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Curs 4

TENSE
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TENSE AND TIME

Time is defined as an epistemic notion as it mirrors/reflects our experience of the world. It has a
linear representation which preserves the sequential character of our perception of the world.
Time is durational infinite and segmental, we perceive it as unidirectional (direction: forward).
Time is segmented by two different procedures: a) personal, subjective: estimate of duration; and b)
public: estimate based on the periodicity of natural phenomenon.
a) Personal time, which represents man’s attempt to measure duration by using his emotions
as an instrument.
b) Public time, which is characteristic of society; time measurement is subjected to public
agreement and it is based on the periodicity of some observable natural phenomenon.
Tense reflects time.
Tense is defined as representing the chronological order of events in time as perceived by the
speaker at the moment of speaking („speaking time”- ST).
Deictic category (time) that is the moment of NOW, is central in the sense that past or future
represent direction who’s orientation depend on ST.
Events can be simultaneous with ST in which case, you obtain an “at” relation or can be
sequenced to it, in which you get a “before or after” relation.
Tense is a functional category that expresses a temporal relation to the orientation point (ST) in
the sense that it locates the situation in time.
Temporal interpretation of a sentence does not rely only on tense inflections. Additionally, one
should look at temporal adverbials (time adverbials: adverbs, adverb phrases and adverbial clauses).
They had meaning to a sentence and during the process they might even disambiguate it. On the
other hand, sentences without time adverbials may be non-ambiguous due to the fat that people
tend to maximize available information which means that the temporal interpretation that requires
at least additional information (sort of default reading).
Classification of time adverbials:
1. Anchored a) Duration
2. Unanchored b) Completive
c) Frame
d) Frequency
The relation between time adverbials and ST can be explicit or non-explicit. We distinguish
between anchored time adverbials, which are an explicit relation to ST, in a sense that their
temporal interpretations are determined relative to ST ( example: now, yesterday…)
Unanchored time adverbials which do not have an explicit relation to ST and which orient
themselves to time other than the ST ( example: in June, on Friday…)
Given that temporal adverbials also contribute to the aspectual interpretation of sentences, we
can establish a further classification that distinguishes among: duration/ durative adverbials;
completive adverbials; frame/ location adverbials; frequency adverbials.
Duration and completive adverbials also have an aspectual value, meaning they are sensitive to
the aspectual value of the situation, requiring compatibility with situation-type. Example: for three
months, all afternoon, since the war, over the weekend, though August, during war…
They indicate the duration of the described situation by specifying the length of time that is
inserted to take. They are compatible with atelic sentences (states and activities) and add with telic
sentences.
Example: Susan was asleep for 2 hours.
Andrew swam for 3 hours.
(?) John wrote the report for 2 hours.
(*) The train arrived late for 2 months.
Whenever telic events occur in the context of duration adverbials there is a clash between the
aspectual properties of the situation-type and the aspectual properties of the adverbials. Such
clashes are resolved by a shift in the value of the verb constellation, which receives a marked
interpretation. This contextual interpretation is made possible by a process called “COERCION”.
Example: John knocked on the door for 5 minutes.
John played the Sonata for 2 hours.
For years, Mary went to school in the morning.
For months, the train arrived late.
The felicity of the aspectual reinterpretation is strongly dependent on the linguistic context and
our knowledge of the world.
Example: John went into the house all afternoon.
John crossed the border all afternoon.
“In phrases” (example: within 2 months)
They locate the situation at an interval during which the event is completed and culminates.
Aspectual they are telic and as a result they are compatible with telic situations and add with atelic
sentences.
Example: Mary wrote a sonata in 5 minutes.
Bill swam laps in an hour.
Mary believed in ghosts in an hour.
John noticed the painting in a second.
If the last three sentences can be understood at all, they are to receive an ingressive in the
sense that the adverbials reflect to an interval relapse before the beginning of the situation and not
to an interval during which the situation occur. The possible telic reinterpretation are “After an hour,
Bill swam laps.” and “At the end of an hours, Mary believed in ghosts.”
The same interpretation occurs with achievement and semelfactives.