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

From:Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Date:Tuesday, December 28, 2004, 17:40
Quoting "J. 'Mach' Wust" <j_mach_wust@...>:

> On Tue, 28 Dec 2004 09:50:45 -0500, Mark Reed <markjreed@...> wrote: > > >On Tue, 28 Dec 2004 09:06:06 -0500, J. 'Mach' Wust
> >> In German, it's common not to use the present tense for > >> future actions. (There are indeed linguists who say that the use of the > >> "werden" periphrasis as an expression of the future tense is a > >> latinizing invention, and that its meaning is rather modal.) > > > >Pardon? > > What a mess I've made! In German, it's very common to express the future > time by the present tense form. The hypothesis I've alluded to is that the > construction of the auxiliary _werden_ ('become') + verb has been given the > future tense meaning by grammarians who wanted the German language to be > more like Latin with a future tense of its own. The supposedly more genuine > modal meaning of the werden-construction is an expression of supposition, as > in: > > Er wird schon gestern angekommen sein. 'I guess he has already arrived > yesterday.' (if we translate the werden-construction with a > will-construction: 'He will have arrived already yesterday'; literally: 'He > becomes already yesterday arrived be')
On of the things spending a year in Germany did to my German was to make me think of this, rather than the temporal, as the primary function of the 'werden' construction. At least where I was (Aachen), _werden_ as a future former seems to be rare in spoken standard German. 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. 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 suppose that was today's quota of speculation. I think this is my fifth post for today too. Anyway, comments? Andreas