We are happy to announce a talk by Roumyana Pancheva (USC) at the Semantics Colloquium.

Please register beforehand (s.walter@em.uni-frankfurt.de) to receive the access data to zoom on Thursday shortly before the talk starts.

Title:Temporal reference without tense

Date: February 4

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


Some languages do not have to mark tense explicitly: they either do not have overt tense morphemes or the overt tense morphemes are optional. The question arises: is tense universal? The answer, within formal semantics, has so far been “yes”. The formally explicit semantic analyses that have been proposed for languages without obligatory overt tense morphemes all posit tense in one form or another. We aim to develop a different type of account altogether that does not rely on tense to derive temporal reference. We propose that evaluation time shift, a mechanism independently attested in the narrative present in languages with tense, can be more widely used for encoding temporal meaning in the absence of tense. We illustrate this account for Paraguayan Guarani, and identify several empirical advantages over accounts that employ tense. The broader consequence of our proposal is an enriched typology of temporal systems: some languages have tense, whether overt or covert, and others do not. Tense is revealed to not be a linguistic universal.