Implication of love

One crucial difference between eventive and stative sentences in the simple past tense is that the former entail ‘completion’ while the latter do not. For example, (1) entails that the speaker read “War and Peace” completely, while (2) does not entail that the speaker stopped loving Anna; the inference that the speaker no longer loves Anna is an implicature.

(1) I read War and Peace. (#However, I did not finish it)
(2) I loved Anna. (And I still do)

In presenting (1)-(2) to my students in Language and Context, some expressed doubt about (2). They wanted a more “realistic” discourse.

So I turned to Alexander Pushkin, the master of romantic discourse and in particular, his poem entitled “I loved you once…”. Below I provide the original poem in Russian, followed by a transliteration (so you can practice reciting it at your leisure) and a translation from http://www.russianpoetry.net (which of course does not do any justice to the rhythm and the lyrical mastery of the original; as Ernie Lepore often says, it is impossible to translate Pushkin). All in all, my students became convinced.

Я вас любил: любовь еще, быть может
в душе моей угасла не совсем;
Но пусть она вас больше не тревожит;
Я не хочу печалить вас ничем.
Я вас любил безмолвно, безнадежно,
То робостью, то ревностью томим;
Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,
Как дай вам бог любимой быть другим.
Ja vas ljubil: ljubil eshche, byt' mozhet
V dushe moej ugasla ne sovsem;
No pust' ona vas bol'she ne trevozhit;
Ja ne xochu pechalit'vas nichem.
Ja vas ljubil bezmolvno, beznadezhno,
To robost'ju, to revnost'ju tomim;
Ja vas ljubil tak iskrenno, tak nezhno,
Kak daj vam bog ljubimoj byt' drugim.

I loved you once: perhaps that love has yet
To die down thoroughly within my soul;
But let it not dismay you any longer;
I have no wish to cause you any sorrow.
I loved you wordlessly, without a hope,
By shyness tortured, or by jealousy.
I loved you with such tenderness and candor
And pray God grants you to be loved that way again.
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