"Vivid narrative use" and the meaning of the present perfect in spoken Australian English

Marie-Eve Ritz, D.M. Engel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the use of the present perfect (PP) in Australian English using a corpus of stories told during radio chat-show programs and news reports. We find that the PP is used (i) as a narrative tense in spoken texts both with and without narrative present (NarPres); (ii) in sequences of clauses expressing temporal progression; and (iii) with some definite temporal adverbials denoting past time. Such uses are either unusual or unacceptable in other English varieties. A systematic comparison of contexts where NarPres and narrative PP are used in oral narratives reveals that the PP replaces the NarPres predominantly with verbs denoting events. Usage in news reports, where the narrative interpretation is not possible, suggests that a temporal ambiguity exists in the current interpretation of PP sentences. Analysis of lexical aspect shows that the majority of verbs used in the narrative PP are both durative and contain a process part, a fact that helps explain the sense of vividness achieved. At the discourse level, use of the PP enables the speaker to present situations as tightly connected. Such extensions in usage show a possible path for change for a category that is known to be historically unstable in its meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-160
JournalLinguistics: an interdisciplinary journal of the language sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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