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date: 22 April 2019

(p. ix) Preface

(p. ix) Preface

The goal of this volume is to represent what we know about tense and aspect early in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

To this end, I invited to contribute to the volume leading scholars residing in a dozen countries—Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United kingdom, and the United States—working in a wide range of areas (including most sub-fields of linguistics, from computational linguistics to stylistics), and representing a broad spectrum of approaches and schools of thought, from early twentieth-century-style descriptivism and structuralism to Relevance Theory, Role and Reference Grammar, Segmented Discourse Representation Theory, and other current paradigms.

I provided each with a title and charged them only with producing a chapter that represented what they would expect to find under that title in a volume called The Oxford Handbook of Tense and Aspect. Within that limitation, and on the assumption that each of them had far more expertise in their topic area than I did, I gave them total freedom.

The results are remarkably diverse—both broad surveys and deep analyses—and some chapters present quite novel results and/or argumentation. In some cases, conflicting chapters represent live controversies in the field, as the introduction indicates.

Though every effort has been made to present a comprehensive picture of tense and aspect, no one could hope to encapsulate the entire subject in thirty-six chapters, and gaps remain in the range of topics covered, approaches followed, and types of languages described. I would have liked to have included a chapter on the semantics of tense and aspect; on what Bernard Comrie called pure relative tense; and on the future tense and related futurate constructions. I would also have liked to have complemented the present chapter on resultatives with one on quite another type, e.g., the chair is broken, the broken chair, discussed in the chapters by Desclés and Guentchéva (§4.5), Ritz (§2.1), and Vulchanova (§3.1). It might likewise have been useful to have included chapters on contrastive and comparative studies, cognitive linguistic approaches, the sociolinguistics of tense and aspect, and mood and modality as they relate formally and functionally to tense and aspect. There are numerous other directions in which the present book could have been expanded as well. For example, there might have been chapters on individual tenses (past, present, etc.), in parallel to those here on specific grammatical aspects.

The introduction is intended to provide contexts for the disparate chapters, and the index should serve to point those interested in particular language areas or in topics not assigned their own chapter (e.g., mood, the past tense, signed languages, (p. x) etc.) to relevant passages or sections of chapters. Much more is covered herein than the chapter titles alone suggest.

It is to be hoped that this work will prove not only a useful reference, but a spur to further research, especially in those areas identified by the authors as hitherto neglected or encompassing gaps in our knowledge, of which, alas, there remain many.


(*) I would like to thank my colleagues Corrine Beauquis and Susana Bejar for their answers to queries of mine in connection with this book.