Beyond the past, present, and future: towards the semantics of ‘graded tense’ in Gĩkũyũ [Book Review]

Natural Language Semantics 21 (3):219-276 (2013)

In recent years, our understanding of how tense systems vary across languages has been greatly advanced by formal semantic study of languages exhibiting fewer tense categories than the three commonly found in European languages. However, it has also often been reported that languages can sometimes distinguish more than three tenses. Such languages appear to have ‘graded tense’ systems, where the tense morphology serves to track how far into the past or future a reported event occurs. This paper presents a formal semantic analysis of the tense-aspect system of Gĩkũyũ , a Northeastern Bantu language of Kenya. Like many languages of the Bantu family, Gĩkũyũ appears to exhibit a graded tense system, wherein four grades of past tense and three grades of future tense are distinguished. I argue that the prefixes traditionally labeled as ‘tenses’ in Gĩkũyũ exhibit important differences from tenses in languages like English. Although, like tenses in English, these ‘temporal remoteness prefixes’ in Gĩkũyũ introduce presuppositions regarding a temporal parameter of the clause, in Gĩkũyũ these presuppositions concern the ‘event time’ of the clause directly, rather than the ‘topic time’. Consequently, the key difference between Gĩkũyũ and languages like English lies not in how many tenses are distinguished, but in whether tense-like features are able to modify other, lower verbal functional projections in the clause
Keywords Tense  Graded tense  Maximize Presupposition  Bantu  Gĩkũyũ  Kikuyu
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DOI 10.1007/s11050-012-9092-3
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References found in this work BETA

From Discourse to Logic.Hans Kamp & Uwe Reyle - 1993 - Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Maximize Presupposition and Gricean Reasoning.Philippe Schlenker - 2012 - Natural Language Semantics 20 (4):391-429.
Elements of Symbolic Logic.Hans Reichenbach - 1947 - London: Dover Publications.
Sequence of Tense and Temporal de Re.Dorit Abusch - 1997 - Linguistics and Philosophy 20 (1):1-50.

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Past Time Reference in a Language with Optional Tense.M. Ryan Bochnak - 2016 - Linguistics and Philosophy 39 (4):247-294.
Temporal Interpretation in Hausa.Anne Mucha - 2013 - Linguistics and Philosophy 36 (5):371-415.

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