Tense - Oxford Handbooks
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date: 27 May 2016

Abstract and Keywords

For Plato and Aristotle, a verb was above all a word that indicates time. The Greeks and Romans made no very strong distinction between a marker and the concept that it marked. Consequently, for some two and a half millennia, the different forms of the verbal paradigm were called times or tenses. It was only in the twentieth century that a consistent distinction began to be made between two kinds of meaning distinctions morphologically marked in synthetic languages, namely “tense” as an indication of different times (such as past, present, and future) and a quite different indication of time, namely aspect, although that distinction was not unknown in the ancient world. This article explores tense and the representation of time, the coherence of verbal systems, tense and aspect, the binary tense systems of Indo-European languages, perfectives and performatives, the allosemes of verbal forms, the vast present, tense and aspect in Swahili, the tense systems of Ruhaya and Kikuyu, and the use of modal forms in tense function.

Keywords: time, tense, aspect, verbal systems, Indo-European languages, perfectives, performatives, allosemes, vast present, modal forms

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