At 2:03 am -0500 20/3/00, Shreyas Sampat wrote:
>What's the difference between a verbal aspect and a tense?
>As I've concluded, an aspect includes the various odd things you might
>want to tack onto a verb, whereas a tense is strictly a place in
>relative time.

You're absolutely correct about tense.

Your description of aspect, however, is too vague & could, e.g., well
include 'mood' which is not the same as aspect (or tense).

Aspect defines the way the type of temporal activity/state is marked by the
grammar of the language, i.e. whether it denotes duration (durative), an
action/state in progress but not complete (progrssive _or_ imperfective),
habitual action/state (habitual), repetition or regular occurrence
(frequentative _or_ iterative), a resultant state (perfective), an action
starting or about to start (inchoative _or_ inceptive).

The above list is not meant to be exhaustive.  Many languages collapse two
or more different aspectual meanings into two or three marked ones.

Some languages like the Slav langs & modern Greek have a clearly defined
dual aspect system (imperfective & perfective in the Slav langs) with a
complete set of tenses in each aspect.  The western European languages have
tended to mix tense & aspect.  English verbs are considered by some to show
four aspects:
         Simple     Progressive   Perfect     Perfect progressive
Present  I go        I'm going    I've gone    I've been going
Past    I went      I was going   I had gone   I had been going

Having mentioned mood above, I guess I ought to answer the question "So
what's the difference between mood & aspect?"

Mood marks the attitude of the speaker/writer towards the factual content
of the utterance: definiteness (indicative mood), uncertainty, vagueness,
possibility etc.

Latin & many mod European langs, e.g. Spanish, have three moods:
indicative, subjunctive & imperative.  The last is for giving orders:
"Go!".  Some languages have more; ancient Greek, e.g., had an 'optative'
mood used to express desirabilty or wish "Were it so!" English expresses
these ideas with modal auxiliaries such as 'can', 'could', 'may', 'must',
'ought' etc.

>Would it be feasible for a language to have tense based on a definite
>event or an event defined at the start of a conversation, where actions
>occurring within a certain duration of the event are present and others
>degrees of past and future depending on their distance from the action?

Most things are possible  :)

>Also, is there precedence for inflection patterns dependent on word
>origin, or is that too artificial?

Yes, as long as it's not overdone.  Words, especially proper names,
borrowed from Greek into Latin more often than not retained some of the
Greek flexions.  In German 'Christus' retains the Latin genitive 'Christi'.


A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
                   [J.G. Hamann 1760]