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home > Interpreting English Tenses

Interpreting English Tenses
― A Compositional Approach ―

Naoaki Wada
First published:
2001 / 11 / 10
Price (in Japan only):
7,000 yen (Tax Not Included) (400 pages)


In this book, the author proposes a new tense theory of English which widely and constructively takes in explanatory devices, theories and hypotheses of grammatical fields other than tense proper (such as the semantics of verbs including auxiliaries, properties of sentence types and temporal adverbials, aspect and modality). This tense theory requires the distinction between the levels of tense structure and tense interpretation, on one hand, and that between the A(bsolute tense)-component and the R(elative tense)-component, on the other. The level of tense structure is a level at which a tense form, I.e. predicate, expresses a very general (or schematic) temporal structure, whereas the level of tense interpretation is a level where the general temporal structure interacts with semantic and pragmatic factors of other grammatical fields to reach a finally-determined interpretation. The A-component of a tense form is occupied by the notion of time-sphere, I.e. grammatical time area, which is evoked in our minds by an inflectional tense morpheme, while the R-component is occupied by the notion of event time, I.e. a time point or interval at which the relevant part of the situation talked of holds. The proposed theory provides a systematic explanation for some major tense and tense-related issues in English such as clarifying the mechanism of interpreting the present perfect form, showing the parallelism between the present perfect and the pluperfect, solving the problem of the compatibility of tense forms and adverbials of definite time position, explaining differences in meaning and syntactic environment between sentences with will and be going to, and interpreting tenses in indirect speech complement clauses.


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