Linguistics and Philosophy

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 115–141

Present perfects compete

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10988-009-9056-3

Cite this article as:
Schaden, G. Linguist and Philos (2009) 32: 115. doi:10.1007/s10988-009-9056-3


This paper proposes a new look at the so-called ‘present-perfect puzzle’. I suggest that it is in fact part of a bigger problem, which also involves simple past tenses. I argue that present perfects compete with simple past tenses, and that the distribution of these tenses shows signs of the impact of this competition. The outcome of the competition is argued to be heavily dependent on which of the two tense-forms is the default. A pragmatic theory is proposed which accounts for the reduced distribution of the present perfect in languages like English and (American) Spanish, and the reduced distribution of the simple past tense in languages like French and German.


TensePresent perfectCross-linguistic variationCompetitionPragmaticsSemantics

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS, UMR 7110Laboratoire de linguistique formelleParisFrance
  2. 2.Université Paris 7, UFR LinguistiqueParisFrance