'Clausal' temporal constructions

Chad Howe chowe at UGA.EDU
Fri Mar 19 16:07:03 UTC 2010

Dear Typologists,

I’m working with a family of temporal constructions in Romance Languages 
that are used to indicate meanings similar to ‘ago’ and ‘since/for’ in 
English. For instance, the existential construction in French "il y a" 
‘there is/are’ and the verb "hacer" ‘to do/make’ can occur with a 
quantified temporal element to obtain either a punctual meaning (as in 1 
and 2) or a durative one (as in 3 and 4), depending largely on the 
modified verb. There are similar structures in other varieties of 
Romance. Moreover, these structures can also occur post-verbally (e.g., 
"Je me suis mariée il y a quatre ans" ‘I got married four years ago’), 
though the resulting meanings can be distinct.

(1) Il y a quatre ans (que) je me suis mariée.
(2) Hace cuatro años (que) me casé.
‘It’s been four years since I got married.’ / ‘I got married four years 

(3) Il y a quatre ans que j’ habite ici.
(4) Hace cuatro años que vivo aquí.
‘It’s been four years that I have lived here.’ / ‘I have lived here for 
four years.’

These elements are typically treated as being composed of a finite verb 
(e.g., "a" from "avoir" in French and "hace" from "hacer" in Spanish) 
and a temporal complement. Despite what seems to be matrix clausal 
structure, however, many sources treat these elements as adjunctival. I 
would like to know more about similar ‘clausal’ structures in other 
languages—i.e. structures in which an analogous set of temporal meanings 
is obtained with an ostensibly verbal nucleus.

In a second and presumably related question, I’m also looking for 
information regarding verbs used cross-linguistically for addition. For 
instance, in English one can say “Two and two is/are four” or “Two and 
two make/makes four”. In Spanish, the verbs used for this type of 
calculation are similar “Dos y dos son [< "ser" 'to be'] cuatro”. I 
would certainly appreciate any suggestions regarding any type of 
literature on these structures.

Thanks in advance,
Chad Howe

Lewis (Chad) Howe, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Hispanic Linguistics
University of Georgia
Department of Romance Languages & Program in Linguistics
370J Gilbert Hall
Athens, GA 30602-1815
Office:  (706) 583-0792
Fax:  (706) 542-3287
URL: http://chadhowe.wordpress.com

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