Spanish Imperfecto and Pretérito: Truth Conditions and Aktionsart Effects in a Situation Semantics
- Cite this article as:
- Cipria, A. & Roberts, C. Natural Language Semantics (2000) 8: 297. doi:10.1023/A:1011202000582
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Spanish verbs display two past-tense forms, the pret´rito and the imperfecto. We offer an account of the semantics of these forms within a situation semantics, addressing a number of theoretically interesting questions about how to realize a semantics for tense and events in that type of framework. We argue that each of these forms is unambiguous, and that the apparent variety of readings attested for them derives from interaction with other factors in the course of interpretation. The meaning of the imperfecto is constrained to always reflect atelic aktionsart. In addition, it contains a modal element, and a contextually-given accessibility relation over situations constrains the interpretation of the modal in ways that give rise to all the attested readings. The pret´rito is indeterminate with respect to aktionsart, neither telic nor atelic. One or the other aktionsart may be forced by other factors in the clause in which the pret´rito occurs, as well as by pragmatic contrast with the possibility of using the imperfecto.