On nominal tense

Pier Marco Bertinetto 1
  • 1 Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy
Pier Marco Bertinetto

Abstract

Nordlinger & Sadler’s (2004. Nominal tense in crosslinguistic perspective. Language 80. 776–806) seminal work fostered an intense debate on the semantics of nominal tense systems, with the side effect of widening the typological coverage of this grammatical feature. This paper aims at contributing to the ongoing debate. In contrast with work by Tonhauser, who excluded ‘tense’ as a semantic component of the Paraguayan Guaraní nominal tense system, the paper claims that all TAM dimensions are involved – temporality, aspect, modality – with different proportions in the individual markers. Most importantly, it claims that nominal tense does not presuppose a semantics of its own, other than the one needed for verbal tenses. Moreover, the paper presents evidence that the semantic component of aspect, besides being necessarily activated in any nominal tense marker, is also directly conveyed by some of them, which can legitimately be called ‘nominal aspect’ markers. This integrates Nordlinger & Sadler’s (2004) survey, in which aspect was notably absent. In addition, the paper points out possible cases of nominal actionality (a.k.a. Aktionsart). Finally, the paper suggests that the pervasive presence of aspect (and also, but rarely, actionality) among nominal tense markers finds interesting parallels in some types of deverbal nominalizations, although these belong in another grammatical drawer.

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