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Variation in tense and aspect, and the temporal interpretation of complement clauses

  • In this paper, we investigate the temporal interpretation of propositional attitude complement clauses in four typologically unrelated languages: Washo (language isolate), Medumba (Niger-Congo), Hausa (Afro-Asiatic), and Samoan (Austronesian). Of these languages, Washo and Medumba are optional-tense languages, while Hausa and Samoan are tenseless. Just like in obligatory-tense languages, we observe variation among these languages when it comes to the availability of so-called simultaneous and backward-shifted readings of complement clauses. For our optional-tense languages, we argue that a Sequence of Tense parameter is active in these languages, just as in obligatory-tense languages. However, for completely tenseless clauses, we need something more. We argue that there is variation in the degree to which languages make recourse to res-movement, or a similar mechanism that manipulates LF structures to derive backward-shifted readings in tenseless complement clauses. We additionally appeal to cross-linguistic variation in the lexical semantics of perfective aspect to derive or block certain readings. The result is that the typological classification of a language as tensed, optionally tensed, or tenseless, does not alone determine the temporal interpretation possibilities for complement clauses. Rather, structural parameters of variation cross-cut these broad classes of languages to deliver the observed cross-linguistic picture.

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Author:M. Ryan Bochnak, Vera Hohaus, Anne Mucha
Parent Title (English):Journal of Semantics
Publisher:Oxford University Press
Place of publication:Oxford
Document Type:Article
Year of first Publication:2019
Date of Publication (online):2019/10/08
GND Keyword:Aspekt <Linguistik>; Attributsatz; Kontrastive Linguistik; Tempus
First Page:407
Last Page:452
DDC classes:400 Sprache / 400 Sprache, Linguistik
Open Access?:ja
Leibniz-Classification:Sprache, Linguistik
Program areas:Grammatik
Licence (English):License LogoCreative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International