- Table of Symbols and Abbreviations
- About the Authors
- The Oxford Handbook of Tense and Aspect
- Philosophy of Language
- Narratology and Literary Linguistics
- Computational Linguistics
- Universals and Typology
- Discourse and Text
- Diachrony and Grammaticalization
- Language Contact
- Creole Languages
- Primary Language Acquisition
- Second Language Acquisition
- Remoteness Distinctions
- The Surcomposé Past Tense
- Bound Tenses
- Embedded Tenses
- Nominal Tense
- Lexical Aspect
- Verbal Aspect
- Perfective and Imperfective Aspect
- Progressive and Continuous Aspect
- Habitual and Generic Aspect
- Habituality, Pluractionality, and Imperfectivity
- Perfect Tense and Aspect
- Resultative Constructions
- Time in Sentences with Modal Verbs
- Evidentiality and Mirativity
Abstract and Keywords
Language can employ a variety of tense markings to locate situations in time. In some languages, these markings express a past vs. non-past distinction, and in some others a future vs. non-future distinction. However, not all natural languages employ “verb forms” or tense markings to locate situations in time. This article examines the syntax and semantics of some (potentially) tenseless languages, and the ways in which tenselessness is identified. It also discusses possible mechanisms and variations in which temporal location is expressed in tenseless languages, syntactic properties associated with such languages, and possible challenges in establishing that a language is tenseless, with a special focus on Mandarin Chinese, Kalaallisut, and St'át'imcets. After considering the criteria for tenselessness, the article looks at Chinese as a tenseless language, present time reference, past time reference, and future time reference. It also describes four syntactic properties associated with lack of tense: the existence of bare nominal predicates, lack of expletive subjects, lack of finite/non-finite distinction, and lack of case-motivated movement.
Jo-Wang Lin received his Ph.D. from University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1996 and is currently Professor of Linguistics at National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan. His research interests are in the areas of syntax, semantics, and syntax-semantics interface. He has published papers on wh-phrase quantification, distributivity, polarity items, tense and aspect, comparatives and comparative correlatives, with special focus on Mandarin Chinese.
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