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[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 something
> > > >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 other
means. 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. 3I-DEM-PST cat-PAT.SG (BTW, "cat" in the previous examples should be gat-; kat- means "whose father?")
> 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)
> Alex >
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