Fake Tense in conditional sentences: a modal approach

Natural Language Semantics 22 (2):117-144 (2014)

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Abstract
Many languages allow for “fake” uses of their past tense marker: the marker: can occur in certain contexts without conveying temporal pastness. Instead it appears to bear a modal meaning. Iatridou :231–270, 2000) has dubbed this phenomenon Fake Tense. Fake Tense is particularly common to conditional constructions. This paper analyzes Fake Tense in English conditional sentences as a certain kind of ambiguity: the past tense morphology can mark the presence of a temporal operator, but it can also signal a specific modal operator. The ambiguity is proposed to be the result of recategorization: the Simple Past develops a second, modal meaning because of structural similarities between the temporal and the modal/epistemic domain. The proposal is spelled out in the generative semantics framework, using the restrictor approach to conditionals Semantics from different points of view, 1979; in: A. von Stechow and D. Wunderlich Semantics: an international handbook of contemporary research, 1991), and building on von Stechows et al.’s recent work on the English tense system The expression of time in language, 2010; Romero and von Stechow, Tense: introduction, 2008).
Keywords Fake Tense  Conditional sentences  Compositional semantics  Syntax/semantics interface  Tense  Mood
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DOI 10.1007/s11050-013-9102-0
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References found in this work BETA

Indicative Conditionals.Robert Stalnaker - 1975 - Philosophia 5 (3):269-286.
Real Conditionals.William G. Lycan - 2001 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Adverbs of Quantification.David K. Lewis - 1975 - In Edward L. Keenan (ed.), Formal Semantics of Natural Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 178--188.

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Citations of this work BETA

Perspectival Plurality, Relativism, and Multiple Indexing.Dan Zeman - 2018 - In Rob Truswell, Chris Cummins, Caroline Heycock, Brian Rabern & Hannah Rohde (eds.), Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 21, Vol. 2. Semantics Archives. pp. 1353-1370.
Counterfactuality and Past.Kilu von Prince - 2019 - Linguistics and Philosophy 42 (6):577-615.
Proceedings of Sinn Und Bedeutung 9.Emar Maier, Corien Bary & Janneke Huitink (eds.) - 2005 - Nijmegen Centre for Semantics.
Past Tense and Past Times in Subjunctive Conditionals.Mackay John - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (S1):520-535.

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