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TimeLanguage, Cognition, and Reality$
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Kasia M. Jaszczolt and Louis de Saussure

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199589876

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589876.001.0001

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Perspectival interpretations of tenses

Perspectival interpretations of tenses

Chapter:
(p.46) 3 Perspectival interpretations of tenses
Source:
Time
Author(s):

Louis de Saussure

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199589876.003.0004

In this paper, we address cases where the temporal reference indicated by tenses cannot be understood literally. In such cases, an interpretation proves irrelevant unless one of the components of the representation (the deictic point S, the reference point R, or the eventuality E) is modified under the pressure of contextual consistency or relevance. It is suggested that these situations imply a change in the perspective, or point of view, from which the eventuality is grasped. Three cases are discussed: (i) narrative (and other non-background) examples of French imperfective past, which we explain by a point of perspective replacing R; (ii) futurate composed past (present perfects) in French, which imply a deictic shift in the future; and (iii) epistemic futures, which rely on a conceptual modulation of the represented eventuality. We tentatively discuss in the conclusion what such cases may imply for theory-of-mind related processes in natural language understanding.

Keywords:   French, pragmatics of tenses, simulation, Present Perfect, composed past, imperfectivity, epistemic modality, deontic modality, deictic shift, perspective

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