Abstract - Marie-Eve Ritz

Course: Tense, aspect and variation

Instructor: Marie-Eve Ritz

This course aims to provide participants with a range of tools to analyze the semantics and pragmatics of tense, aspect and other time-expressions as well as their variation within and across languages. Theoretical concepts and methods of analysis are exemplified through a range of linguistic examples. Each session includes a case study providing an opportunity to understand how the concepts introduced integrate with each other concretely.

Marie-Eve RitzMarie-Eve Ritz is Associate Professor of linguistics at The University of Western Australia. Her research focuses on the interface between semantics and pragmatics, particularly with respect to tense, aspect and modality. She has worked on English and French as well as several Australian languages and supervised graduate work on both tensed and tenseless languages.

Schedule of topics (Please note: important pre-readings have been asterisked; other foundational materials are listed. A more comprehensive bibliography will be provided during the course.)

Monday November 27th: the building blocks

This first seminar will discuss the building blocks needed for analyzing tense, aspect and event structure. We will examine principles of tense logic and their limitations; the anaphoric properties of tense; the interaction of tense and viewpoint aspect; the structure of events. Our first case study will be a comparison of the past tenses of English and French and what they tell us about a theory of tense and aspect. In particular, we will focus on the dynamic character of the interaction between viewpoint aspect, lexical aspect and tense and how to represent such interaction.

*Kearns, Kate. 2011. (2nd Ed.) Semantics. London: Palgrave. Chapters 8 (‘Aktionsart’) & 9 (‘Tense and Aspect’) provide a good introductory overview of basic concepts. Chapter 10 (‘Events’) lays the foundations for an events-based dynamic approach to tense and aspect.

Kamp, Hans and Reyle, Uwe. 1993. (Vol 2) From Discourse to Logic, Dordrecht: Reidel.

Moens, Mark and Steedman, Mark. 1988. ‘Temporal ontology and temporal reference’. Computational Linguistics 14: 15–28.

Reichenbach, Hans. 1947. Elements of Symbolic Logic. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Smith, Carlota S. 1991. The Parameter of Aspect, Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Vendler, Zeno. 1967. Linguistics in Philosophy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Tuesday November 28th: the pragmatics of tense

This seminar will focus on the pragmatics of tense at sentence and discourse levels. In particular, we will discuss the pragmatic notion of topic time and the nature and role of a number of discourse relations whose temporal consequences are important for the analysis of temporal phenomena in any language (whether they are tensed or tenseless). Our second case study will be differences in the discourse behaviour of the present perfect in English, Dutch and French. We will also discuss the implications of such differences for an understanding of synchronic variation in the use of this notoriously unstable tense-aspect combination.

*de Swart, Henriette. 2007. A cross-linguistic discourse analysis of the perfect. Journal of Pragmatics 39 (12), 2273–2307.

*Klein, Wolfgang. 1992. The present perfect puzzle. Language 68, 525–552.

*Hobbs, Jerry R. 1985. ‘On the Coherence and Structure of Discourse’. Report No. CSLI-85-37. Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. http://www.isi.edu/~hobbs/ocsd.pdf

Ritz, Marie-Eve. 2012. Perfect tense and aspect. In Robert I. Binnick (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Tense and Aspect. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thursday November 30th: interactions between time-expressions, tense and event-structure

In this seminar we will explore the semantics of time-expressions other than grammatical tense and aspect as well as their interactions with tense and event structure. Illustrating examples will include adverbials and some temporal clitics in Australian Indigenous languages (Panyjima and Jaminjung). The latter show that words such as ‘now’ and ‘then’ can be more complex than we might at first think, and we will explore how we can tease out the building blocks of their meanings in sentences and in discourse. Their analysis will show that time reference is subjective and depends on interaction with event structure. Our third case study will explore in more detail the perfect and its combinations with temporally locating adverbials in some Romance and Germanic languages. We will explore some theories that account for the variation in these combinations especially from a diachronic perspective.

*Engel, Dulcie and Ritz, Marie-Eve. 2000. The use of the present perfect in Australian English. Australian Journal of Linguistics 20 (2), 119–140 (esp. Section 3).

Vincent Nigel & Harris, Martin (eds). 1982. Studies in the Romance Verb. London and Canberra: Croom Helm. 

Ritz, Marie-Eve and Schultze-Berndt, Eva. 2015. Time for a change? The semantics and pragmatics of marking temporal progression in an Australian language. Lingua, Vol. 166, Part A: 1–21.

Ritz, Marie-Eve, Dench, Alan, Caudal, Patrick. 2012. Now or Then? The clitic -rru in Panyjima: temporal properties in discourse. Australian Journal of Linguistics 32: 41-73.

Friday December 1st: variation and change

In this last seminar, we pull together the threads developed so far. First, developing the idea that time reference is necessarily subjective, we will consider how the future tense may be analyzed taking an example from the relative future in Martuthunira. We will then spend some time on our fourth case-study, showing variation within English. We will use data from corpora built to analyze the use of the present perfect in Australian English. Extensions in the uses of the present perfect by a range of speakers provide an in vivo picture of pragmatic change leading to semantic change. We will see that in order to understand such uses we need to bring together tense, viewpoint aspect, event structure and discourse pragmatic factors. The subjective point of view of the speaker will be exemplified here too, and a path to diachronic change will be drawn. Comparison with changes that have occurred for perfects in other languages (in particular Romance languages) will show some interesting similarities.

Giannakidou, Anastasia and Mari, Alda. 2017. A unified analysis of the future as epistemic modality. The view from Greek and Italian. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory.

*Ritz, Marie-Eve, 2007. Perfect change: synchrony meets diachrony. In: Salmons, J., Dubenion-Smith, S. (Eds.), Historical Linguistics 2005. Selected papers from the 17th International Conference on Historical Linguistics, 31 July–5 August 2005. Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 284. Benjamins, Amsterdam: 133–147.

Ritz, Marie-Eve. 2010. The perfect crime? Illicit uses of the present perfect in Australian police media releases. Journal of Pragmatics 42: 3400–3417.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University

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