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From my understanding of Chinese, the language lacks any sort of grammatical tense but is instead very aspect driven when describing actions.

Is this a reoccurring pattern among languages with a high use of grammatical aspect?

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I don't know, how would you rate English? And Ancient Greek? The continuous in English and the aorist in Greek are very prominent, and yet they have all sorts of tenses—depending on your definition of tense, of course, since linguists use wildly different definitions. According to some linguists, a tense has to be a single word, while others treat tense as a property of a clause, not a verb. The mainstream definition is more fluid and less easy to pin down. –  Cerberus Feb 11 '13 at 22:53
There is grammatical tense in Chinese. Analytic languages, unlike synthetic ones, simply use separate morphemes (words) to indicate tense and aspect. A good example is Verb + 了. It can mean tense (past continuous, past perfect, nearest future), aspect (changing state), or mood (comparative). –  bytebuster Feb 11 '13 at 23:02
@bytebuster: 了 marks perfect aspect -- it's incorrect to say that it indicates past tense. Consider a sentence like 明天吃了早饭就去打篮球吧, where the action it's describing is in the future. Also, the sentence final particle use of 了, which is the one marking a change in state, has a different distribution to the aspect marker -- it's always sentence final, while 了 is a post-verbal clitic. They are separate morphemes. –  jogloran Feb 12 '13 at 8:49
There is, however, an analysis by Sybesma of a possible tense marking sense of sentence-final de in Mandarin and lei4 in Cantonese. It's behind a paywall, but the article's title is Exploring Cantonese tense. –  jogloran Feb 12 '13 at 8:51

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