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Things that make you go aarrgghh!


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Things that make you go aarrgghh!

In den nachfolgenden Text, dessen Inhalt völlig unerheblich ist, sind zahlreiche prototypische Word-Nutzungs'fehler' eingebaut. Diese sollen identifiziert werden, um so eine Basis für die Diskussion ein paar ganz grundsätzlicher Techniken im Umgang mit Word zu erhalten.

1. Tense and the English tenses

The term 'tense' can be defined as a secondary grammatical category which serves to locate an event or a situation in time. It accounts for example for the difference in the sentences John leaves and John left. It en-compasses two aspects: a morphological aspect, namely a system of tenses encoded in the verb's morphology, and a semantic as-pect dealing with the temporal location of the event or events depicted in one or more sentences: the 'meaning' of the various tenses.

Although of course closely related, both aspects can and will be described separately. For the description of the tenses on a morphological basis I shall use a formula which is an adaptation of Chomsky's phrase–structure rule for the English auxiliary (Chomsky 1957). An important question arising here is whether the various tenses in this system really only indicate temporality in the above mentioned sense, thus locating events in time, or if they serve other functions as well. For the description of the semantic aspect I will introduce Reichenbach's theory of tenses. The interaction of these two aspects will be analysed, and if and how the formal–morphological tenses can be mapped onto the semantic tenses.

The tenses are not the only means available of locating events in time. An additional possibility is the use of other linguistic elements, for example temporal adverbs such as yesterday or soon or prepositional phrases such as before or in two weeks. But these expressions do not have the same status as tense: they are lexical, not grammatical expressions of temporality, and whereas in prototypical sentences (at least in English or German) tense is a typical feature, the occurence of a temporal adverb or prepositional phrase is not. Still, a theory of tense also needs to account for problems arising from the interplay of grammatical and lexical indications of time and temporality.


^ 1.1 The English tenses

In a linearised form, Chomsky's rules yield the following sequence:

[[[C (M) (have+en) (be+ing)]Aux V]Verb NP]VP

The bracketed and therefore optional elements of the auxiliary complex stand for a modal auxiliary (M), the auxiliary have in combination with a past particple and the auxiliary be in combination with a present participle.

On the basis of this formula, the various English tenses can be accounted for as in the following table. The 'C' of the Aux–rule will be rewritten as 'tense' and can either be past or non-past. The 'M' stands for the modals will/shall, which serve to indicate future tense:

Tense
([past])

Modality (M)

Perfect
(have+en)

Progressive (be+ing)

Verb




[–past]










sings

simple present

[–past]







is

singing

present progressive

[–past]




has




sung

present perfect

[–past]




has

been

singing

present perfect progressive

[–past]

will







sing

simple future

[–past]

will




be

singing

future progressive

[–past]

will

have




sung

future perfect

[–past]

will

have

been

singing

future perfect progressive

    Thus, the English tenses are a result of the serial application or concatenation of one or more of the above mentioned parameters:

    - tense — tense is either [+past] or [–past] and the only obligatory element of each finiteverbal complex (apart from the verb)

    - modality — the use of the modals will or shall in combination with [–past] is used to locate the event in the future; the verbal element following the modal must be infinite

    - perfect — the perfect is formed with the auxiliary have and the past participle ('en') of the following verbal element

    - progressive — the progressive is formed with the auxiliary be and the present participle ('ing') of the following verbal element

The tenses are deictic in that they determine temporal relations with reference to the time of the act of speech. This act or point of speech (or, more precisely, the time when the utterance is made) will be abbreviated S from now on, the time when the depicted event happens will be abbreviated E. There are two possible temporal relations between E and S: one is sequential in the sense that E precedes S or vice versa; this relation is expressed by a dash; the other is simultanous in the sense that E and S happen at the same time or that S is in-cluded in E and is represented by a comma. As mentioned above, the tenses serve the function of locating events in time. They can be re­presen­ted as semantic operators or functions ranging over propositions and denoting a point in time or a time span at which the proposition can be allocated a truth–value (cf Vater 1994: 17). Since this point in time or time span is ususally relative to the time of the utterance of the proposition, tense can be regarded as a deictic category. A definition of deixis is given in Lyons (1977:637):

By deixis* is meant the location and identification of persons, objects, events, processes and activities being talked about, or referred to, in relation to the spatiotemporal context created and sustained by the act of utterance and the participation in it, typically, of a single speaker and at least one addressee.

The tenses are deictic in that they determine temporal relations with reference to the time of the act of speech. This act or point of speech (or, more precisely, the time when the utterance is made) will be abbreviated S from now on, the time when the depicted event happens will be abbreviated E. There are two possible temporal relations between E and S: one is sequential in the sense that E precedes S or vice versa; this relation is expressed by a dash; the other is simultanous in the sense that E and S happen at the same time or that S is included in E and is represented by a comma. A rather simple tense system comprising only two points of time can thus be described as follows:
^

2. Reichenbach's tense system


One very important innovation of Reichenbach's tense system is the fact that in contrast to a binary strucure as presented above, it involves three points of time: One very important innovation of Reichenbach's tense system is the fact that in contrast to a binary strucure as presented above, it involves three points of time: One very important innovation of Reichenbach's tense system is the fact that in contrast to a binary strucure as presented above, it involves three points of time: E, S and what Reichenbach termed 'point of reference'
^

3. Discussion of Reichenbach's system


In Reichenbach's system, there are three points in time and two types of relation between these points. These relations can hold either between E and R or between S and R. Thus, the relation between S and E is indirect: it is mediated by R. This means that all tenses, and not only 'complex' tenses (such as past perfect) are constructs of three points in time. One advantage of this assumption will be shown in connection with the differentiation between simple past and past perfect. The reference point can be overt and represented by various means — prototypically by temporal adverbs or prepositional phrases — but it may also be covert. Although S, R and E are called 'points in time', we shall treat them as intervals.

Reichenbach's system allows for 13 tenses, while the English tense system (excluding aspect) is usually said to consist of 6 tenses. Reichenbach's tenses correspond to the 'traditional' English tenses, but there is no 1–to–1 mapping. In contrast to systems derived from the morphological tenses of a single language, Reichenbach's system is more independent, as it functions as a kind of autonomous logical construct underlying the morphological tenses. This independence can be seen in the fact that Reichenbach's system contains complexes which are not morphologically realized in English but may be so in other languages. As an example he uses the posterior future (S—R—E), which, as he points out, can be represented directly in languages which have a future participle such as Latin (cf Reichenbach 1947:297).





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