Linguistics and English Language

Linguistic Circle

Speaker: Anne Mucha (University of Edinburgh, LEL)

Title: Investigating crosslinguistic variation in (tense) semantics

Abstract: Over the past two decades, the advancement of formal semantic theory has benefitted from an increasingly broad crosslinguistic perspective, largely contributed by fieldwork-based research on non-European languages. While the vast majority of the world’s languages remain semantically understudied, the crosslinguistic semantic research programme has provided new perspectives on almost any given topic in theoretical semantics. One of the most prominent and, according to some researchers (Cable 2013, Chen et al. 2021), most challenging topics in crosslinguistic semantics is tense and the meaning of temporal anteriority markers.

The aim of this talk is to outline some goals, methods and research results in the field of crosslinguistic formal semantics, by example of variation in semantic tense. I will discuss selected methodological assumptions and challenges, as well as expected gains from semantic research on understudied languages, and illustrate these by presenting recent insights into variation in natural language tense systems and their implications for semantic theory. The presentation will cover a range of theoretically interesting empirical observations on temporality, such as the lack or optionality of morphological tense marking in certain languages, temporal remoteness marking in so-called "graded tense" languages, and sequence of tense (SoT) phenomena in attitude complement clauses. While the talk will present a variety of qualitative data from semantic fieldwork studies, it also includes some discussion of experimental work on sequence of tense (Mucha et al. 2023), illustrating how evidence from semantic fieldwork and experimental studies may converge to resolve open issues in formal semantic theory.

Further information

Please join us for a reception after the talk in the Dugald Stewart Building, 7th Floor common area.

Contact details

Linguistic Circle committee

Nov 09 2023 -

Linguistic Circle

2023-11-09: Investigating crosslinguistic variation in (tense) semantics

G.04 Screening Room, 50 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LH; online