Friday, March 6, 2009

English Invents Present Continuous Tense!

Hello, readers!
Present Continuous Tense is an invention of the English language! Languages closely linked to English like French or German do not have any corresponding verb-forms in their tense-systems. If the French want to emphasize the progressive aspect of a verb , they have to resort to some periphrastic devices like the construction ĂȘtre+en train de+ infinitive of the verb. Germans must have recourse to adverbs like at the moment or now to emphasize the continuity of an action. It is obvious that the ancestors of the French and German people did not feel strongly the need to emphasize the progressive aspects of actions. Otherwise, their languages would have come up with a solution by inventing a new tense A language always responds to needs The ancestors of the present_day English people too did not feel the need to emphasize the continuity of actions. In their language Old English there is no verb-form similar to present continuous . In some Old English texts there are constructions using the verb-form be+present participle.The present participle marker then was -ende , and it had an adjectival meaning as in Modern German. But unlike as in Modern German it could be used as a predicative adjective. Toward the end of the Middle English period-ing began to replace -ende and the way was cleared for the emergence of a new tense. It must have been a long process. I am giving the modernized version of a hypothetical Middle English sentence : The child is sleeping. This sentence cannot be accepted as a new tense-form.The present participle sleeping has a strong adjectival meaning and is is a lexical verb. This sentence had the potential to become a new tense. In course of time, present participle began to acquire the force of verbs and the verb is got relegated to the position of an auxiliary verb. I am giving modernized version of another hypothetical sentence in Middle English: The child is jumping, Jumping has the force of an action . In course of time all present participles acquired the force of verbs and the verb be increasingly lost its lexical status This is how Present Continuous Tense was born,The invention of this new tense was a giant leap forward for English in its progress towards precision and accuracy. English became capable of expressing subtle nuances of action in relation to time.

Now I will discuss a few problems that ESLlearners confront while learning Present Continuous. German and French ESL learners have no specific tense-forms in their languages corresponding to present continuous. Hence they may experience difficulty in conceptualizing it. Malayalam -speaking students may find this tense difficult on account of the presence of auxiliary in its verb-form. They expect the auxiliary to have some meaning , and when they are told that it has no meaning, they are confused. I think a knowledge of the history of this tense will enable them to understand why the auxiliary lost its meaning and it remains in the verb-form only to perform a function

The Applications of Present Continuous

Present Continuous is used to indicate an action in progress at the time of speaking . It is a foil to Simple Present. The following examples in contrasting pairs will help the learners

1. Birds fly towards their nests in the evening
birds are flying towards their nests.

2.Milk boils at 100 degree Celsius
Turn down the gas ,please. The milk is boiling over!

3It rains every day in June in Kerale
Give me ny raincoat .please. It is raining now.

4She goes to office every day.
Today she is going to her office in a new car.

5She speaks several languages.
She is speaking in French now.

Dear readers, I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

No comments:

Post a Comment