Past simple & present perfect: Distribution in the Standard Italian of Greater Rome

Elizabeth Magnotta


The Past Simple (PS) and the Present Perfect (PP), two past tense forms in Italian, have disparate distribution in the spoken language of Italy. Use of the PS and PP, (‘use’ referring to both frequency and function), varies across northern, central, and southern regions (Pulgram, 1984; Bertinetto and Squartini, 1996; Esskali, 2002). In Central Italy, both forms are claimed to be in equal use (Esskali, 2002). Rome, geographically a part of Central Italy, is a social and cultural anomaly according to Pulgram (1984). I propose that Rome is a linguistic anomaly as well: while both the PP and PS appear in equal distribution in Central Italy, only the PP (of the two) is used in spoken language within Rome. Using the research of Bertinetto and Squartini (1996) as a basis, I elicit data from an L1 speaker of Roman Italian. My analysis shows that the PP has absorbed the aoristic aspect of the PS: the collected data shows that the consultant has a strong preference for the PP, confirming my hypothesis. Using the Stages of Development as proposed by Harris (1982) in Bertinetto and Squartini (forthcoming), I claim that in Rome, the PP has reached Stage IV; the final stage of development in which the PP has replaced the PS. This research has implications about the trend of many Romance languages towards disuse of PS forms.


past simple; present perfect; Italian; Roman; Aorist; Perfect

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria