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NLLT manuscript No. (will be inserted by the editor) Binary tense and modality

By Hans Broekhuis and Henk J. Verkuyl


Abstract The present paper adopts as its point of departure the claim by Te Winkel (1866) and Verkuyl (2008) that mental temporal representations are built on the basis of three binary oppositions: Present/Past, Synchronous/Posterior and Imperfect/Perfect. Te Winkel took the second opposition in terms of the absence or presence of a temporal auxiliary zullen ‘will’. However, in a binary system Future looses the status it has in a ternary analysis as being at the same level as Past and Present. The present paper shows that Present and Past already may express posterior information, there being no temporal role for zullen ‘will’. Grice’s Maxim of Quantity determines which sort of interpretation (current or posterior) is to be associated with Present or Past. The infinitival form of zullen ‘will ’ should be seen as an epistemic modal operator with a specific role in the interaction between speaker and hearer. This operator will be argued to be positioned between the first and the third opposition. The binary approach is not restricted to Dutch and so it points to a fundamental flaw in Kissine (2008) which proposed that the English auxiliary will is (only) temporal

Topics: epistemic modality
Year: 2013
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:
Provided by: CiteSeerX
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