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date: 23 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Our experience of time as the succession of past, present, and future manifests itself, at least in Indo-European languages, as “verbal tense.” The privileged association of tense with the verbal domain has largely shaped our views about the philosophy of time, as well as the formal accounts of linguistic tense. Conventionally, sentential environments allow the dimension of time, which is typically dealt with by the use of morphological tense and aspect; in nominal environments, determiners deal with (spatial) location and identification. This article explores both what is now known about nominal tense, and what is controversial and unresolved. It first investigates the nominal tense system of Somali (East Cushitic) and then shows that tense (whether verbal or nominal) does not identify different relationships between linguistic expressions and time, but the same relationships to time applying to expressions of different grammatical type. The article also discusses modality and evidentiality.

Keywords: nominal tense, aspect, time, modality, evidentiality, Somali, verbal tense

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