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18. Tense and Aspect


Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Syntax

Key-Topics generative grammar, grammar

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00020.x


Traditional grammars usually approach the topics of tense and aspect by describing the meanings of the tense and aspect morphemes of the language. Since languages vary in their morpheme inventories, there has been little basis in traditional grammars for considering theoretical issues: that is, questions concerning what is a possible tense, how tense and aspect interact, and why rules of interpretation vary from one context to another or from one language to another. Recent research has focused considerable attention on these general questions by investigating how temporal information is encoded in functional categories and how temporal meaning is built up compositionally in sentences. Spanish offers interesting perspectives on these issues, especially in cases where tense and aspect intersect, as in the preterite and imperfect past tenses and compound perfect tenses. To begin with, it is useful to sketch some basic concepts and terminology. Tense and aspect encode temporal information about events. Their values are relational, in the sense that they situate an event relative to an external perspective. Tense characterizes the temporal location of an event (past, present, future) relative to an external time of evaluation, such as the “moment of speech” that serves as a default deictic center in main clauses: canté ‘I sang,’ canto ‘I sing,’ cantaré ‘I will sing’ are understood ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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