The syntax and interpretation of temporal expressions in English

Linguistics and Philosophy 2 (1):43 - 99 (1978)
The only obligatory temporal expression in English is tense, yet Hans Reichenbach (1947) has argued convincingly that the simplest sentence is understood in terms of three temporal notions. Additional possibilities for a simple sentence are limited: English sentences have one time adverbial each. It is not immediately clear how to resolve these matters, that is, how (if at all) Reichenbach's account can be reconciled with the facts of English. This paper attempts to show that they can be reconciled, and presents an analysis of temporal specification that is based directly on Reichenbach's account.Part I is devoted to a study of the way the three times—speech time, reference time, event time—are realized and interpreted. The relevant syntactic structures and their interaction and interpretation are examined in detail. Part II discusses how a grammar should deal with time specification, and proposes a set of interpretive rules. The study offers an analysis of simple sentences, sentences with complements, and habitual sentences. It is shown that tense and adverbials function differently, depending on the structure in which they appear. The temporal system is relational: the orientation and values of temporal expressions are not fixed, but their relational values are consistent. This consistency allows the statement of principles of interpretation.
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DOI 10.1007/BF00365130
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References found in this work BETA
Elements of Symbolic Logic.Hans Reichenbach - 1947 - Dover Publications.
Tense and Time Reference in English.James D. McCawley - 1971 - In Charles J. Fillmore & D. Terence Langėndoen (eds.), Studies in Linguistic Semantics. Irvington. pp. 96--113.
On the Compositional Nature of the Aspects.H. J. Verkuyl - 1972 - Dordrecht, Netherlands: D.Reidel Publishing Company.
Toward a Linguistic Theory of Speech Acts.Bernard Comrie & Jerrold Sadock - 1976 - Philosophical Quarterly 26 (104):285.
Tense and Mood in Indo-European Syntax.Paul Kiparsky - 1968 - Foundations of Language 4 (1):30-57.

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Citations of this work BETA
Nominal and Temporal Anaphora.Barbara H. Partee - 1984 - Linguistics and Philosophy 7 (3):243--286.
Temporal Semantics in a Superficially Tenseless Language.Lisa Matthewson - 2006 - Linguistics and Philosophy 29 (6):673 - 713.
Why Will is Not a Modal.Mikhail Kissine - 2008 - Natural Language Semantics 16 (2):129-155.
Tenses, Time Adverbs, and Compositional Semantic Theory.David R. Dowty - 1982 - Linguistics and Philosophy 5 (1):23 - 55.
Double-Access Sentences and Reference to States.Toshiyuki Ogihara - 1995 - Natural Language Semantics 3 (2):177-210.

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