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An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Gast, Volker

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Volume 48, Issue 6


On times and arguments

Wolfgang Klein
Published Online: 2010-11-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.2010.040


Verbs are traditionally assumed to have an “argument structure”, which imposes various constraints on form and meaning of the noun phrases that go with the verb, and an “event structure”, which defines certain temporal characteristics of the “event” to which the verb relates. In this paper, I argue that these two structures should be brought together. The verb assigns descriptive properties to one or more arguments at one or more temporal intervals, hence verbs have an “argument-time structure”. This argument-time structure as well as the descriptive properties connected to it can be modified by various morphological and syntactic operations. This approach allows a relatively simple analysis of familiar but not well-defined temporal notions such as tense, aspect and Aktionsart. This will be illustrated for English. It will be shown that a few simple morphosyntactic operations on the argument-time structure might account for form and meaning of the perfect, the progressive, the passive and related constructions.

About the article

Correspondence address: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, P. O. Box 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands. E-mail:

Received: 2009-02-19

Revised: 2009-08-03

Published Online: 2010-11-04

Published in Print: 2010-11-01

Citation Information: Linguistics, Volume 48, Issue 6, Pages 1221–1253, ISSN (Online) 1613-396X, ISSN (Print) 0024-3949, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ling.2010.040.

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