is a non-inflecting phonologically free marker that clearly marks aspect, code the language as 1.
  5. If it is not clear whether the marker marks aspect, code the language as ?.


Samoan (ISO 639-3: smo, Glottolog: samo1305)

Samoan has two different particles for past tense that differ in terms of aspect. is the more general marker, and na denotes punctual events. Samoan is coded 1 for this feature. The examples below are taken from Mosel & So’o (1997: 21), with glossing by Skirgård.

a. Sā  nofo le   fafine i  Apia
   PST stay DEF  woman  in Apia
   ‘The woman stayed in Apia.’ (Mosel & So’o 1997: 21)

b. Na       pā      le  pa'u
   PST.PFV  explode DEF tyre
   ‘The tyre exploded.’ (Mosel & So’o 1997: 21)

Further reading

Bybee, Joan, Revere Perkins & Pagliuca, William. 1994. The evolution of grammar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Comrie, Bernard. 1976. Aspect. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Comrie, Bernard. 1985. Tense. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dahl, Östen. 1985. Tense and aspect systems. Oxford: Blackwell.


Mosel, Ulrike & Ainslie So’o. 1997. Say it in Samoan. (Pacific Linguistics: Series D, 88.) Canberra: Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University.

Related Features


Hedvig Skirgård