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Temporal Semantics

From:•—ˆŸ”üˆÀ <rhialto@...>
Date:Sunday, February 14, 1999, 15:30
Temporaral Semantics

Sentence order in this artificial grammar will be:

[Time] [Subject] [Verb] [Object]

The default tense will be present tense, indicated by having no time clause
in the sentence. In the present tense, there is no difference between
perfect and imperfect tense, as these are semantically meaningless in the
present -- "I am eating" and "I eat", while they mean different things, the
contrast is indicative/habitual rather than imperfect/perfect.

The time clause consists of three parts. All parts are optional, but the
past/future marker must be present if any other parts are present.

[past/future marker] [perfect time marker] [imperfect time marker]

past/future marker -- This is a simple flag with 2 possible values. The
default meaning without the next two flags is for the perfect aspect.

perfect time marker -- This is equivalent to the following phrases in
English. Note that while English marks some perfect time markers differently
depending on the tense, no such distinction is necessary in this grammar.
Also note that some time markers are named rather than numbered moments,
such as Wednesday or November. These are essentially 'proper times', just as
some nouns are 'prpper nouns'. Also, some times are deictic, and change
their value depending on context. examples include 'yesterday'.
  Note that these perfect/imperfect time markers, while they have a
relationship with verbal perfect/imperfect aspects, are a separate concept.

In 5 hours time / 5 hours ago
over Christmas time
 (Note how ambiguity is avoided by the tense marker, so no need to specify
next or last xxx-day to avoid ambiguity)
on his birthday
yesterday  tomorrow
  (this would literally be 'one day away', tense being already defined)
at the end / in the beginning
 (this is a superlative, and so cannot take an imperfect marker)
next (aka after that)
before that
 (these two presuppose a previous sentence for context)

imperfect time marker -- This is equivalent to the following kinds of
phrases in English, all of which are always preceded by 'for', and never
include 'proper times'.

for 5 hours
for a few days
for a while (generic imperfect aspect marker)

In the beginning was the word.
[past - longest time - null] [word] [exist]

And the word was with God.
[and] [] [word] [exist] [together with god]

And the word was God.
[and] [] [word] [equal] [god]

Note that in the latter 2 sentences, the time clause is ommitted, as it is
duplicating information that is already obvious. This grammar could possibly
do with a marker for the 'eternal present' as French calls it, but I'm not


Do colourless green ideas sleep furiously?