[Lingtyp] Non-present lexemes

Seino van Breugel seinobreugel at gmail.com
Fri Dec 2 13:52:08 UTC 2022

Dear Tom,

In Hindi, the word *कल */kal/ means both 'today' and 'yesterday'.

I Dutch, the exprssions *eens / een keer *can both refer to an unknown
point of time in the past or future.
Verbs in Dutch can indicate past or non-past tense. The non-past tense can
be interpreted as referring to either present or future time. However, when
one of these expressions is used with the non-past tense, the
interpretation can only be future time.
Examples of Dutch:
Er was *eens *een prinses. 'Once upon a time, there was a princess.'
Ik wil *eens* naar Zwitserland met vakantie gaan. 'One day, I want to go on
holiday in Switzerland.'
Ik was* een keer* in een kroeg, en toen werd er gevochten. 'Once, I was in
a pub, and people were fighting.'
Ik kom *een keer* bij je eten. 'One day, I'll come and have dinner at your

Met vriendelijke groet / Kind regards,


On Fri, Dec 2, 2022 at 2:36 PM Mike Klein <kdogg36 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Tom,
> Mandarin adverb 最近 (zuìjìn) can mean either “recently” or “in the near
> future,” but not “now.”
> Mike Klein
> Ph.D., George Mason University
> On Fri, Dec 2, 2022 at 6:15 AM Tom Koss <Tom.Koss at uantwerpen.be> wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> I’m looking for any kind of linguistic item (TMA markers, particles,
>> adverbials etc.) that can convey both past- and future-time reference but
>> that do not appear in present contexts.
>> The items I’m looking for do not have to be “non-present tense” markers
>> in the strict sense, i.e., bound morphemes which have non-present time
>> reference as their core meaning - even though this would be most
>> interesting of course. They can also be more loosely connected to the verb
>> phrase, have additional, more specific meanings, and/or be compatible with
>> other tense markers.
>> The only criterion is that the items in question allow for both past and
>> future interpretations of the clauses they appear in (the choice between
>> the two depending on non-linguistic or grammatical context), while a
>> present interpretation is generally *not* possible. I would also be
>> interested in languages where the expression of a certain grammatical
>> category is similar in the past and future tense(s), while the present
>> tense behaves differently in some way (see e.g. the Awa Pit example below).
>> Below are a few examples for the phenomenon I am referring to:
>>    - Nez Perce (Sahaptian) has a lexeme *watiisx *‘one day away’ that
>>    can mean ‘tomorrow’ or ‘yesterday’, depending on the tense marking in the
>>    respective clause (Deal 2010: 120). The same thing seems to happen with the
>>    lexeme *kel *in Hindi (Indo-Aryan) (Kachru 1997: 95) and with *ejo *in
>>    Kinyarwanda (Bantu) (Nkusi 1995: 580). All three languages have
>>    separate lexemes meaning ‘today’.
>>    - The lexeme *hibajata* in Jarawara (Arawá) is interpreted as ‘later
>>    today’ in the absence of tense marking, and as ‘just now’ in
>>    combination with the immediate past marker *-ra *(Dixon 2004: 224).
>>    There are no examples given where it is translated as ‘right now’ or ‘at
>>    this moment’.
>>    - Awa Pit (Barbacoan) has several strategies to mark clausal
>>    negation. One of them, the negative suffix *-ma*, indicates past-time
>>    reference in the absence of tense marking, and future-time reference in
>>    combination with the future marker *-ni *(Curnow 1997: 332/33). In my
>>    assessment, it cannot combine with the imperfective suffix *-mtu*, which
>>    is the default marker to express present-time reference in the language.
>> If you can think of similar examples in languages you are familiar with,
>> I would be very interested in knowing more about them, so as to get a
>> better idea about how common such items with non-present semantics are
>> cross-linguistically, and what their distribution might be. So far, I have
>> mostly found them in the Americas.
>> Many thanks in advance!
>> Best wishes,
>> Tom Koss
>> PhD candidate at the University of Antwerp
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