Progressive aspect and stative verbs in Outer Circle varieties

24 November 2015

The extension of the progressive form to stative verbs is a widely discussed feature of Outer Circle varieties of English. This paper examines the semantics of the stative progressive in three corpora, representing spoken and written Indian (IndE), Kenyan (KenE) and Black South African English (BSAfE). The results reveal that the progressive form is used more frequently in spoken than written data, and most frequently in BSAfE, followed by KenE, and then IndE. All three Outer Circle varieties use the progressive form proportionally more often with stative verbs than British English. The main use of the progressive form is to convey a sense of extended duration. This Outer Circle prototype is termed an on-going state, and clearly differs from the sense of a temporary state, which is prototypical for Inner Circle varieties. There are nevertheless a substantial minority of limited duration (temporary state) uses, especially in the written data, but at the same time, a number of examples where the progressive conveys the sense of states with unlimited duration, especially in BSAfE and the spoken data. The main conclusion is that the progressive is not simply extended to stative verbs, as is argued by many previous researchers, but rather that of a different prototype, of extended duration, sanctions a wider range of uses of the progressive form with dynamic verbs and stative verbs alike.