Present perfects compete

Linguistics and Philosophy 32 (2):115-141 (2009)
This paper proposes a new look at the so-called ‘present-perfect puzzle’. I suggest that it is in fact part of a bigger problem, which also involves simple past tenses. I argue that present perfects compete with simple past tenses, and that the distribution of these tenses shows signs of the impact of this competition. The outcome of the competition is argued to be heavily dependent on which of the two tense-forms is the default. A pragmatic theory is proposed which accounts for the reduced distribution of the present perfect in languages like English and (American) Spanish, and the reduced distribution of the simple past tense in languages like French and German.
Keywords Tense  Present perfect  Cross-linguistic variation  Competition  Pragmatics  Semantics
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DOI 10.1007/s10988-009-9056-3
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