An academic dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Linguistics at Stockholm University by Ghazaleh Vafaeian was publicly defended on Friday 15 June 2018 at 10:00 in Hörsal 9, Hus D, Universitetsvägen 10D.

Download the thesis from DiVA (Academic Archive On-line)


Progressives are grammatical patterns primarily used to refer to events that are ongoing at a specific time. This thesis investigates uses of such patterns in a number of languages as well as the interaction of a number of progressives in contact. The dissertation includes a typological study of the uses of 89 progressive patterns in two parallel corpora, an investigation of the uses and origin of the Persian dāštan progressive and an areal linguistic investigation of 50 Iranian varieties spoken around the Caspian Sea.

The dissertation presents features that increase the likelihood that a progressive is used. Such features are 1) a focalized (punctual) reference point, 2) the engagement or ‘busyness’ of the agentive subject on the event, 3) an emotive component and 4) the desire to turn the attention of the addressee towards an ongoing event. The significance of these features is expected to weaken as progressives grammaticalize.

There is a cross-linguistic tendency for progressives to occur more often with present time reference than with past time reference. In some cases, they are even restricted to the former. Among the varieties of the Iranian language Taleshi, on the other hand, we find asymmetric temporal paradigms as a consequence of former progressive patterns having expanded and lost their progressive character in the present but not in the past.

The study also shows that progressives are used differently in the present and the past: while events with present time reference often have the features mentioned above in 1-4, events with past time reference are often, although not exclusively, background contexts to other events pushing the narration forward.

The thesis also discusses various peripheral uses of progressives, such as uses in habitual and performative-like contexts, proximative, iterative and futurate uses, uses with stative verbs and temporary and subjective uses. Some of these tend to be found in patterns with higher frequencies and can be regarded as expansions towards the imperfective. Other uses are linked to the type of event to which the progressive applies: the proximative reading is shown to arise with achievements and the iterative use with repeated punctual events.

The data from the varieties of the Iranian languages Mazandarani, Gilaki, Taleshi and Tati, as well as from varieties under the influence of Persian, suggests that the progressive in these varieties is highly borrowable. Among the varieties discussed in Chapter 5, an areal cline is noted where constructional schemas used for ongoing events shift towards the imperfective. In the borrowing process, on occasion, a shift from progressive to proximative is also noted. As expected, the data from Caspian varieties shows that there are more progressive patterns than imperfective patterns.

Keywords: progressive, use, contact, areal, parallel corpora, typology, grammaticalization, Iranian, Persian, Mazandarani, Gilaki, Taleshi, Tati.

Professor Pier Marco Bertinetto, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Italy

Thesis committee:
Associate Professor Henrik Liljegren, Stockholm University
Professor Geoffrey Haig, Bamberg University, Germany
Professor Eleanor Coghill, Uppsala University
Professor Nadezhda Zorikhina Nilsson (Stockholm University, alternate member)

Professor Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm, Stockholm University
Professor Emeritus Östen Dahl, Stockholm University
Agnes Korn, Dr. habil., Chargée de recherches (CNRS), French National Centre for Scientific Research, France.