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Languages differ from one another in so many ways. Tense structure tends to be the complicated aspect of foreign language learning. For instance, even though Chinese appears to lack tense structure, Chinese speakers are in fact, aware of actions that refer to the past, present and future. In other words, the time reference in Chinese is represented differently – instead of tense, it is labeled as aspect.

To cut to the chase, aspect is conceptualized into two types of actions – either telic oratelic. The former refers to an action that has been completed while the latter symbolizes an action that is uncompleted. Because Chinese grammar does not marktense, whether or not the action is completed depends on the type of sentence final particle (SFP) (了 le, 過 guo). Both refer to actions in the past, but the minor contrast lies in guo being more far back than le.

As guo would usually be understood as an experience, thus the action appears to be more far back than le (他去日本 “He has been to Japan” as opposed to 他去日本 “He went to Japan”). To elaborate, in the first utterance, the mentioned person might already be back in his home country (he has the experience of visiting Japan) while in the following utterance, it is also possible that the he is still in Japan or is on his way to Japan. As Chinese does not mark tense (English: go, went drink, drank), speakers tend to rely on context to determine which SFP to use – whether it has been completed (guo) or it has not been exactly completed and still onging (le), keeping in mind that both actions would be conceptualized as “past” in general.

Languages differ from one another in so many ways. Tense structure tends to be the complicated aspect of foreign language learning. For instance, even though Chinese appears to lack tense structure, Chinese speakers are in fact, aware of actions that refer to the past, present and future. In other words, the time reference in Chinese is represented differently – instead of tense, it is labeled as aspect.

To cut to the chase, aspect is conceptualized into two types of actions – either telic oratelic. The former refers to an action that has been completed while the latter symbolizes an action that is uncompleted. Because Chinese grammar does not marktense, whether or not the action is completed depends on the type of sentence final particle (SFP) (了 le, 過 guo). Both refer to actions in the past, but the minor contrast lies in guo being more far back than le.

As guo would usually be understood as an experience, thus the action appears to be more far back than le (他去日本 “He has been to Japan” as opposed to 他去日本 “He went to Japan”). To elaborate, in the first utterance, the mentioned person might already be back in his home country (he has the experience of visiting Japan) while in the following utterance, it is also possible that the he is still in Japan or is on his way to Japan. As Chinese does not mark tense (English: go, went drink, drank), speakers tend to rely on context to determine which SFP to use – whether it has been completed (guo) or it has not been exactly completed and still onging (le), keeping in mind that both actions would be conceptualized as “past” in general.

Now, you understand how do the Chinese express “past” in their language. Have you ever thought about a past tense mark in another language? <To be continued>

Pic source: ashscrapyard.wordpress.com

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