Natural Language Semantics

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 213–269 | Cite as

Mood as Verbal Definiteness in a "Tenseless" Language

  • Mark Baker
  • Lisa Travis


This article argues that the mood morphemes found on punctual verbs in Mohawk are to be analyzed semantically as markers of verbal definiteness/specificity. In particular, the so-called future marker is an indefinite morpheme, indicating that the event argument of the verb undergoes Heim's (1982) rule of Quantifier Indexing. In contrast, the seeming past marker is a marker of definiteness/specificity, indicating that the event argument is immune to Quantifier Indexing. This explains many apparent peculiarities of the Mohawk verbal system, including: the use of "future" as a past habitual form, the use of mood prefixes in conditionals, free relatives, and complement clauses, and the incompatibility of "past" with negation. The relationship between indefinite mood and future events, where it exists, is explicated in terms of the branching theory of time proposed by Dowty (1979) and Kamp and Reyle (1993), which is grounded in a fundamental asymmetry in how humans conceive of the future versus the past.


Relative Clause Matrix Clause Subordinate Clause Event Argument Existential Closure 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Baker
    • 1
  • Lisa Travis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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