Verbs of an unnecessary result against the background of telic verbs


  • Marek Lazinski University of Warsaw, Poland



Aspectual oppositions of verbs of an unnecessary result are noted for a special presupposition of the negated perfect verb which is conditioned by the truthfullnes of the un-negated imperfective verbs. The sentence “Nie namówiłem go na wycieczkę” ‘I did not pesuade him to go for excursion’ has sense only than if we can say “Namawiałem go na wycieczkę” ‘I tried to persuade him to go for excursion” where the meaning of the imperfective is ‘to attempt’. Similar verbs are called “conatives” by Padučeva (2008), they form the type III of among 4 semantic types of telic oppositions described by Glovinskaya (1982). The explication of the imperfective in this type of opposition is ‘to pursue a goal’ the explication of the perfective – ‘to achieve the goal’. The explication of the imperfective is opposed to the most common type of imperfectives of the type I which expresses an incremental pursuing the goal, where on every stage of an action a goal is partially achieved.

The term “verbs of an unnecessary result” is narrower than “conatives”, it refers only to these aspectual oppositions, where the attempt as a part of the presupposition of the negated perfective is expressed literally  with the imperfective partner of this perfective. By other conatives the attempt can be expressed other way, e.g. with the verb próbować ‘to try’ and the perfective „próbował mnie namówić’. The explication of perfective conatives comprise the element “udało się” ‘sb. managed to’.

In the group of conatives sensu largo the presupposition does not comprise an attempt of an action expressed by the perfective, but only the speaker’s expectation for such action. The attempt or expectation presupposition of conatives is refers to a general, rhematic negation of the perfective verb and to an object which undivided.

In order to characterise lexical groups of verbs belonging to the above mentioned classes the most frequent perfective infinitives following ‘udało się’ have been found in the National Corpus of Polish.

The first group of conatives sensu stricto: the verbs of an unnecessary result – comprises first of all volitive speech act verbs, e.g. namówić: Similar verbs in Russian are listed under Glovinska’s type III of telic oppositions, but tehe is no direct correspondence between Polish and Russian.

The second and biggest group of conatives sensu stricto without the imperfective aspect partner in the presupposition of the negated perfective contains first of all verbs with meaning ‘escape’: uciec, ‘win’: eg. zwyciężyć or general meaning ‘success’, as well as some transitive motion verbs.

The third groups of conatives sensu largo with the presupposition “expectation” contains situations not controlled by the agent, e.g. przeżyć ‘survive’ or uratować ‘to save one’s live’.   

The oppositions of an unnecessary result are languages specific and depend on specific meanings of the imperfective aspect. The above-presented analyses is restricted only to Polish. The nature of conative verbs.  can be seen as universal.