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Re: Tense and aspect (was: savoir-connaître)

From:J. 'Mach' Wust <j_mach_wust@...>
Date:Wednesday, December 29, 2004, 13:23
On Wed, 29 Dec 2004 12:57:22 +0100, Andreas Johansson <andjo@...> wrote:

>Quoting "J. 'Mach' Wust" <j_mach_wust@...>: > >> >Now, true future >> >indicative meaning is pragmatically rare as such, and I'd like to put a >> >question mark at the supposition that constructions like like _Ich geh' >> >morgen ins Kino_ really are semantically *indicative*; they're >> >declarations of intent, not prophecies. >> >> The semantics may be discussed. However, to me, the term "indicative" is >> is not semantical, but grammatical. And there's no doubt that this >> construction is a grammatical indicative. > >Certainly, it's a *morphological* indicative. But it's equally clearly a >morphological present tense.
Certainly. German present tense is used to refer not only to present time, but also to future time. Therefore, the label "present tense" is somewhat misleading, though I guess this use is quite common. A better label would be "non-past tense".
>And from a strictly morphological POV, there's >no reason we couldn't also declare that the construction with 'werden' is >always a (morphological) future, quite regardless of whether its semantic >impact is more modal than tense-like in the typical case.
From a strictly morphological POV, there's no reason why to label it "future" either. Additionally, this label "future tense" is very misleading when most of the references to future events don't use this form and when this form may refer to non-future events as well.
>> >Perhaps, if the werden-as-future is really calqued from Latin, the >> >prompting wasn't so much a desire to make the language Latin-like as a >> >goal in itself, but in order to fill a very pragmatic need in >> >"philosophical" writings for a form that isn't really needed in >> >"everyday" speech. >> > >> >If I'm forgiven for babbling on about psycholinguistic matters of I know >> >little, it seems to me that a symmetric past-present-future tense system >> >suggests a similarly symmetric view of time, which puts past and future >> >on a basically equal footing. I think I speak for most people if I say a >> >such view doesn't square very well with naive human perception. It >> >should thus not be surprising if most languages don't have a symmetric >> >tense system, which, from what little I know of typologic, actually is >> >also the case. But it should also not be surprising if a language used >> >for philosophico-scientific purposes where a symmetric "block" image of >> >time is employed acquires ways to refer to tense more symmetrically. >> >> I disagree. Latin wasn't a philosophico-scientific conlang, but a normal >> natlang, and so are Spanish and French and non-Romance languages that >> have a future tense. > >I didn't suggest a language *couldn't* develop a symmetric future without >being used in a "scientific" context, only one might expect it to be more >need for it in that context.
That is exactly what I've disagreed about. And rethinking it: Why should there be more need of a future tense in a cientific context? I rather think that cience predictions are always a kind of "it should be like that for what we know", or a kind of "it's always like that" (which would rather correspond to present tense in the languages I know). And in a theological context, it's rather "according to divine revelation, it will be like that" (which would be present tense conjunctive mood in German).
>> I actually thought that English had a future tense as well, >> but now I'm not sure of it any more. > >Well, what are the criteria?
A language has a future tense if it requires a special form exclusively for the reference to future events.
>The 'will' construction is sometimes denied to >be a true future tense on the grounds it carries modal meaning; it >indicates intent. But this, of course, is of little help if we do not want >to consider semantics.
I'm sorry if I've given the impression I didn't want to consider semantics. They are also important. Can there be an expression of intent that doesn't refer to the future? If you want to go to Paris, then you aren't there yet. It's a usual way of a future tense to evolve from an expression of volition. How can we tell an expression of volition apart from a grammaticalized future tense? Consider a sentence like "I will have to visit them (even though I can't stand them at all)". Is this volition? I'd rather say it shows that the will-form doesn't need to express volition any more, an evidence that it's evolving into a future tense. How would you explain the semantical difference between the verbs "will" and "want" (apart from the morphological difference that the former is a praeterito-praesentium).
>The grammatical argument would be that it maps with >undoubted modals (like 'can', 'may') rather than (other) analytic tenses.
I'd say that "will" groups with "would": Both are extremely reduced, which is an evidence that they have ceased to be normal modal verbs, but have been grammaticalized. gry@s: j. 'mach' wust