On the Quantification over Times in Natural Language

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to seek the optimal way to represent time in natural language. It discusses whether or not natural language employs a temporal system that explicitly quantifies over times at the level where semantic interpretation takes place. I first argue that a single-index theory is not empirically adequate for natural language. I then propose a system in which times are syntactically represented. The system works in such a way that tense morphemes saturate the time argument slots of the predicates they attach to. Consequently it predicts that only the times of the main tensed predicates of clauses are accessible. Empirical evidence is presented showing such a distinction between tenseless and tensed predicates in terms of the accessibility to the times introduced by them.

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Correspondence to Kiyomi Kusumoto.

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*This paper reports some of the results of my thesis (Kusumoto 1999). I would like to thank my thesis committee members: Angelika Kratzer, Barbara Partee, Kyle Johnson, and Chisato Kitagawa. I am also grateful to Mike Dickey, Mike Terry, and especially to Ana Arregui for comments and discussion. Comments from the NALS editors and anonymous reviewers greatly improved the paper. Thanks to Todd J. Leonard for correcting my English. I alone am responsible for all errors. This research has been supported by Grants-in-Aid for Young Scientists from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology.

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Kusumoto, K. On the Quantification over Times in Natural Language. Nat Lang Seman 13, 317–357 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11050-005-4537-6

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Keywords

  • Empirical Evidence
  • Natural Language
  • Temporal System
  • Semantic Interpretation
  • Time Argument