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Re: THEORY: Tenses (was: Re: THEORY: ... Auxiliaries...)

From:Doug Dee <amateurlinguist@...>
Date:Sunday, July 10, 2005, 0:26
In a message dated 7/9/2005 2:17:29 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
tomhchappell@YAHOO.COM writes:

>Does Comrie, or anyone, know what the maximum number of tenses in any >natlang is?
Comrie says that some languages have 5 degrees of remoteness in the past and 5 in the future (e.g., Bamileke-Dschang of Cameroon). He doesn't mention any with 6 & 6, so I presume he hasn't found any. He says the record for distinct past tenses is 6 or 7 (his source is lamentably unclear) in Kiksht (a Chinookan language of the northwestern USA).
>Aside from the "hesteral past" (yesterday) and "crastinal future" >(tomorrow), "hodial past" (earlier today) and "hodial future" >(earlier tomorrow), are there any other specific time periods that >natural languages have attested tenses for? (Last night, tomorrow >night, day-before-yesterday, day-after-tomorrow, last month, next >month, last/next spring/summer/winter/fall/year?)
"Last night" tenses are known,e.g., in Mabuiag (Comrie doesn't seem to mention where this is spoken). Perhaps the weirdest tense system I've seen described is the one for the Maningrida subgroup of Australian languages, which, according to RMW Dixon in _Australian Languages_, distinguish the following tenses: future: (obvious) "contemporary": for the present, and for past events yesterday (but not earlier today, and not before yesterday) "precontemporary": for past events occurring either earlier today, or before yesterday (but not occurring yesterday). (He says that the "yesterday" division isn't entirely strict, so that "contemporary" could be used a day or to before yesterday, with "precontemporary" for earlier events, but the odd thing is that the tenses cover noncontinuous stretches of time.)
>> "Recent past" vs. "nonrecent past" is also a common distinction, but I
>> reading somewhere that no natural language has a tense cutoff based on a >> specific historical event. >> That is, it is apparently unknown for a languge to have, for example, one >> tense for events on and after July 4, 1776 and one for events before that
>You mean, like CE and BCE?
Right. No language has a tense for events BCE and a tense for events CE. Doug


Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Tim May <butsuri@...>