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Morphosyntax / Re: How many tenses? (english)
« Last post by Daniel on January 18, 2018, 07:56:42 AM »
Having a narrower label is helpful when you want to be precise. Having a broader label is helpful when you want to list out all forms.

I think you make a good point. However, I will add that it isn't just technical usage by semanticists. It's also standard practice in typology, and increasingly common in language description by fieldworkers. Less common in, say, theoretical work by morphologists on verb paradigms, and maybe some syntacticians looking at clause structure broadly but actually crucially distinguished by those trying to figure out how the verb gets various features (sometimes to the point of much more narrowly distinguishing categories within aspect, etc.).
Morphosyntax / Re: How many tenses? (english)
« Last post by panini on January 17, 2018, 10:49:59 PM »
I will add that as a linguist, I use "tense" to cover the entire panoply of inflectional distinctions about the action, following traditional (millenia-old) use of the term. At some point when general linguists "discovered" aspect, there was a move to replace the term "tense" with "tense-aspect", but eventually it was realized that even this is inadequate and we'd have to talk about "tense-aspect-mood". Well, that ignores the fact that many languages also mark negation on verbs via the same means, hence the monstrosity "tense-aspect-mood-polarity" was born. Needless to say, it really has to be "tense-aspect-mood-polarity-focus-clause type-propositional attitude", and we are constantly discovering all sorts of other meaning and structural features about events that can get encoded in verbal inflectional systems.

If you are deeply interested in just the semantic properties, the correct term to use would be "time reference" (as one example). If you're interested in what is signaled by a particular morphological pattern, it's a bit of semantic un-realism to expect that a particular morpheme signals only time reference. Some languages use syntactic expressions to encode event-related meanings (e.g. "used to"), and some encode them with morpheme selection (many Bantu languages, for example).

I agree that there is a dominant and narrow technical convention in the field of semantics that tense is about event time, but I think that narrow definition misses the boat and doesn't actually benefit semantics in the slightest.

Morphosyntax / Re: How many tenses? (english)
« Last post by Daniel on January 17, 2018, 05:31:03 PM »
It depends on the definition of "tense".

In a narrow technical sense, linguists define "tense" as an indication of when the action described by the verb occurs. (It's slightly more complicated than that, but that's close enough for the moment.) Since the present progressive really does take place during the present, it's just the present tense. In other words, tenses are just windows of time-- generally only past, present and future, although actually some languages have multiple past (or future) tenses such that there might be a "since yesterday" tense versus a "distant past" tense, etc. -- still, those refers to windows of time.
But then there is aspect which further adds information about how the verb interacts with time, or how the events are carried out relative to the tense. The progressive is an "ongoing" aspect, versus for example the perfective which is an "already completed" aspect. So "I have eaten" is present perfective, because it's a present tense but perfective aspect (the eaten finished before now, with the idea of "present relevance" explaining why this is present tense). Compare also the past perfective "I had eaten", referring to some time in the past, before which the eating had already been done.
If you want to read more you can find information on Wikipedia, etc., but there are two very good books to refer to, simply named Tense and Aspect, written by Bernard Comrie. (They're popular and well known so it won't be hard to find them at any academic library.)

On the other hand, more loosely, many non-linguists, especially language teachers (for practical purposes, and sometimes casually a few linguists, will define "tense" as simply any sort of verb form. Usually it's limited to actual prefixes or suffixes on the verb, so you might hear someone say, for example, "has" is the "third-person tense" of "have" (instead of "person agreement"), or the "subjunctive tense" (which is a mood). That's sort of a bizarre use of the word and confusing, but makes sense when you know they just mean "verb form".

It's rarer, but still happens sometimes, that people will describe a complex form like "be + V-ing" as a "tense", although more common as a "complex tense" (or similar wording). More technically we'd call that a periphrastic (multi-word) verb form.

In short, language teachers (and others) just use the shortcut term "tense" to refer to "ways we say verbs". It's not very precise or clear, but when your goal is just explaining different verb suffixes in a textbook I guess it works.

Or is it a Oxford comma situation, where it just depends on who's rules you accept at the start?
Yes, sort of. But there isn't much uncertainty about the data (at least for linguists). Instead, in this case, it's about which labels you use for what. The actual things you're describing don't change. (The oxford comma is a separate issue, related to prescriptivism, telling people how to write, rather than describing how people actually write. Although the label itself just describes that usage I suppose.)


As for the broader question of "how many" tenses English has, it of course depends on the definition.

Narrowly, English clearly has three tenses (plus various aspects, etc.).

More broadly, there are dozens of possible verb forms if you include multi-word forms: for example, "used to", or "gonna", etc.
Morphosyntax / How many tenses? (english)
« Last post by josephusflav on January 17, 2018, 02:25:27 PM »
So I have run across contradictory information about what is and is not a tense.

Some websites say there are six and treat present continuous as something else.

Others claim the present  continuous forms of verbs are tenses.

Who's right?

Or is it a Oxford comma situation, where it just depends on who's rules you accept at the start?
Phonetics and Phonology / Re: superscript x in ipa
« Last post by 「(゚ペ) on January 17, 2018, 09:15:07 AM »
Thanks you guys! I understand now. I just didn't read the page on suomen phonology carefully enough. I agree with panini that this is the sort of thing that someone should discover on the suomen phonology page and should not be represented in the IPA transcription of suomen words. Anyway, at least my confusion has been alleviated.
Phonetics and Phonology / Re: superscript x in ipa
« Last post by Daniel on January 14, 2018, 01:07:28 AM »
Sounds exactly like redoppiamento sintattico, then, except that the etymology of the 'mystery consonant' may be unknown, while for Italian it is known (from Latin) but varies for different words.
Phonetics and Phonology / Re: superscript x in ipa
« Last post by panini on January 13, 2018, 11:14:16 PM »
Phonetically it doesn't mean anything. Phonologically, it refers to the fact that it's in the class of words with the "mystery consonant", sometimes claimed to be /h/, which causes gemination. But that is a phonological detail, not an audible facts. I think it is annoying that someone would claim to be phonetically transcribing when they are phonologically analyzing, but Wiki is full of annoyances.

Clements & Keyser in CV phonology have a decent analysis of this, and Kiparsky (naturally) has written up most of the relevant fact, in possibly two papers (which will be available on his web page).
Phonetics and Phonology / Re: The way the GVS does not affect much of my speech...
« Last post by panini on January 13, 2018, 11:07:32 PM »
I'd vote for your first set of transcriptions, excluding the ɑ/ɔ thing that I lack, æʊ instead of aʊ (another dialect thing), and anythnig that has to do with specific conventions of transcribing (not really i:, but that is close enough and it is a standard spelling). Or: are you asking whether [ɛɪ] is more accurate than [e:] from a phonetic POV? I can't tell how you pronounce things.
Morphosyntax / Re: Syntactic Trees in your posts! [instructions]
« Last post by Daniel on January 11, 2018, 08:55:11 PM »
Update/bug fix: I've now gone through the PHPSyntaxTree code and found where to fix this so it works with current server settings.

This change applies retroactively now so your tree above (for example) has v' displayed correctly, and it should work in the future.

Let me know if you find any more bugs!
Phonetics and Phonology / Re: superscript x in ipa
« Last post by Daniel on January 11, 2018, 12:10:31 PM »
Another option is just to search for the symbol itself online and see what comes up. Often Wikipedia has an entry for orthographic or transcription uses of symbols.

In this case, I think I found the answer that way:
That links here:

Just from the information there, it would appear that superscript /x/ represents an etymological blend of /-k/ and /-h/, which was my first interpretation. But that doesn't seem to be right. Instead, apparently superscript x represents gemination.

The article on Finnish phonology has:
Gemination or a tendency of a morpheme to cause gemination is sometimes indicated with a superscripted "x", e.g. vene /ʋeneˣ/. Examples of gemination:

In my opinion, that's just a bizarre (mis)use of IPA. But I guess it's traditional for some research in Finnish etymology/philology? I have no expertise in that area so I can't comment further.

In short, it isn't a sound at all but a representation of the fact that a following consonant would be geminated (doubled/lengthened) when combined with this word. It seems that this actually is a historical remnant of the original /-k/ or /-h/ ending (see above), which was lost as an independent sound but preserved in contact with another consonant with which it assimilated.

This reminds me of Italian "redoppiamento sintattico" (or syntactic gemination/doubling) where an Italian word that in Latin had a final consonant may now trigger geminiation on a following word even though the consonant itself has been lost.
An example given there is "Andiamo a casa" ('we.go to home'), pronounced /...ak:asa/, with a geminated /k/, reflecting the fact that Italian 'a' comes from Latin 'ad', so that now-lost /d/ has an 'echo' just triggering gemination on the first consonant of a following word.

I guess something similar happens in Finnish and that is sometimes indicated with a superscript x!

(In defense of that approach, there isn't any other obvious way to do this in IPA so some additional notation is necessary. Another option would be something like /terʋe-:/, but that is confusing and doesn't quite convey what is intended. I've seen similar notation for tones applying to a following syllable/word though.)
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