[offlist] Problem with Tense
|From:||Jeff Jones <jsjonesmiami@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, December 20, 2007, 9:02|
--- Alex Fink <000024@...> wrote:
> On Sun, 9 Dec 2007 18:17:14 -0500, Jeffrey Jones
> <jsjonesmiami@...> wrote:
> > (1) uses a relative clause and is the most precise, but is rather
> > long. A more literal translation might be, "What was there is a
> > cat."
> > (2) uses a retrospective participle instead of a relative clause.
> > The problem with this is that the retrospective, at least outside
> > of participles and verbal nouns, requires that the time of the
> > prior event be non-specific, while here a specific past time is
> > implied.
> > (3) is probably the first that would occur to a native English
> > speaker. Nic- isn't marked to indicate past or retrospective since
> > tense is relative to that of the verb (yes, "cat" acts like a verb
> > in these examples). However, by using a tense marker other than
> > -en, it suggests that the cat might shape-shift into somethingelse.
> >Any comments?
> My inclination would be to your (2). Your discussion of (3) gives me
> the sense that it's reflecting tense mostly because that's what
> English does.
> (2) on the other hand seems like what the MNCL5 idiom would have more
> natively. If you worry that using _-ek_ suggests that your "that"
> would be a cat _only_ in the past, then conversely (I surmise)
> aspectual participle marking is less likely to have such strong
> implicatures, i.e. is less likely to be used only where the aspect is
> significant, i.e. is probably the more prominent system in the
> grammar, in the sense of the classification of languages into
> tense-prominent and aspect-prominent.
Thanks for the detailed discussion. I wanted to make sure I understood
what you're saying before I replied, but I'm having trouble following
this. (although I'm also leaning toward (2))
> (And (1) seems overlong and overprecise.)
> Presumably our speaker is exclaiming "That was a cat" because some
> contextually salient cat just tore through the room, or whatever; and
> if the cat is salient enough to be pointed at by the demonstrative
> stem, then it's quite clear what specific past time the event belongs
> to. So I don't think you need to imply this past time by othermeans.
It's true that in English I could just as well say "That's a cat." My
problem is that MNCL5 demonstratives are fundamentally verb stems. I
suppose one could also say:
(4) Nicek gata.
(BTW, "cat" in the previous examples should be gat-; kat- means "whose
> I suppose this depends on what the "tenseless" _-en_ is actually used
> for in MNCL5; I'm assuming it's actually unmarked for tense (which
> I'm slightly less confident in than I might otherwise be, given that
> the present is segmentally simpler). If TNS is only used for a sort
> of generic 'at all times', for instance, then one probably doesn't
> want it here.
I'm having trouble following this last bit too. -TNS _is_ basically
generic rather than ambiguous, but could be both, as in
Gata hundunen. -- "A cat is not a dog." (But I'm not sure about this
example; it might have to be Gatan hundunen. "Cat's aren't dogs.")
A better description might be 'at all relevent times' -- the referent
is a cat throughout its lifetime. Maybe some more examples:
Nica vaiso gaten. -- "That's a white cat." (Nico gata vaisen)
Nica xuro gate. -- "That's an angry cat." (Nico gata xure)
Nica xuro gaten. -- "That's a bad-tempered cat." (Nico gata xuren)
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