Aspect in Atlas: permanent or non-permanent?

So here we are again. This has been hot topic in various forums, and had a couple of questions about it via e-mail too, so let's do a post about it. Why not?

First of all, what is aspect? Basically it indicates how an event spands over time.

I am eating - I ate - I have eaten - I eat - ...

There are many different kinds of aspect:
- imperfective
- perfective
- pefect
- aorist
- prospective
- ...

Many languages have aspect as one of their features. Some do it via interfixes or suffixes (Spanish for instance), via particles (Chinese), or adverbs (Indonesian). Out of the aspects listed above (and many more), different languages use different aspects, and even if they use the same one, they can have different views on it.

So take for instance the perfect aspect in Spanish and in English:
- I have finished
- Yo he acabado/acabé

Some dialects in Spanish use the equivalent to the English ones, while others would use the perfective ("acabé") for the same situation. So not all languages follow the same rules. Some languages have these distinctions in all tenses, some not. Again, Spanish only has differences between imperfective and perfective aspects in the past tense ("acabé" vs "acababa").

So as you can see, aspect can get very complex. It is achieved by different mechanisms, and usually equivalences between languages are not simple or straightforward.

Following the existing mechanisms described above, would make Atlas enter the same difficulties. Which aspect? How do you describe it? What's the difference with that language? And with the other one?

So Atlas uses a permanent/non-permanent distinction. This is not found in well-known natural languages, but it has been chosen because:
- it gives a lot of information about the action.
- it is easy to use: just answer the question: is the action permanent? or... does it last for a very long time? (ex. days/weeks?).
- there's only two options.
- the use of interfixes is easy and avoids complex particle and averb usage.

So as you might have been seen in the grammar, the permanent aspect is marked with the interfix -i-, and non-permanent with -e-:

Permanent actions:

wi essis bani - I am good (normally)
wi demis ei al-batu - I live in a house
wi pacit ce - I (used to) like that.
wi qugit vutwexe - I (used to) play football.
wi das visis di - I can see you (normally)
zi doris banik - she/he sleeps well

Non-permanent actions

wi esses bani - I am good (now)
wi demes ei al-batu - I am living in a house (non-permanently)
wi pacet ce - I liked that (that time)
wi quget vutwexe - I played football (once)
wi das vises di - I can see you (now)
zi dores banik - she/he is sleeping well

So here you can see some examples and the contrast between permanent and non-permanent for the same sentence. The permanent aspect is normally translated with simple tenses in English, or the addition of "used to". Non-permanent actions tend to use more continuous tenses. However, as you can see, there is no set rule for translations, so writing in Atlas should be done, again, answering the question: is the action permanent? does it last for a long time?


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Next in Atlas... countries!






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