query: complex tenses and tense/aspects

Haag, Marcia L. haag at OU.EDU
Wed Sep 28 16:23:10 UTC 2011

All --
This is slightly different from the "dedicated relative present in the past" tense marker, but Choctaw, which has an elaborate aspect system, does not use it to form a "future in the past" which is straightforwardly made from the future tense marker attached to the past tense marker.
Hence, Hattak-at ofi ipiit-aachintok- at pim-anoli-tok.
             man-subj dog feed-fut.pst  ss  us-tell-pst
'the man told us that he was going to feed his dog.'

For what it's worth...Marcia Haag
From: Discussion List for ALT [LINGTYP at LISTSERV.LINGUISTLIST.ORG] on behalf of David Gil [gil at EVA.MPG.DE]
Sent: Monday, September 26, 2011 6:06 PM
Subject: query: complex tenses and tense/aspects

Dear all,

Consider the English sentences:

(1) Fred said John was reading a book
(2) When Fred walked in, John was reading a book

In the above sentences, the verbal form "was reading" is commonly
characterized as being in the "past progressive", combining past tense
and progressive aspect in both form and meaning.  (Though under an
alternative analysis, by Halliday, it is analyzed as expressing a
complex "present-in-past" tense.)

In Hebrew there are no aspectual distinctions; verbs are marked for
past, present or future tense.  In the translations for (1) and (2), the
verb "read" would be marked in the present tense in (1) but the past
tense in (2).

Is anybody familiar with a (description of a) language in which, in the
situation described in (2), the "read" verb would also be marked for (a
"relative") present tense, without any additional aspectual marking?
Alternatively, is anybody familiar with a (description of a) language
that has a dedicated tense for situations such as in (2), without any
additional aspectual marking?  (Such a tense might be characterized as a
"present-in-past", following Halliday's analysis of English.)

The reason I'm interested in this is that I am wondering whether a
similar tense-based analysis might be possible for the corresponding
sentence in Tagalog.  In Tagalog, the form of the "read" verb
("nagbabasa") in the translation of (2) is the same as that which would
occur in a translation of "John is reading a book", leading Tagalog
scholars (eg. Schachter and Otanes) to characterize this form as bearing
aspectual rather than tense information.  More generally, Tagalog (and
other Philippine languages) are traditionally described as displaying
(mostly) aspectual rather than tense distinctions.    Which leads to ...

Is anybody familiar with explicit arguments to the effect that the
relevant verbal inflections in Tagalog (and other Phiippine languages)
are indeed aspectual, rather than combining tense and aspect
information, or perhaps even expressing complex tenses (such as, for
example, the "present-in-past").  In particular, can anybody point me to
explicit arguments why Tagalog verb forms such as "nagbabasa" should be
analyzed as aspectual rather than expressing (a sometimes relative)
present tense?

As always, thanks for your time and comments,


David Gil

Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

Telephone: 49-341-3550321 Fax: 49-341-3550119
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
Webpage:  http://www.eva.mpg.de/~gil/

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